Smart Cities: Operational Concepts for an Elusive Framework

Smart Cities: Operational Concepts for an Elusive Framework

DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-0744-1.ch018
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Human and technological development allowed cities to be built upon structures to increase the quality of life of their citizens. But evolution also brought challenges like high consumption patterns and reduced natural resources. The chapter aims to provide common ground among the main concepts of smart cities and shed light on the often-elusive framework of the “smart city,” highlighting the need to incorporate a more holistic approach and integrate sustainable quality of life. A conceptual model was proposed and discussed, framing the dimensions: nature, infrastructure, technology, services, sustainability, and social. The influence of technology to better manage was also taken into account, without neglecting the importance of efficiency and innovation in a holistic system. The conclusions reinforce the composite nature, the need for more consistency, measurement scales, and the interconnectivity between management and its citizens, which is needed for better population well-being.
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Since pre-historic times, the human species have had to adapt to environmental and life circumstances, and the natural answer to those always-changing circumstances has been the creation and development of place to live, habitations and cities (Schuurman, Baccarne, De Marez, & Mechant, 2012). Thus, nowadays, like in the past, similar decisions are made by citizens striving for a large concentration of resources and facilities (Perera, Zaslavsky, Christen, & Georgakopoulos, 2014) with the cooperation and incentive of governments, organizations, and agencies around the world, particularly in the western countries.

However, challenges arise since, according to the United Nations (2015) projections, the world population (7.3 billion by mid-2015) show a tendency to grow. Consequently, local and national authorities and organizations (private and public) will, like all citizens worldwide, be pressured constantly in every aspect of their daily routine in the cities to keep their life quality. The pressuring dilemma lies in the metabolism of cities, in which societal consumption transforms the input of goods and resources into the output of waste (Albino, Berardi, & Dangelico, 2015) and pollution.

This predicament led since the late 90s some scholars, such as Graham and Marvin (2004), to address the potential of technology to create better management systems and platforms to reduce consumption and intensify sustainability potential. The Internet of Things (IoT) (Perera et al., 2014; Vlacheas et al., 2013; Zanella, Bui, Castellani, Vangelista, & Zorzi, 2014) aims to “connect billions of sensors to the Internet and expects to use them for efficient and effective resource management in Smart Cities” (Perera et al., 2014, p. 1) presents itself as an opportunity to attain this objective, i.e., sustainability. Furthermore, environmental concerns have dictated new trends in the citizens’ behaviour and caused changes in how organizations, governments and agencies act to reduce those costs and consumption. Sustainability is key, either through the promotion of natural capital and resources (Albino et al., 2015) or by the reduction of consumption (Caird, 2018).

In this environment characterized by rapid and complex societal changes, Smart Cities (SC) managers and stakeholders are required to define strategies rapidly and incisively to improve performance, engagement, and connection with its citizens in the urban setting. It also requires information and communication technologies (ICTs) (McFarlane, & Söderström, 2017; Schuurman et al., 2012; Toppeta, 2010) to be addressed, including problems related to management productivity through the different organizations (Chourabi et al., 2012). However, despite societal and technological developments, a better understanding and balance between these two parties, and how it contributes to a better management of SC is lacking.

The reason lies in the highly complex nature of SC, which consists of “a collection of elements that act independently of one another but nevertheless manage to act in concert” (Mora, Bolici & Deakin, 2017, p. 3). Thus, the relationships between the various elements (e.g. ICTs, IoT) must be assessed with more profundity, without neglecting the social perspective. As Turcu (2013) notes, a more anthropocentric approach should be taken for cities to be able to respond to their citizens’ needs, which means SC should provide sustainable solutions as inputs towards better and improved social and economic outputs (e.g., live conditions). One such example can be found in Venezia or Florence in Italy, which strives to keep the balance between the tourism economic and social development with the assistance of technology to build and create a smarter city (Papa, Gargiulo, & Galderisi, 2013), to improve its conservation (Lazzeretti, Capone, & Cinti, 2011), to improve human conditions (and quality of life) (Kummitha, & Crutzen, 2017) and to contribute to environmental sustainability (Ahvenniemi, Huovila, Pinto-Seppä, & Airaksinen, 2017).

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