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Forecast Forum: Designing smart cities

What does a post-pandemic smart city look like?
Academics, industry leaders and government discuss how COVID-19 has changed how we use public spaces, move around cities, and the technologies that can help reshape our cities.

Embedding sensing, IoT devices and nanotechnologies into our built environment provides opportunities and challenges for how we design, build, live and manage our cities.

How does our notion of the smart city change in the context of COVID-19? Will our cities ever look the same, and will these physical changes change our economy? Will we return to large office blocks?

Bringing academics from nanotechnology, town planning, and policy, together with industry experts, the University of Sydney hosted a special Forecast Forum in July 2020 as part of the Connect For: A Better Future program.

Here we share some of the ideas explored; including a vision for 'What is the future city?', which was the topic of a keynote talk from Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of Committee For Sydney. 


Key insights

  • Cities have been forever shaped by technology and at the heart, it's people that drive its development and direction. 
  • Where do people want to move to? That's one of the central questions informing the design of autonomous vehicles.
  • While we can look at urban transformation as a way to improve people's connections and experiences of public space, we also need to think about who gets left out. Citymakers and development authorities need to consider access.
  • There is a gap and value in the circular economy, and digital holds the key. 
  • We use solar to power buildings but even more efficient is if we transformed buildings itself into the solar generating element, which can be made possible with research thinking about surfaces and the nanoscale. 

Smart cities

Professor Benjamin Eggleton, who runs the University of Sydney Nano Institute and wears his other hat as Co-director of NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN), was a key driver in this forum discussion, and provides a map for how we can think about this topic. Using the interactive chart below, explore developments in smart materials, smart living, and smart cities of the future.

What is the future city?

Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of Committee For Sydney

Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of Committee For Sydney, gives a keynote that reflects on the past and the relationship between cities and technology. 

All right. Hello, everybody. Thank you for the introduction, Robyn. And it's a real honour to be getting to join this conference today.

A topic near and dear to my heart, I have been given the wonderful topic, What is the future city? And I suppose I could make this short by cutting to the chase and admitting that I don't know.

I don't know what the future city will look like. But that's not as much fun as talking about why I don't know. And what I want to do is, is look to the past.

I want to try to give a little context right now about the relationship between cities and technology because technology has been intimately involved with the evolution of cities for a long time.

So what is humanity's greatest invention? Is it fire? Is it agriculture? Is [it] the telescope or the microscope? Is it the clipper ship or the rocket ship? Well, to me, humanity's greatest invention is the city.

I am lucky enough to be running the Committee For Sydney where my day job is to work on urban problems of all kinds that are affecting Sydney and hopefully come up with some constructive solutions. Before that, I was in a similar role in San Francisco. So I have been lucky enough to see quite a few cities up close and understand some of the extraordinary things cities can do. And also some of the extraordinary problems some of them face.

So I really like to think about cities as a technology, and a technology for holding human difference. And part of the magic of cities is they allow so many different kinds of people to mostly get along with one another, peacefully.

We have become an urban species. Today, most human beings live in cities and that number grows every day. This is driven by people searching for economic opportunity, of course, and we know that people cross oceans and leave their places of origin for economic opportunity, but it's not only about that; it's also driven by people searching for a place where they can become themselves.

Cities have this wonderful paradox where they're – the very gathering together of so much difference in diversity actually allows people to find others who are like them. So, if you're gay, you go to the city to come out. If you're a sculptor or a computer coder or you want to start a new religion, you go to the city to find your community.

Cities have been shaped by technology forever since their invention, the technology of buildings, the technology of war. This is of course, a walled city on the left. But highways were in many countries, certainly in the US, were sold as a defence technology.

The technology of transport, of course, and you can actually really sort of understand, instantly wherever you are in a city, you can understand within a number of seconds, what was the dominant mode of transport in the moment that part of the city was built, because it's so profoundly shapes the way cities work. You can tell if you're in the street car, city or the pedestrian city or the automobile city.

