Growing populations call for smarter thinking to allow our cities to expand and meet the needs of our technology-hungry next generations.

As cities – and, indeed, their citizens – get smarter, they are becoming more real-time liveable and more responsive.

According to the UN’s latest 2018 Revision of World Urbanisation Prospects, the world’s urban population currently stands at 4.2 billion, with around 68% of the whole world’s population projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

The report even suggests that by 2030, we will see 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, mostly in developing regions. It’s no surprise that this shift toward urbanisation presents a complicated set of challenges in meeting the needs of the population regarding sustainable development, housing, transport, energy, employment, education, health care, and infrastructure.

How we approach and solve these challenges is an urgent issue, with smart city systems being hailed as the answer to managing resources and the economies associated with such a population shift.

Our future cities must be ‘smart’, but what does that mean? The British Standards Institute (BSI) defines the smart city term as “the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens”. The definition sounds simple, but the challenges of delivery are not.

In 2014, BSI produced the Smart Cities Vocabulary within PAS 180, recognising that terminology and analytical language surrounding smart cities would require some standardisation regarding this agenda. Aimed at city leaders, this PAS defined terms which included intelligent city concepts across different infrastructure and systems elements.

They also developed the PAS 181 Smart City Framework to enable city leaders to develop, agree and deliver smart city strategies, and the PAS 182 Smart City Concept Model – a guide to establishing a model for data, tackling the barriers to implementing intelligent city concepts, including the interoperability of systems and data-sharing between agencies.

These PAS documents outlined the standards to provide the necessary conditions for innovation and collaboration, recognising that each city would likely have a different vision to meet its individual vision for its future.

A recent study from Philips Lighting cited London – along with Singapore and Barcelona – as being the world’s best, with London being commended for its focus on communities when implementing technology. However, the report indicated that local authorities are being hindered through budget limitations, a lack of leadership in the implementation, limited capabilities in infrastructure and challenges around short-term planning.

As smart cities rely on everything being connected, the technology to enable not only intelligent services for citizens but to connect them with authorities is the bedrock of how a smart city can be achieved.

Smart Cities technologies will undoubtedly help cities get more out of their assets, whether they be legacy or newly constructed. There is no getting away from the need to invest in physical buildings and infrastructure.

Previously this type of investment would require capital-intensive long-term plans; with smart city capabilities, we can combine traditional construction methods with smart solutions to allow our cities to respond more dynamically to the demands of urban communities.

When considering BIM in the world of smart city solution, intelligent clients and a BIM-enabled supply chain would certainly be desirable, ensuring the information translated to the asset owner or city would be ‘smart’ enough to use and reuse downstream.

Keeping systems connected to other smart city systems – such as roadways, lighting systems, underground services, etc. – is the key. A building built with BIM at its heart can enable the integration with other systems and supply the data required for future infrastructure, planning and maintenance.

At this year’s Autodesk University Las Vegas conference, Digital Node’s Managing Director, Rebecca De Cicco, will deliver a talk on the Smart Cities agenda. Rebecca will discuss the governance and structure of Smart Cities, who is driving this initiative, and who is governing standards and consistency in processes. She will also touch on which Smart City technologies are being pushed by industry at present and what support is being given by governments.

Rebecca commented: “Whilst we look at what Smart Cities and data can do for our industry, we must not overlook how all of this will impact upon people, and how they will manage these changes. In my session, I will cover some examples of what is already being delivered around the world and discuss who is truly being ‘smart’ in the city.”

Rebecca will be at Autodesk University on Tuesday 19 November.