May 252014

For the last decade city administrations have been jostling for the title of being a ‘smartcity’ – a metropolis that brings together technology, creativity and business to grow their local economy. Now the competition is getting fierce.

While the concept has been around since British Prime Minister Harold Wilson coined the phrase the Great White Heat of Technology fifty years ago, the arrival of the Internet of Things, cheap sensors and accessible wireless broadband have made wiring up a city far more easier than a decade ago.

So now we’re seeing a race to set up smartcities with just the last week seeing Kansas City join the Cisco Connected Communities program, a consortium of  UK technology groups announced Milton Keynes will be wired up and French machine to machine (M2M) network provider Sigfox launched its plan to add San Francisco to the cities it’s covering.

Kansas City is a particularly interesting location being the first town to recieve Google Fiber and  its designated Innovation Precinct along the new street car route the city is building. The Connected Cities scheme will cover that corridor.

Kansas City’s Innovation Corridor isn’t a new idea, it’s not dissimilar to the Digital Sydney project I put together a few years ago. The difference is it has both government commitment to it and a business community energised around the possiblities. Whether that’s enough to make it a success remains to be seen.

What is clear though is that today’s technologies are changing cities, just as roads and electricity did in the Twentieth Century and steam traction, railways and town water did in the Nineteenth.

That’s why the race to build smart cities is so important for communities that care about where they want to be in the 21st Century economy.

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