JULY 15, 2019


Yekaterinburg is gradually integrating the principles of a 'smart city'. CCTV cameras appear on the streets; new buildings are equipped with central heating systems adapting to air temperature; robot doorkeepers and robot janitors are announced. Developments are also happening in the 'Smart City' national project of the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Utility Infrastructure of the Russian Federation. According to their official website, the 'Smart city bank of solutions' features 321 registered project (implemented in different cities of Russia). Timur Abdullaev participated in the discussion about 'smart cities' at Innoprom and shared his opinion on this matter.
In the ordinary way, a smart city is a system of managing municipal services, which makes it possible, for instance, to save resources. This happens during an important stage in the development of cities in terms of shifting from industrial to postindustrial and further on to digital society. But when clerks start thinking about it, as a rule, they stay on the communal administrative plane, discussing CCTV systems, lighting, garbage disposal etc.

Im sure that the topic of smart cities is much wider. The most important thing is that smart cities can define the new format of communication among residents, authorities and various city communities. And, in the end, this will increase comfort and quality of life.

Concentration of people in cities is rising; urbanization is not going to stop. Traditional methods are not working any longer for the required communication among such large number of people. Without feedback, people get the feeling of detachment; they don't believe that their opinion can be heard. As a result, discontent or apathy grows in the absence of participation in urban development.

I rather like the definition of a smart city as an urban neuronet, where numerous communications take place, and they are structured in a specific way. There are a lot of internet services now from common car-sharing to booking accommodation and state services, which could be united into one system, according to citizens' requests. As part of this system, one could collect data on citizens, get information about their interests, needs and preferences.
When I worked in the city administration of Yekaterinburg together with my colleagues on the strategy of spatial development for the city, we were very interested in getting the information about transport flows, people movements. We wanted to determine weak points in the transport system, requested data from mobile operating companies but got a refusal.

Obviously, collecting and processing BIG DATA is a complex issue both from the technical and from the ethical point of view. First of all, this relates to personal information confidentiality guarantees. Some think that all data in this aspect should be anonymized; i.e. information on what, when and where can be used as part of the smart cities program. But there should not be any data on who it was with. How to control this is a big question.

There is an 'Active Citizen' service in Moscow, with the help of which a very successful, in my opinion, attempt of electronic communication between authorities and citizens is implemented. On the one hand, this helps physically decrease the load on clerks; on the other hand, they get more objective data on opinions, interests and preferences of the citizens. However, smart cities definitely require also smart citizens. I mean that people should understand their responsibility for the city's development, they should be involved in this process willingly.
In this respect, Yekaterinburg is a perfect site for the implementation of all the principles of a smart city. It's a metropolis but not too huge, where substantially active citizens live, ready to participate in communication with each other.

The topics for communication may vary. One of the most obvious topics involves defining the optimal parameters for public transport route networks. Or, for instance, the development of the system of pedestrian public spaces. When a decision is made with limited resources regarding which area to improve first, it would be great to go by objective data about who and when uses this public space, instead of operating with abstract ideas. Another topic is the development of social infrastructure. There are schools with vacancies in Yekaterinburg. At the same time, there are situations when it's impossible to enroll into a simple school in the outskirts, just because there are no other schools available nearby. Continuous contact with residents, collection and analysis of a large volume of data would allow preventive measures to avoid such problems and correct the plans for social infrastructure development several years ahead.

Now, the paradigm of urban development has changed. People choose cities not from the viewpoint of workplaces, but mostly in terms of comfortable living. Cities compete for new residents that are subjects of development for the new creative economics. The main urban resource is now the level of social capital that defines a city's potential, not the presence of industrial production.

Those cities win which develop consistently and in a balanced way, not chaotically. These are smart cities.
Source: itsmycity