Smart cities
Smart cities

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Smart cities

Week 1: Introduction to smart cities


Welcome to Week 1 of this free badged open course, Smart cities.

‘Smart cities’ is a term used to describe the use of smart technologies and data as the means to solve cities’ sustainability challenges. Many cities are in the process of making themselves smart, using data and technology to improve transport, energy use, health and air quality or to drive economic growth. Others are being built to be smart from the start. So this is a term that relates to the present and to the future.

Whatever your interest in smart cities, welcome to the course. In the following video you will hear from Dr Lorraine Hudson. She is a Research Fellow on smart cities who previously worked in local government managing a £3 million smart city programme. Later in the course you will also hear from Professor Gerd Kortuem, of The Open University, whose research focuses on smart cities, the internet of things and computing for sustainability.

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Transcript: Thinking about smart cities

Cities are places where creativity and new ideas flourish, yet they also at the centre of global challenges such as rapid urbanisation and climate change. Smart cities are harnessing creativity to develop innovative solutions to these challenges. But what will it be like to live in a smart city? There are many contrasting visions of what a smart city is and how they will transform the environment and our lives. One vision is the use of smart technologies to manage cities more efficiently. In a smart city everything from roads, to buildings, to the electricity grid are controlled through a city operations centre. The data can be used to provide real-time travel information, manage energy supply and control lights.
This approach is often led by city governments working with large technology companies. This top-down approach is seen as flawed by some and increasingly there is a shift towards recognising the central role of citizens in developing smart cities, a bottom-up approach. People are using smart phones, apps, social networks and DIY sensors to solve the problems that matter to them. Cities are opening up their data and encouraging developers and citizens to use this to create their own apps through hackathons, and start-ups are using digital technologies to create transformative services that are disruptive and challenge commonly-held views on ownership. Many smart cities are piloting solutions such as smart grids electric buses, driverless cars and healthcare apps.
Some countries have set out to create smart cities from scratch such as Songdo in Korea and Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates. Smart city solutions need to be applicable to cities of all sizes, both old and new. There is great potential to apply smart technologies to city challenges. But as with all technology there is also potential for abuse. Privacy, sustainability and ethics are just some of the issues facing the development of smart cities.
End transcript: Thinking about smart cities
Thinking about smart cities
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • recognise the challenges and opportunities cities face
  • discuss smart city definitions and what they have in common
  • describe some different approaches to smart city design and delivery.

As a student of smart cities you’ll find yourself in the presence of experts from many disciplines, meeting a multiplicity of smart city projects and applying what you learn to a real project in your own city or community. To help you capture what you learn, here are a few tools:

The point of becoming a smart city is that it will increase resilience and improve the lives of citizens. So should the vision of a smart city be to implement more technology or to explore how technology might enable the city and citizens to solve the challenges they face?

Before you start, The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations of the course. Your input will help to further improve the online learning experience. If you’d like to help, and if you haven’t done so already, please fill in this optional survey.


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