We are today in a new wave of invention, and smart cities is the name given to some of that. But this new wave of invention encompasses hundreds or probably thousands of different inventions from solar panels to electric scooters. And we are today gathering some of the best minds who are working on some of them, and they have so much potential to solve problems and make city life better. But if we take that what I would call fundamentally optimistic view toward the new technologies that doesn't mean that we rush to embrace every new technology, or get out of the way for the inevitable march of new technologies.It's up to us, actually to decide which technologies we want to deploy and to develop.

So for example, with autonomous vehicles, it is not our job to get out of the way and allow autonomous vehicles to be wherever they can be. We first asked the question, where do we want cars to go? And only after answering that question and reserving spaces in the public right of way for pedestrians and cycleways and plazas, only then, once we know that question, do we then welcome autonomous vehicles where they make sense. Or perhaps instead of autonomous vehicles, we're going to first go for autonomous trains which of course Sydney has done.

There are so many problems we still need to solve. We need to figure out how to make everything in the whole world without generating carbon, steel, concrete food, everything. We need to figure out how to raise levels of education for millions, maybe billions of people. So we need a lot of technological invention.

At this moment, with COVID, spreading around the world still, where Sydney is on the verge of what some people fear is a second lockdown, it can be hard to be optimistic. During this crisis, many people are predicting the end of cities as people tend to predict from time to time. But cities are gonna be okay. For one thing rural areas are being hit just as hard as cities by COVID. And for another, all the reasons people wanted to be in cities before COVID are still going to be true after COVID. For thousands of years, in fact, cities have been evolving and responding to disease.

This is, of course, the 1854 cholera map from John Snow. That was part of part of the discovery that certain diseases were waterborne. And it led directly to a reconstruction of cities all over the world to put in place sewer systems.

So I think about COVID and this question, do cities need to change not as inevitability but as a chance to ask the question what we want the future city to look like?

So this is just an example of kind of a whiteboard brainstorm that we're running with people all over Sydney where we're sorting out potential changes and, and grouping them by temporary or permanent. And then we group them further by overlaying that with the second question: Are these changes, you want to make changes you don't want to make? So if you want to make it and it's temporary, well, that's an opportunity to experiment in the upper left quadrant. If you want to make the change and it could be permanent, well, this is your chance to do that. There may be some things that are painful but necessary. (So that's well, here, I have it applied. I have examples here.) So that would be reduced the ridership loads on public transport.

There may be changes that would be permanent, that you really don't want to do so if you own office buildings, that would mean converting it to some other use. You want to put that off as long as possible. So we are, you know, we have hundreds and hundreds of these from running workshops on this idea.

But the point is that COVID, like every other crisis, does not inevitably drive a change to cities. It is an opportunity to ask the question, What we want cities to look like?

We have learned a lot about what makes cities successful over the years, we want them to be walkable and compact. Rather than sprawling. We want them to have an interconnected grid of public transport and cycle lanes. This is of course Vancouver, by the way. We want housing of different shapes and sizes and price points. We want beautiful buildings and public spaces. We know we know a lot of the basic ingredients. But the truth is that there is not one right way. There are a lot of successful urban models that have existed and a lot of successful urban models that will exist.

So I close with a shot of Wakanda which is both an eco-city and a technopolis. And a reminder that the story of the city is not yet written and it never will be. We don't yet know how it will turn out. Thank you.

Smart materials

Solar buildings

Professor Anita Ho-BaillieSydney Nano

Professor Anita Ho-Baillie speaks about solar buildings (not solar on buildings) and the potential to generate solar through vertical surfaces on apartments and offices.

Ho-Baillie and her research group have been able to develop visually appealing solar technology that is customisable, manufactured in Australia, available in a range of colours, easy to install and meets predicted market demand. 

This is Anita Ho-Baillie here. I joined the University of Sydney for seven months now. And I'm the John [Hooke] Chair of Nanoscience. So today, I'm very glad that I'm able to talk about something that is very close to my heart, something that I'm very passionate about. And it's about solar buildings.

