What are the benefits of relocating to a smart city

Written by CD, updated Jun 03 2019 in accordance with our editorial policy.

The benefits I’ve experienced in moving to a city that’s becoming a smart city are an easy and efficient way to move around, cheaper electricity and water, and an easy to work with government. No city meets every definition of what a ‘smart city’ is. Many cities around the world right now are on their way, and I love living in one such city.

These are the benefits I experienced moving to Singapore, the south-east Asian city-state well on its way to becoming a smart city:

Benefit 1: Quicker and easier to travel around, to get where I want to go

I love how easy it is to move around a smart city. Transport is a key pillar of smart cities and one of the first problems to tackle for cities looking to become smart.

Train and bus

I can find out when my bus is arriving, and make sure I don’t leave the house until I know I can meet the bus on time (Singapore is hot - I need air conditioning!). The bus takes me to a train station where I know how crowded my train will be. A driverless train system allows frequent trains, I can get a cool drink while I wait for the next one which has a seat available.

If there are any problems with the system, I’m alerted straight away and can make other plans.

Having public transport that is always available when I need it, and that reaches everywhere I want to go, gives me a feeling of security. Now that I’ve moved to a smart city I never feel stranded or lost. This is a benefit that’s all too often underrated.

Driving around

Real time traffic information. You thought Google maps and Waze were impressive? Check out Singapore’s real time TrafficWatch: https://sgtrafficwatch.org/

If I’m driving myself, I know exactly where there’s heavy traffic and which alternative route I should take.

I know where available taxis are, and how difficult it will be to find one; I know that if I walk only 3 minutes to a different road, I will have a line of taxis ready to pick me up.

It’s again the feeling of security I get from knowing I can’t be stranded anywhere without a way home. I’m glad I moved to a smart city, the technology here keeps me from ever feeling lost (even when I wander off the beaten path).

Benefit 2: Cheaper electricity and water

This one is hidden behind the scenes. I don’t often get to see it myself. Wasted water and power supply problems, I left these behind in my home town when I moved to a smart city.

Water pipes can develop leaks over time. A lot of drinking water is lost this way. We the end user pay for this lost water because the water company still had to process it to be drinkable. I love this smart city benefit of preventative maintenance. The water company has a network of sensors to figure out where water is leaking and to prioritise the worst leaks to be fixed first. Less wasted water means cheaper charges on my bill.

Have you ever been working away at your computer, the power goes out, and you lose everything? This was so bad in my home country I bought an uninterruptible power supply to run my electronics from. A benefit of living in a smart city is I no longer have to worry about losing electricity. The electricity supply is smart, it can:

  • Detect faults before they occur, and get maintenance teams out there to fix it;
  • Adapt to grid failures automatically and ensure power stays on; and
  • Match demand and supply, help adjust generation depending on data about supply.

Benefit 3: Smooth dealings with the government

If the government trusts me, my experience will be better.

In my home country, a lot of government process is spent ensuring I am telling the truth. Am I who I say I am? Does this form have the correct information? Have I given all my tax information? Am I allowed to drive?

When the government has a unified computerised system for interacting with a resident like me, a lot of processes become more efficient.

With smart city government services, I no longer have a to file my tax. I get a notification of how much I need to pay, and some suggestions on information the tax office doesn’t have about me and I can provide to save money (charitable contributions for example).

I no longer need a passport, drivers license, utility bill, credit card and whatever else to prove my identity. Government services have all that recorded, I simply provide my reference number and they know who I am. An inefficient process will still achieve its goal. Identifying you, even in cities that proclaim privacy, is only an inefficient process - you will still be identified.

I love the light touch of bureaucracy in a smart city, I can spend more time on the important things in life.

Can I move to a smart city now

Yes, but the smartest cities we have at the moment are still developing their capabilities. These cities which are becoming smart are popping up all over the world. Singapore happened to be the closest and easiest smart city for me to move to.

Each city has its own ideas about what makes it smart. Not all the benefits I love about living in a smart city are available in every city. Some smart cities have an entirely different set of benefits. You can move now to a smart city if it has the benefits that you’re looking for. No city is yet completely smart, but many are on the way.

There is still a lot of room to grow for any smart city, and you can help. The benefits of smart city living are best felt when the residents engage with the projects. Not only did I move to a smart city to feel the benefits, I moved to help the smart city become smarter. One day I might move back to my original not-so-smart city and work on how I can improve it; to work on how I can help the people there have the same benefits I’ve enjoyed living in a smart city.

What is a smart city

All the benefits sound great, right? What is it you’re actually signing up to, what is a smart city?

Being a smart city is a vision held by leaders and their residents to realise more than just the benefits above. It’s been hard when writing this to qualify what makes a smart city and what makes a not-so-smart city because it is only a vision.

In my opinion, being a smart city means that the city is continuously improving the systems that its residents use. These systems don’t have to be limited to transport, bureaucracy, or utilities. Systems can include health, environment, art, and culture.

The data driven process for continual improvement is at the heart of smart city development. Collect data, analyse it, and present it usefully. This is how smart cities improve their systems.

Collect data, process data, use data for improved systems

How does a city become a smart city?

Great leadership, hard work, and the desire of all residents to improve their lives.

I believe that to become a smart city, the city must look at systems it can improve with technology. This could be transport, health, government and bureaucracy, utilities, or any other aspect of how the residents live their lives.

System improvements start with the goal: What will the improvements look like? What will be accomplished by undertaking these improvements? How will people’s lives get better.

Once goals and objectives are established, a city can start looking at what projects are involved in accomplishing these goals. I’ve talked about my favourites above, but here are some more examples of smart city projects that cities around the world are thinking about:

  • Driverless trains
  • Road condition monitoring (roads that alert works departments when there is a problem to be fixed)
  • Bike and car sharing

If the residents value efficient transport (as I do), then a smart city project can collect the data, manage and transform it, and use it to improve lives. This is the core of being a smart city.

While no city in the world meets the full definition of a smart city, many are striving to get there. As they transform, these developing smart cities make great places to live. While no city is perfect, I enjoy living in a smart city thanks to its efficient transport, cost effective utilities, and easy to interact with government.

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