As we continue our push towards smart cities, it is critical that we keep people at the heart of it all. After all, what is the purpose of technology if not to make life better for citizens?
At the centre of the concept of Smart Cities lies the promise that technology can make cities better and improve the lives of its inhabitants. As countries across Asia race towards this goal, where people fit into this picture, appears to be lost. While we see sparks of how cities have worked to transform themselves into more efficient ecosystems — filled with marvels from electronic gantries powered by satellite navigation technologies, to street lamps equipped with facial recognition cameras — it’s often hard to tell exactly how people have benefited from these cutting-edge innovations.
Ironically enough, the success of a Smart City lies in the hands of the people in how fast people adopt new technologies, how they live with it, interact with it and accept it as part of their daily routines. To accelerate the process, Governments need to take proactive steps in encouraging both public institutions and rallying private companies to come on board and bring Smart City innovations to the masses.
Bringing the smarts to the workplace
With collaboration the current buzzword of the modern workplace today, the employees expect work tools that offer flexibility and access to information and connectivity — across a variety of devices and platforms no less — to be at their fingertips, anywhere and anytime. Adding to that is the trend of talents asking for flexible work arrangements, even working remotely, which means the use of personal devices is then added into the equation, bringing with it another level of complexity and concerns such as security and compatibility of devices. Where some companies may put it down to the cost of doing business, more progressive companies would see an opportunity to leverage this not just to improve productivity and collaboration between geographically diverse workforces, but also as a means of attracting and retaining top talents who relish the challenge of pushing boundaries of what’s possible.
Starting them young
Imagine inquisitive minds with a natural thirst for knowledge and a general openness towards trying out new things and it’s easy to see why the education sector is an ideal place to demonstrate the tangible benefits of smart technologies. Gone are the days where classrooms were filled with students passively listening to lecturers dishing out information. Today, students want to learn through interactions and discussions and through deeper learning activities such as tackling problems in groups and then presenting solutions to a wider class. To this end, it is painfully obvious that whiteboards and markers no longer make the cut.
To facilitate the learning process, there is a need to introduce tools that allow one to tap on an intuitive touch screen to stream a video, display a document, or even broadcast a lecture to an online audience, allowing students to focus on learning rather than troubleshooting technology, as they should be. As we continue our push towards Smart Cities, it is critical that we keep people at the heart of it all. After all, what is the purpose of technology if not to make life better for citizens?
(The writer is CEO, Asia Pacific, Crestron)