So what is a solar building instead of a solar on a building? So you can see that 90% of the solar modules that you see are on rooftops and they are on a building, but imagine in the smart cities, in the cities in the future that your building will be actually a solar energy generating element? So, at the moment, we've got lots of apartments and offices and they have much larger vertical services compared to roof space. However, these critical services are not used for solar energy generation. So these are the real [inaudible] that have not been utilised to generate electricity locally.

So current products, we have a lot of crystalline silicon modules that are imported, that are made overseas, that have standard sizes, they have standard aesthetics, and they do not blend well with the appearance of the building.

So our aim is to develop visually appealing solar, that is customisable to the building needs that can be manufactured in Australia, that have colour options, that are easy to instal. And they have electrical wires and context that you can't see. So they have very minimal visual impact on the building.

So these are some of the things that we do in my research group.

And is there a market? Yes. So there are various studies out there and market research out there; that is endorsed by Bloomberg, that the global building-integrated photovoltaics, what we call BIPV market, is going to grow by 20% each year and it's going to grow to a $30 billion market in the next five years.

So in CBD alone in Sydney, we've got 18 million square metre and 10% of those is windows. If you look at the floor space, it's 10%. So we have 1.8 million square metre that is available for installation of solar glass.

So the benefits of these products is it will open up the solar market to building owners and occupiers where roof mounting is not possible. So also you look at apartments where they have balconies and balustrades. Imagine every balustrade is actually so – sorry that was my phone.

So we'll look at a case study. So we look at our Sydney Nano Hub. And imagine Sydney Nano Hub being covered by solid glass. So we install some data loggers in my office, and we call it Solarimeter and it's mounted vertically on one of my window, and we did a calculation.

We look at the amount of solar insolation on the window on a sunny winter day, and we did some adjustments for summer days, which have much longer – which have 2.4 times more sunlight falling onto the surface. We have a very conservative estimate that the solar window is only 10% efficient, meaning that it will let into 50% of sunlight in and if we assume that it's 26 cents per kilowatt hour, there's potential savings of $23,000 per year; if we just use 1,000 square metre of the surface which is not the entire service area of the building. So we can do more of those studies, perhaps we can map out the entire campus in Sydney University to see how much electricity savings we can do if we install these beautiful solar products.

So at the moment, we are doing IP protection, we're doing prototyping. We're also looking into standards and compliance tests that apply to these products. And also we'll be doing some field testing as well.

So we are looking for partnerships, we're looking for people who are interested in investing in our work, as well as local manufacturers who are able to make these beautiful products. And that's it for my presentation.

Smart living

Autonomous vehicles in shared pedestrian spaces

Dr Stewart WorrallAustralian Centre for Field Robotics

In this talk, Dr Stewart Worrall shows examples of platforms developed at the University that can detect things in the environment and make decisions, and which can be used as solutions for the last mile of transport.

My name’s Stewart Worrall, I’m a researcher from Engineering, and my sort of area of expertise is autonomous vehicles. 

When we start to look at how we move around in the future, I guess everybody has a different sort of imagination of what the future of mobility might look like. 

And you know, you can sort of imagine the Jetson cars and these things and – but when it really comes down to it, that kind of vision of everyone having their flying car just doesn’t really scale very well.  So what we’re really looking at is, what do we expect to do in – where do people want to move to? 

And so we look at different types of spaces. You know, you might consider a campus, like a university campus or maybe an area like Olympic Park or something like a retirement home or something like a construction site. And all of these types of spaces have some things in common. And that’s people need to move – to and from these areas. 

The way that we sort of see this is that the bulk of the transport is going to be supported by public transport. The best way to sort of scale interactions when people move around in large cities – in a smart city – is to have smart transportation. 

But the problem is that when you get off the train or off the bus, you then need to get that last part of the journey towards your destination and you know, these days, it’s quite a nice, pleasant way to move around is to walk for the last part of your journey or to ride a bike. But for some people and in some circumstances that’s not really an option. 

