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Why a smart city puts people first

Our Technology Sector leader, Elliot Alfirevich recently spoke to the Property Council of Australia  about why a smart city is about much more than technology and puts people first. 
This article was originally published on the Property Council of Australia’s website. 

Forget focusing on technology. While autonomous vehicles and automation grab the headlines, people are at the heart of the smart cities agenda, says Wood & Grieve Engineers’ principal, Elliot Alfirevich.

The smart city is no longer a sci-fi story. Around the world, cities are using data and technology to enhance the quality of life of citizens, while saving money and enhancing sustainability.

Seattle, for example, has used analytics to drive down the carbon emissions in its buildings by 45 per cent. Sophisticated weather monitoring warns people of impending floods or storms, while pilot gunshot detection technology is helping law enforcers tackle crimes the moment they occur.

In Helsinki, smart bins alert waste collectors only when they are full, reducing the traffic of garbage trucks by up to 90 per cent.

And in Barcelona, LED streetlights are only activated when they detect movement, slashing energy consumption by 30 per cent.

These examples may be inspiring, but Wood & Grieve Engineers’ (WGE’s) Alfirevich says the smart cities concept is about much more than technology.

“Smart cities are about three things: helping people get to their destination, encouraging their engagement while they are there, and making the experience so good they want to come back,” Alfirevich, WGE’s smart cities expert, says.

“You can do a lot of things with whizzbang technology, but unless you are meeting these three objectives, then your city, precinct or even building is not really smart.”

Smart parking is an obvious example, Alfirevich says, and is one of the cornerstones of a smart city.

In San Francisco, for instance, the introduction of smart parking means that drivers spend 43 per cent less time circling car parks for a space. Greenhouse gas emissions have been cut by a third, traffic volume is down by eight per cent and on-street parking availability has increased by 22 per cent during peak periods.

“Smart parking delivers massive labour savings, particularly for councils, because it’s much easier to monitor when someone has overstayed their visit, and you don’t need as many parking inspectors out on the beat.

“But more importantly, parking is one of the great bugbears of people moving around a city. When you can get that right, you can change a person’s whole experience.”

People face similar navigational challenges in large buildings as they do in cities, Alfirevich adds.

Shopping centres understand this, and were early adopters of smart parking, as well as free public WiFi and digital wayfinding to enhance the customer experience.

“The next big step for the property industry will be to bring smart cities technology and a people-centric approach to a wider range of buildings to create a seamless experience that brings people back time and again.”