- Cities must look to a "new global playbook" built around new technology that improves residents’ lives as they innovate, a leading expert said Wednesday.
- During a keynote address at Smart Cities Week in Washington, DC, Sameer Sharma, Intel’s General Manager for internet of things (IoT) solutions, said it is crucial that technology be harnessed to improve residents’ lives in tangible ways, especially as urban populations continue to skyrocket.
- "If we keep doing what we're doing, our issues in the cities — the traffic conditions, the air quality issues, lack of parking, lack of affordable housing — these are only going to get worse," Sharma said. "We need a new global playbook, because ultimately your quality of life is most influenced by the state of communities we live in."
At the start of the two-day conference, Sharma painted something of a gloomy picture of the state of some cities, as he lamented traffic congestion, worsening public safety, the lack of a sustainable environment and an affordable housing crisis. That, coupled with an explosion in urban populations, could make cities unpleasant places to live, he warned.
But by harnessing technology and innovations such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), particularly by collecting data and using it to make real-time decisions, Sharma said there is plenty of scope for things to improve. If not, he said, cities risk wasting $341 billion in taxpayer money by 2025.
And there appears to be a real groundswell for such innovations. Sharma touted a report Intel released earlier this year that estimated smart cities will give back residents three weeks of extra time a year by improving transportation, public safety, health care and workflow. He said that by using technology to positively affect citizens’ pain points, they will see real benefits. "The idea was that we need to convert all the technology into something very tangible for the average citizen," Sharma said.
It will not be easy, though, with even Intel having struggled initially to come up with ways to make cities smarter and simultaneously ensure an improved quality of life for residents. They came in for some criticism, but Sharma said that has stood them in good stead. "We took that feedback to heart, and over the last three years our conversations have gone a lot better," he said.
But, he said, cities have been innovating for centuries and will continue to do so. Sharma pointed to the invention of concrete in 6500 BCE, which led to a "construction boom" in the Middle East, while technology and innovations like a street grid plan (first seen in 2600 BCE), navigation system (1050 AD), steam engines (1781), electricity (1802), the microprocessor (1971) and the modern internet (1983) have all moved our lives forward in very tangible ways.
When looking back at those innovations and the ones still to come, Sharma urged attendees to "think big, but be pragmatic in terms of starting with something small and showing the impact on your constituents."