And what we’re really looking towards is other solutions we can add to the mix of how people might be able to move around in this kind of futuristic city. 

And the way that we sort of see it is that there’s a capacity for autonomous vehicles to work in this space. 

We have some platforms that we developed at the University of Sydney and you can see them on the screen there now, which have an array of sensors that we use to be able to detect things in the environment. To make smart decisions and then to operate safely. 

And we’re really looking towards this last mile transport. So not moving people, like all the way across Sydney for example. But perhaps more or less, taking someone from a train station to somewhere on campus. That kind of scale of things. 

So from an engineering perspective, which is where my background is, we’re really looking towards solving this situation awareness problem. 

So you know, you start with building up layers of understanding of the environment and that starts with understanding your location. So localisation is the key. We do a lot of work in localisation in urban environments. So understanding not just, “Where are the roads? Where are the buildings?” But also, what’s the meaning of those types of areas? A road means something different than a shared space than a pedestrian area and so understanding those kinds of contexts is very important. 

Then actually using perception to understand who’s in our environment. So it might be cars, it might be people. Use things like lidar camera to fuse that information together to understand what’s there. 

And then once you sort of take this information and then try to work out what’s going to happen in the future, then you can start to make decisions about where to drive the car. So the context is very different for something like this, which is a shared space like a pedestrian area. You can see someone about to cross a road. Compared to this, which is a road space and you can see a car is about to turn a corner of an intersection. But then even building up to very, very complex scenarios where each person in this environment probably has a very poor understanding of the world around them. 

So we do some work in – here’s an example of some of the things we’re doing. We have a car driving by itself and a pedestrian is about to walk out in front. And the car has to make some decisions about what it’s going to do. You know, they have to look at the person, they have to understand where the person’s going to move to, and then what the future trajectory of the car’s going to be. So you can see the kind of work that we’re doing is actually looking at how pedestrians interact with vehicles or how they can interact with vehicles. 

And what this really builds to is – what we think is the end goal? What are we really trying to achieve here? And one of those things is to be able to incorporate the smart into the decision-making of the vehicle that can make a distinguished – make a decision to distinguish between the type of thing on the left and the type of thing on the right. Whether it’s a child or whether it’s a child by themselves chasing a ball or whether it’s a child being supported by an adult. So that’s everything from me. I’d like to hand over to the next speaker. 

Smart street furniture and social health

Associate Professor Nancy Marshall, School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Associate Professor Nancy Marshall talks about her research, which has joined teams together from Sydney, UNSW and industry partners to invent smart street furniture – the "sense-able pole" and "ChillOUT Hubs" – which supports health and wellbeing. 

NANCY MARSHALL

Hi everyone, I’m Nancy Marshall and I’m Associate Professor in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning. 

Good projects in my experience have many people involved. For the past three years my research has joined together teams from, Sydney University, University of New South Wales, our industry partners Street Furniture Australia and Georges River Council as it positions itself as a smart and innovative local government area. 

Over that time has been inventing Smart Street Furniture that supports health and social wellbeing. So far we've created a "sense-able pole" and what we call it "chillOUT hub" and we're testing those in public space at the moment. 

These micro-infrastructures as we call them are contributing to a healthier, greener, equitable and smarter urban environment. They’re currently being tested in Georges River Council as I mentioned. 

I’ll now show you a short two minute video that showcases the sense-able pole and our work to date has been funded by the Commonwealth Smart Cities and Suburbs grants program.

VIDEO [VOICEOVER: NANCY MARSHALL] 

With a massive shift to higher density urban living and a burgeoning gig economy workforce, people need to have flexible and mobile spaces for work and social connectivity. This is a change to the social value of the public realm.

This innovative product was created in Sydney and will be manufactured here, creating jobs and having an economic multiplier effect on New South Wales. The sense-able pole is a free-standing, multi-functional, human-scale smart pole that improves amenity in public space. With a very small footprint, it offers Wi-Fi, mains and solar power, USB charging, potable water, in addition to traditional street furniture functions, free to any user.

