Imagine receiving a text message with the information about the ideal departure time for you to avoid heavy traffic on your commute. Imagine that the heating in your home is adapting to your behavioural patterns. Imagine cycling with a green light at every intersection if you just keep the pace indicated on the cycle path. These are just some of the many solutions for the future of urban city planning and some of the many topics, which was discussed at the Smart City Dialogue in Singapore recently.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties between Singapore and Denmark, and on the 28th of October, the Danish Embassy in Singapore and the Smart Nation Programme Office (SNPO) came together and organised the first Singapore-Denmark Smart City Dialogue. The event was called “Putting People First in the Cities of Tomorrow” and had the following three areas as it’s main focus: the co-creation of smart cities for improved quality of life, the harnessing of big data to deliver integrated e-services, and energy-efficient urban mobility solutions. The Ambassador of Denmark in Singapore, Berit Basse, made the opening speech, in which she talked about Denmark and Singapore’s diplomatic ties, as well as the need for holistic and innovative thinking in order to accommodate the growing and aging populations.
“Smart Cities would be a natural step and key area for our journey together the next fifty years. Both Singapore and Denmark are developing smart city solutions, and despite our different priorities and approaches, the outcome and purpose is the same. It’s about the people and about improving their quality of life,” she stated.
Denmark and Singapore is similar in the size of their population, in their experience with managing resources and building liveable cities for their people – and now also in their visions for the future. Singapore has set out its vision of becoming the world’s first Smart Nation, where the people are empowered by technology and Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, has a vision of becoming the first carbon-neutral smart city by 2050. The Smart City Dialogue was one the countries efforts to explore the possibilities for collaborations between the two nations visions.
“As more than half of humanity now lives in cities, there will be a growing demand for smart urban solutions. We face many challenges that are similar to Denmark – managing a growing city, an ageing population, and the need to ensure resource sustainability. I know that Denmark has had a long tradition in urban development and I believe that there is much that we can learn from each other,” said the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister in charge of Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. He furthermore added that “Singapore and Denmark should pursue further cooperation in R&D, including water management and environmental technology.”
Some of the key factors in the need for change in the urban city planning is the increased urbanisation, which is putting more and more pressure on the cities resources, and the global climate change, where sea levels may rise, and the frequency of extreme weather conditions will increase. This calls for solutions, that will both improve and make the sustainability more efficient. These solutions seem to be found in the concept of a Smart City, where streets are light by LED light, traffic and parking monitoring reduces congestion, the energy in buildings is digitally controlled and electric cars is supplements to the public transport.
Some of these are not just ideas that will exist in the far out future. Copenhagen has set up a Copenhagen Solutions Lab to coordinate the smart city effort and manage projects. Currently, the Lab is responsible for the ‘Copenhagen Connecting’ project, which brings together businesses, government, organisations as well as citizens on an open data platform so that all parties can harness the data to build solutions and applications in a transparent way. Furthermore, the project won World Smart Cities Award in the Best Project category in November 2014.
“Smart solutions must be smart for the citizens,” said the Mayor of Copenhagen, Morten Kabell in his speech at the Smart City Dialogue. And went to elaborate later on: “So we constantly remind ourselves that we cannot achieve the goals of our smart processes unless we involve the citizens in the process. We may have an idea of what we want to achieve, but if is not designed specifically for the citizens, they will not use it, and we will not achieve our goals.”
Morten Kabell told of how the primary tool for smart solutions is to collect data and make it readily available to external developers or citizens themselves. The most important smart city sectors are water, transport, waste and health and one of the areas that Morten Kabell believes Denmark can learn from Singapore’s development is in the area of water use and public transportation. He explained, that there was a lot to learn from Singapore when it comes to water consumption, use, and savings. Singapore, which relies heavily on neighbouring Malaysia for its water needs, has transformed itself from a nation, which has to import all its water to one that is well on its way to self-sufficiency by 2061 – where they nations water agreement with Malaysia expires.
Despite it’s young age, Singapore is today a first world country, and has within a short span of time gone from being a third world country with no natural resources to having one of the highest standards of living for their people.
The Mayor of Copenhagen, Morten Kabell, brought up one concern connected to smart solution: the concern of privacy.
“Copenhagen is not and must not be a surveillance society. When we are collecting all this data on behavioural patterns of our citizens, we have to be careful not to register the behaviour of the individual,” he said and explained, that to ensure the privacy of the citizens, a Privacy Advisory Board has been put together, to help develop policies and guidelines.