Smart cities: it's about people, not tech

26 Feb 2014

For telecoms players proposing solutions to governments to create “smart cities”, a Barcelona official offered a word of advice: the focus should be on people, not technology products.

“Being a smart city is not about ‘smart’, it’s about creating value for the city,” said Antoni Vives, deputy mayor for Urban Habitat of Barcelona City Council.

Vives spoke during a panel session on smart cities at the Mobile World Forum in Barcelona Tuesday.

Panelists from Etisalat, Telstra, HP Enterprise Services and JDSU talked up the technological aspects of smart-city solutions – which can be generally summed up as enabling municipal governments with ICT technology and intelligent infrastructure to create better and more efficient services for citizens.

Common characteristics include smartphones, sensors, IoT, Big Data and scalable high-bandwidth networks, all of which can be leveraged that can enable everything from efficient electricity usage to transportation services, traffic control, healthcare services and education – and making that work across different vertical stacks.

Vives said that was all very well, but ultimately he was more concerned about the human side of such projects.

“I don’t want to talk about smart devices, or the Internet of Things. I want to talk about how this will benefit my mother, and my brother,” he said. “The society you bring to us should be meaningful from the bottom up.”

He also warned that operators and big-name vendors weren’t his only options for developing smart municipal services. “There are hundreds of guys under 25 years of age outside willing to serve me and all of us with wonderful projects.”

Vives said he also disliked companies trying to pitch solutions as a way to boost Barcelona’s ranking as a smart-city.

“I don’t give a damn about rankings,” he said. “I care about all of us cooperating together to find good solutions that are the same for all of us. Some of these guys come in and say, ‘Tony, don’t worry, next month you’re going to be ranked #1, just buy this and this and we’ll work it out.’ I say stop – just stop, please. I would like these industry guys to come in and work with us with solutions that are meaningful for the citizens, and not tied to any kind of ranking or things that are only good for the old model of industry. Let’s work together for awhile and come up with good solutions that benefit everyone.”


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