It transmits open source data about its own utility use, the urban microclimate and human movement in public space. Our innovation is two-fold.

Firstly, we have integrated environmental and utility sensors in micro-urban infrastructure.

Secondly, the sense-able pole is run by a newly created Smart Asset Management Dashboard that uses the Internet of Things to create a digital twin for easy and efficient infrastructure management. This is scaleable and includes data that is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. We have already tested advanced prototypes in-situ in different community contexts.

Our team can envisage the sense-able pole being in high density developments, school yards, or hospital grounds and even in the global south’s informal settlements.

This smart human-scale pole represents innovation, collaboration and local New South Wales manufacturing capabilities in the smart cities race.

NANCY MARSHALL

Development authorities and other citymakers have to ensure that there is enough and appropriate public open space and infrastructure in their areas. Where there are spaces and amenities, they need to be current, high quality, safe, well placed and well maintained. 

And as we know, the spaces and the infrastructure need to be in easy, accessible locations and accessible for all and inclusive of all abilities. 

And finally, as city designers and land authorities, we want our spaces to be used and enjoyed. 

This project that I’ve been working on is addressing these kinds of issues and opportunities. 

Our system of smart hardware and software is a result of universities working with local industry and a local council to solve well documented urban issues. 

Our work is responding to the changing social value of the public realm, especially in a post-COVID world, we're increasing amenity; improving connectivity; supporting healthy, urban living.

We’re using a technical solution to asset management. Our SAM dashboard provides sophisticated monitoring techniques and data analytics that improve infrastructure life cycle assessments and digital twin issues. 

The dashboard improves the efficiency and effectiveness of public facilities to an evidence-based and data-driven system. And this will ultimately result in financial benefits for local authorities. 

The furniture provides access to technology and amenity and that’s accessible to all. Monitoring the use of public space and providing IoT sensor data can deliver direct social and economic benefits to the community by avoiding the digital divide. Providing ICT infrastructure can especially support people on the move, the gig economy workforce, students or home-based workers. 

Finally, this research supports Australian design capacities and New South Wales product manufacturing and supply chains. 

Our team want to finalise the design and commercialise these products and get them into the marketplace and we’re always looking for partners with which we can collaborate and co-design for community benefit. Thank you.

Digital waste for smart cities

Associate Professor Ali Abbas, Director of the Waste Transformation Research Hub

Associate Professor Ali Abbas speaks about managing digital waste in smart cities and transferring to a circular digital economy. 

Hello, everyone, it's great to be here with you today. I'm Ali Abbas, Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering and Director of Waste Transformation Research Hub here at the University. My talk is about digital waste for smart cities.

Waste is a big challenge for all societies and it's been in the media and the news recently as we all are very aware. And our data for different countries has shown that waste is very closely linked with economic growth. Waste production against human development index and against GDP is very closely correlated. And this is the same for Australia. Australia is no exception; there's a big waste challenge here. We are big producers of waste, nationally and on per capita basis. 

We need to think differently, we currently operate in a linear economy. That is, we take materials from nature and we consume them after manufacturing and then we'll send them to dispose of, mostly in landfills. We need to think circular; we need to think about the circular economy, a very important emerging principle that we all are getting to know better and better. And this is really to fill the gap that currently is out there materials at the moment in our economy; in society are about only 9% circular, so there is a large gap for us to fill.

This is – been sparking a lot of thinking internationally. This is very much top-down thinking that's been driving the way that we think about how to transition to the circular economy. And certainly, in smart cities, the digital does play a big role in developing the circular economy. And this has led Deloitte, to think very carefully about how this can be done, and they've proposed a particular recipe that is becoming more and more important as we think about how to deal with our wastes. With this recipe comes a lot of – a very large ecosystem of technologies all related to the digital, from the Internet of Things to predictive analytics, and all the way to the data integration, systems integration and particularly important for us here at the Waste Research Hub is new products development and opportunities from the from waste. This whole ecosystem of technologies is estimated to be bringing benefit to the economy in the order of 4.5 trillion dollars to 2030. 

