My Week In Happy: Can smart cities be kind cities?


My habitat: Media City UK

This week, I visited Cybersalon Manchester to learn more about ‘smart cities’.

Much of the debate focussed on how data is generated by citizens and the capacity of the smart city to harvest that data – along with related privacy issues.

For example, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil has a control room which monitors real-time data from 900 CCTV cameras to monitor the flow of traffic around the city.

This is just a glimpse of the potential of cities to respond to the data generated by its citizens and the environment. Could the smart city promise more than a place where traffic, pollution and crime are monitored and managed? Could it become a kind city?

 What would a kind city look like?

There are certain problems that are specific to life in an urban environment, a few of which I have listed below. Could smart cities generate kind solutions to these issues?

I’ve added a possible solution to problem 1 for illustration and would welcome your input on all three scenarios.

Problem 1: Getting cold waiting for the bus

People who live in cities are less likely to have cars and therefore more likely to rely on public transport. Buses are great when they are working well, but it takes only a small disruption to cause delays or even cancellations of services.

Possible solution: Bus stops fitted with CCTV cameras to help identify how many people have been waiting and for how long. The bus stop’s location is used by the control room to predict weather conditions. If you have waited more than say, five minutes, and the temperature falls below a critical point then overhead heat lamps are activated.

Problem 2: Feeling lonely in the heart of the city

Cities are bustling places but due to their pace of life and higher percentage of transient citizens, urban existence can often feel lonely and isolating.

Opportunity: Cities are also home to a much higher concentration of cultural institutions than rural areas.

Problem 3: Seeking peace and quiet to think

In urban settings people are much more likely to live in multi-occupancy households and in properties which are in close proximity to their nearest neighbour.

Opportunity: Quiet spaces such as those in libraries or museums are often free to access.

Tell me what you think

While I ponder these last two questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what could make smart cities kind cities.

The Cybersalon Manchester event was held at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was hosted by Julian Tait and the speakers were Rob Kitchin, Simon Marvin and Ian Forrester.

My Week In Happy: Looking forward to 2015

Rain against the glass of the tram stop at MediaCityUK

When it was raining and windy and cold and I was freezing waiting for the tram.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions because a) I don’t think they really work, and b) I’m pretty much always trying to improve some aspect of who I am and how I live.

I will say though, that returning to my routine after the festive holiday has given me a renewed zeal for my own over-arching goal of being as happy as possible.

As a person who benefits from routine, getting back to work and into the gym have been great for me.  I’ve learnt that the year has its own natural rhythm and so do I. These are things I can work with.

View of MediaCityUK from tram stop.

Dark and forboding weather.

Sitting in my high-rise apartment, I listen as the wind swirls around in the cavity between my ceiling and my upstairs neighbours’ floor. The sound is amplified by this arrangement, and when the rain drives against my windows as it comes in from the west, I feel safe and happy in my tower.

Even so, I chastise myself for not going out, even though my diary is starting to fill up. I make solo plans so I’m not letting anyone down if I take literal rain-check. I wonder what I think is going to happen if I don’t go out.

Will people forget who I am? (Unlikely).

Will they think I am dull and uninteresting? (Possibly, but so what?!).

Looking at it this way makes me realise I’ve been needlessly giving myself a hard time!

The fact is, I could go out if I really wanted to. Even if it meant going solo to a new place where there was no guarantee of knowing anyone who was there. I know I can do it.

The novelty is wanting to stay in, by myself, and spend time making the place I live the sanctuary that I want it to be. And that, I feel, is something to be truly grateful for.