Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Towards Holistic Smart Cities

Authors: Schahram Dustdar (@dustdar), Stefan Nastić, Ognjen Šćekić

Associate Editor: Muneera Bano (@DrMuneeraBano)

Today’s Smart City developments can be summarized as ‘representatives smart’, as opposed to ‘collective-smart’ – one of the terms we propose for describing the future vision of cyber-human smart cities involving a rich and active interplay of different stakeholders (primarily citizens, local businesses and authorities), effectively transforming the currently passive stakeholders into active ecosystem actors.

Realizing such complex interplay requires a paradigm shift in how the physical infrastructure and people will be integrated and how they will interact. At the heart of this paradigm shift lies the merging of two technology and research domains – Cyber-physical Systems and Socio-technical Systems – into the value-driven context of a Smart City. The presented Smart City vision diverges from the traditional, hierarchical relationship between the society and ICT, in which the stakeholders are seen as passive users who exclusively capitalize on the technological advancements. Rather, the architecture we propose puts value generation at the top of the pyramid and relies on “city capital” to fuel the generation of novel values and enhancement of traditional ones. This effectively transforms the role and broadens the involvement and opportunities of citizen-stakeholders, but also promotes the ICT from passive infrastructure to an active participant shaping the ecosystem.

Architecture of Values: The fundamental idea behind a collective-smart city is the inclusion of all its stakeholders (authorities, businesses, citizens and organizations) in the active management of the city. This includes not only the management of the city’s infrastructure, but additionally the management of different societal and business aspects of everyday life. The scale and complexity of managing diverging individual stakeholder interests in the past was the principal reason for adopting a centralized city management model where elected representatives manage all aspects of the city’s life and development.

However, we believe that recent technological advances will enable us to share the so-far centralized decision-making and planning responsibilities directly with various stakeholders, allowing faster and better-tailored responses of the city to various stakeholder needs.

The key technological enabler for this process is the active and wide-scale use and interleaving of technologies and principles from the IoT and Social Computing domains in the urban city domain. These technologies form the basic level of the proposed architecture of values. They allow the city to interact bidirectionally with the citizens in their everyday living, working and transport environments using various IoT edge devices and sensors, but also to actively engage citizens and other stakeholders to perform concrete tasks in the physical world, express opinions and preferences, and make decisions. The “city” does not need to be an active part in this interaction. It can serve as a trustworthy mediator providing the physical and digital infrastructure and accepted coordination mechanisms facilitating self-organization of citizens into transient, ad hoc teams with common goals. This synergy, in turn, enables the creation of novel societal and business values.

Infrastructural values – This category includes and extends the benefits conventionally associated with the existing notion of Smart City – those related to the optimized management of shared (city-wide) infrastructure and resources. Traditionally, the management of such resources (e.g., transportation network and signalization, internet infrastructure, electricity grid) has been static and highly centralized. The new vision of a Smart City relies on the interplay of humans and the IoT-enabled infrastructure, enabling additional, dynamic, locally scoped infrastructural optimizations and interventions, e.g., optimization of physical and IT/digital infrastructure in domains such as computational resources, traffic or building management. Apart from existing static/planned optimizations (e.g., static synchronization of traffic lights), the dynamic optimizations of the infrastructure might include temporary traffic light regime changes when a car accident is detected.

Societal values – This novel value category arises through the direct inclusion and empowerment of citizens as key stakeholders of the city. The fact that through the use of incentivized/paid to perform specific tasks in both the digital and physical environments is a powerful concept bringing along a plethora of socially significant changes.

For example, while most cities function as representative democracies, significant local changes are often decided upon through direct democracy (referendums, initiatives). While undeniably fair in principle, one of the biggest obstacles to more frequent use of direct democracy is the under-informedness of voters. It has been shown that informing the citizens enables them to make more judicial and responsible decisions. The pervasiveness of IoT devices enables interaction with citizens directly and opens up the possibility of informing the citizens better, or even simulating in practice the outcomes of different election choices.

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