It is often said that data is a wicked problem in terms of waste and over the decades and years, this has been often labelled as a "dog's breakfast" simply because there are so many different levels – the national, the state, the local and and so on – and many different repositories have been developed in the past that house different waste data. And waste data is really at the core of this digital transformation for the circular economy for waste industry. However, a lot of it is really about data as far as we can, we have developed now, and it has been missing this commercial and business opportunity. 

We are trying to solve this problem we are trying to resolve it through developing a unifying platform for digital circular economy, digital waste for smart cities and beyond, through a very powerful system that not only provides the data that we all need to develop our business models, business cases and policy, and so on. But it also provides a lot of insights on materials, materials circulations, and new products developments, as well as new process developments. This is not a just about data. It is more about being a unique platform that provides (as you can see on the right example), opportunities in the waste industry such as what we have now, the emerging energy from waste sector but also importantly how we can deal with the carbon emissions, local and national but also at the level of product. And importantly, as I mentioned earlier, these new products that we would develop and developing these pathways, is all really centred around this waste data and the digital waste. 

One case study I'd like to share what we are working on at the Waste Transformation Research Hub and very much close to my heart, is this work we're doing with the construction sector. 

Here, we are not just taking what's, you know, an audit of what wastes are available out there in society, such as say, materials coming from the industry, such as fly ashes, and glass and so on, but also gaseous waste like the important greenhouse gas CO2. We go beyond that towards the using the digital to design these materials to design these products that so they can serve the construction industry, whether that is horizontal infrastructure or vertical infrastructure. There's a lot of research going on in the research hub around merging the digital with the design of the materials and products for the construction industry. And I'm very pleased to see that one of our products is going into the university's campus as a an element in the new chemical engineering building but also as a recipe for the future pavements across the campus.

The product we are, I'd like to share with you, for us to have a conversation about today is the Digital Waste Atlas. This is a prototype solution that's already done at the prototype level, and it brings together a whole heap of available data from different levels national state and local levels, but it tries to present that in visual format that is meaningful, presentable, but then can be carried forward towards insightful and strong commercialisation opportunities. 

And this is a geospatial solution that maps waste across geographies and different periods of time. But it is an opportunity that is open for conversation as we start to bring it out to the market. And we invite you to engage with us on this to tackle this wicked problem together. We certainly see it beyond data. It is certainly disruptive because we see it as the next Alibaba, and for; as a marketplace for waste to products. I'd like to thank you for listening and happy to have a conversation further.

Insights from India's 100 smart cities

Associate Professor Tooran AlizedehSchool of Architecture, Design and Planning

Associate Professor Tooran Alizedeh and her team have been reviewing policies, visiting smart cities in India and speaking to those involved with the cities to get a better understanding of how they are planned and governed.

Hello, everyone. Thank you for having me. This is Tooran Alizadeh from Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney. And let me start by apologising for my voice. I'm struggling with a very stubborn bronchitis, but hopefully it will – my goal is to last for the next seven minutes. 

Okay, during COVID time, working from home has become the new reality for so many of us. And in essence, it has brought us closer to each other. More often we find ourselves in meeting when there are people based in different cities, if not different countries all around the world. And this may give us the impression that we all are already living in a smart city. But then there is the inevitable interruption with someone's voice or video. We've had quite a couple of them today. And that reminds you that the internet quality is not the same in different parts of our cities, regions and even around the world. In a sense, it's a wake-up call for us to know that the smart city development is happening at different pace around the world based – depending on where you're at, or how much you can pay for it. And this brings me to the topic of my talk for today, which is about smart city development in India. 

[The] Government of India is building 100 smart cities as part of an ambitious national strategy called a Smart Cities Mission in India. This mission is supported by over 16 billion US dollar. So it's real, it's happening. But then you may ask what does that exactly mean? This is also the core of my research question. I'm interested to understand how smart cities in India are planned for and built. 

