Smart City Scenarios – spanning the frame of urban future (Part 1)

In order to be prepared for future challenges it is important to get an idea of how future can look like. Based on this idea appropriate strategies can be developed. In order to set up these strategies it is essential to identify future options that are comprised of past experience and future expectations. These future options, the various pictures of the future, are called scenarios.

Limiting the development of urban future into one direction only is not only dangerous but also mistaking the global socio-economic dependencies. The system city consists of various subsystems. The interaction of only a few determinants within a subsystem in the context of urban creation shows the impossibility of a linear, one-dimensional future projection in a complex urban and global setting.

Looking at energy for example: Will energy be generated in a central or decentralized manner? Will it be regenerative, fossil or nuclear? What forms of climate-political regulations will dominate? Will energy consumption be reduced or will it continue to grow? What arrangements in the urban context will e.g. European cities agree on? What is the role of digitalization and connectivity in the context of energy generation, -storage and –consumption? What is the impact on business models – we have seen first hypes die with the subvention of solar energy. In times of low investment rates on savings energy cooperatives seem to develop quite popular. How will the role of traditional stakeholders change? What is the future of traditional energy suppliers? Many cities hold shares in local energy supply. Will they take back over or completely leave the energy supply to third party? What is the role of the citizen? Will so called prosumers – people who not only consume energy, but also produce for their own use and sale – establish extensively? What is the role of IT driven companies like Google. Nest produces thermostats that learn the temperature preferences of its users. The company was bought out by Google in January 2013 for US$3.2 billion as a strategic move to gain access to the growing connected home market. [Forbes 2014/01/13]. Accessing the energy segment as a domain outside the core competency can also be seen with the growing market of e-mobility. On IAA 2013, the world’s leading automotive trade show, BMW launched their new ‘iSeries’. The electric-vehicle can be used as energy-buffer when integrated into the building’s smart grid. This way BMW has an interface to the energy network of an individual household and could diversify into the energy management of private homes or – thinking of fleet management – businesses.

Various stakeholders, e.g. governments, municipalities, technology providers and citizens will take various perspectives when responding to these questions. A similar variety applies for other subsystems or city segments, e.g. mobility or security and even excellerates with the interdependency of these subsystems.

Successfactor “City Management”

The high youth unemployment in southern Europe on the one hand and the demand for young professionals in northern Europe on the other shows, that the existing silo mentality lead to a dead end road. The traditional, segment focussed way led to the situation as we see it today – that applies for the supranational level as well as cascading down on national, regional and municipal level.

The self-concept of german towns is expressed in the termination applied. Authorities “administer” rather than “manage” or “create” city (“Stadt’verwaltung’” instead of “Stadt’gestaltung’” or “Stadt’management’”).
Asian cities are more streamlined and top down organized, e.g. Singapore.
New York has an office for “long-term planning” this is institutionalisation of sustainability.
However there is an indicator that this “business logic” is changing as cities in Germany and Austria start setting up own companies to handle sustainable projects.

It is time to open the minds for new ways forward as we see where the silo mentality has led.

Successfactor “Masterplan”

Cities are keen on attracting and maintaining tax payers. Therefore “marketing” the smartness of a town becomes increasingly important. However like in every good marketing campaign there needs to be a set goal and strategy how to achieve it. Therefore Smart Urbanism starts with a masterplan for Smart City.

Having defined the goal “sustainability”, some cities did that already 10 years ago, is not enough, the roadmap towards it is key. Like in a good marketing campaign any action has to contribute to the overall goal in an integrated way. The many initiatives on municipal side and bottom up approaches from citizens (and industry) hardly follow the rule “the whole is more than the sum of its components”. Examples where such initiatives lack visibility in a big picture happen e.g. in Stuttgart, Mannheim. Approaches need to be integrated and coordinated by e.g. defined KPI for sustainable development. A good example of that marketing analogy is the Smart City of Amsterdam. Tokio has a 10 point masterplan for disasterous prevention and boost economic growth, having de-regulations and tax benefits.

Having a masterplan and milestones could also help industry to cope with the fragmented structure on city side and help find more easily ways to scale solutions.

Drivers for Smart City policy

Any external event is a driver for sustainable development, e.g.
• “Fukushima” Nuclear disaster in Japan – made clear the dependency on energy
• Tsunami 2006 in Thailand; “Sandy” flood in New York – made clear the need for predictive systems
• Citizen protests in Freiburg against Nuclear power station; Stuttgart 21 against the rebuilding of the station – made clear the need for early citizen envolvement