Making smart cities shine

Fridges that order food for you. Lights that switch on and off automatically when you’re on holiday so it looks like someone’s home. Voice activated AI systems that can answer almost any question you might have immediately, as well as managing phone calls phone calls and playing you your favourite playlists. In the not-too-distant past, this would’ve sounded like a fantasy from a sci-fi novel, but this tech is all available now, and is becoming more commonplace in the home.

This is mainly due to the rise of Internet of Things, which involves the connection of everyday items and objects to the internet. It doesn’t stop there though, as city planners around the world begin to build entire cities based around this connectivity. These new, modern, internet enabled areas are known as Smart Cities.

These places are rare, but growing in number. In South Korea for example, they built a Smart City from scratch called Songdo, which had connectivity at the heart of its development.

Everything from the recycling system to the parking are connected and constantly optimised. Many apartments have a video system which can be used to take Yoga classes, or call distant friends. The city managers can also analyse data, and improve life for the residents based on what they need, without needing the direct input from the people who live there.

 

Vision of the future

Depending on how open you are to new technology, this could sound like a futuristic dream or a worrying dystopian vision, but it’s all geared towards making life easier for the residents. Not only that, but it can make places safer too, and more environmentally friendly. Again, looking at Songdo as an example, the streetlights are equipped with cameras, so if a crime is committed it makes tracking their movements easier, whilst also shedding light on the streets that need it most, at the right times of day.

Of course, older and more established locations are taking inspiration from these modern, connected spaces. Many cities in Europe are implementing more modern parking systems already, with EasyPark being at the forefront of these developments.

However, there’s another side to the newly built smart cities. When entire areas are built from scratch, they tend to follow certain patterns. A lot of glass and steel, parks with clean lines, ultra-modern architecture. While it appeals to some, they can often feel like they lack character and culture. There are no centuries-old stones to build around, no cobbled alleyways to negotiate.

 

Parking Art

This is why EasyPark have started an initiative called Parking Art, which looks to inject a little culture onto buildings and structures, where previously there was a blank wall or slab of concrete. Already, in different towns around the world, we have worked with artists and local authorities to liven up spaces which previously, people wouldn’t have looked at twice.

More than that, it’s about making cities more liveable. This is at the core of everything EasyPark does. By using the app, people get to spend more time in great places, seeing and doing the things they love. Through Parking Art, we help to create more places for people to fall in love with.

In Stavanger, Norway, EasyPark worked together with an artist to paint a mural on the side of an old parking lot, instantly transforming it from a drab old structure to a concrete canvas. Then there was a project in Genova, where the local authority allowed different artists to paint on pillars supporting an overpass. EasyPark worked with Alex Senna to paint on Pillar 61, and again it gave a cultural colour burst to what was an aging, run-down piece of engineering.

This is about more than just putting paintings on walls. It’s about transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, giving local communities something to be proud of, and giving visitors something different to see.

Where smart cities are inspiring older towns in terms of connectivity, these newly built urban jungles could learn a lot from their older counterpoints. Technology can breathe life into older places, and make them run more efficiently for the people there, but towns and cities are about more than that. If smart cities can embrace the need for art and culture as much as they have embraced new technologies, they truly will be the cities of the future.

Creating somewhere for people to live and work is the easy part, but projects like these make them feel more like homes.