Today I will be briefly talking about how smart cities in India are governed and also how they look like underground or, using an academic jargon, a smart cities place outcomes.

But before talking about the detail of my research in India, I have to perhaps share with you that I look – I, in my research, I look at the global trends of smart cities. And when I say global, I actually mean it. I'm not one of those people who think that the Euro-American trends of how cities work applies to everywhere is universal. Now, if anything, I actually believe in the South Centre. 

This is a map of the global south, where over 80% of world population lives in. I believe in the South Centre and for me, it means that it is time to look at the global cities in the south; this global south, as the distinct experience of the cities of the south can provide provocative and productive framework for all cities. And I also think that for us, from an Australian perspective, we need to be very careful here, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are the only three countries in the global north that are based in the southern hemisphere. This means that it is within our strategy, geopolitical and economic partnership interests to learn from, keep up with and if possible, contribute to the South Centre. And this is why I study smart cities in India. 

India is home to about 20% of world population, about 30% of global south population with significant influence over Asia and beyond. So, any knowledge produced on a smart cities in India can reconceptualise our understanding of the subject around the world. 

Just before COVID, my team and I visited a number of smart cities in India; cities like Pune, Solapur, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Chennai. We visited a number of smart city project sites. We reviewed relevant policy documents, a pile of them actually. And we interviewed urban planners, ICT consultants, NGOs, city officials; basically anyone who has something to do with smart city planning or implementation. We also visited Hyderabad and were amazed with the size of ICT development in that city; just mind blowing.

As you can imagine, COVID has interrupted my research. My planned visit, to go to Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore is now postponed indefinitely. But the data that they collected in late 2019 and even January 2020 have kept us busy for now. As you can imagine, a smart city development in India is still happening and I'm not claiming that they have all of them. If anything, there are valid questions about the impact or the impacts of current global pandemic, on the progress in India. And I don't have the answer for that either. But even in this stage, I mean, involves national government, state government, municipalities and what is also known as special purpose work. A special purpose vehicle is the lowest and most hands on level of government that has been introduced specifically to facilitate private public partnership. That is the core of many smart city projects in India. It's a clever approach, as many cities around the nation are trying to understand what "smart" means in their specific case. The competition is fierce. And let's remind ourselves that [a] smart city mission even in the first place was introduced as a company different cities are in fierce, fierce competition. 

I sometimes, however, wonder if the competition comes at the cost of collaboration. So far, we have identified a number of cases when progressive Indian cities are entering all different sort of partnerships with cities around the world from US, Europe and Japan to learn from their smart progresses. I'm still looking to find any case of partnership between Indian cities. And it makes me think if the governance structure in place has discouraged partnerships among Indian cities. 

Another interesting theme is around place outcomes. Then we are trying to understand the impact of a smart city projects in each place and its people. And wow, some of the transformations are mind blowing – ICT structure; ICT; massive, massive ICT clusters; ICT basically development means jobs; means economic development. And then there are these high-end residential towers built next to them to basically support the ICT workforce. 

We've also visited several placemaking projects, when [inaudible], places and streets are being transformed using solar lighting and all sorts of smart street furniture is all exciting. But then there is a deeper question: Who is the smart urban transformation for? There is a tendency in some of our interviews, especially when politicians were involved, as they told us that the Smart City Mission is also about the poorest of the poor, borrowing that and I'm only borrowing that phrase from from one of our interviews.

In reality, however, this is not what you have seen. It is very clear from the range of projects that we have seen that middle class educated India is to benefit from the smart urban transformation. But when it comes to the urban poor, let alone the poorest of the poor, there is this concern that they may be left behind the smart transformation. And this is something very serious to think about, especially in the context of India. 

Having said this, this is only the beginning. India has an exciting smart transformation ahead of it. And I'm hoping to be lucky enough to be able to observe it, learn from it, and share my learning with other cities and a smart city sector all around the world, especially here in Australia. Thank you for having me.

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