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SMART CITIES : Can this be the future of Buffalo City?

A global phenomenon termed “Smart Cities” is rising rapidly. These cities of the very-near future are efficient, clean, safe and prosperous. The impact of this trend extends beyond an improved lifestyle for citizens and local businesses to influence entire industries. Could this be the future for Buffalo City, too?

Today’s cities, already consuming about 75% of the world’s energy and producing 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, must sustainably manage the rapidly increasing demand for water, energy, waste management, security and service delivery, as their populations grow at an unprecedented rate. According to the UN, 50% of the estimated global population of 7.5 billion currently reside in urban areas. By 2050, this figure is expected to rise to 70% of an estimated global population of 9.8 billion. Africa’s population will double in this time. Within 30 years, at least 100 cities will have more than 1 million residents. Already under pressure, city infrastructure and services will be placed under increasing stress by this predicted rise in urban populations. Fortunately, there is a solution and it is increasingly being implemented around the globe.

Smart Cities embrace Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to better manage themselves, their assets and their service levels, while maintaining sound environmental, social and economic development. These cities are better enabled to accommodate fast-rising populations. With ICT, Smart Cities improve resource utilisation, reduce waste, save costs, increase infrastructure longevity and improve customer satisfaction, ultimately achieving long-term city sustainability. These Smart Cities already exist. Advanced economies in the West, Europe and East are rapidly moving into this space, including some African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria. So can this also be the future for Buffalo City?

The answer is yes. This is because the development of Smart Cities is driven by advances in the ICT sector, including cellphone technology, applications (apps), automated services and machines that can see, hear and make high-speed autonomous decisions. Electronic devices are increasingly being connected to the Internet and the cloud – not only cellphones, but also infrastructure, lights, water pipes, buildings, cars and more. In 2000, there were 200 million devices connected to the Internet, in 2012 there were 10 billion devices and, by 2020, there will be an estimated 50 billion connected devices! In a Smart City, technology is seamlessly integrated into the city’s operations, creating information which is then applied to interconnected people and infrastructure to enhance the city’s liveability, workability and sustainability. City managers and leaders can now deploy sensors that collect data for analysing trends and predicting outcomes in critical systems such as public health, education, environment, financial markets, public safety, transportation and natural resources. This allows for better decision-making and results in improved services, at a lower cost, creating a better quality of life. In addition, Smart Cities enable local business and industries to keep up with new ways of doing things in the modern urban context. Drones that deliver goods, innovative buildings and infrastructure, automated manufacturing, artificial intelligence, micro-grids and driverless vehicles, to mention just a few, are all impacting drastically on cities and their infrastructure, as well as on businesses who are quickly adapting, whilst others are slowly fading away. Indeed, Smart Cities are impacting entire industries.

The Housing Market
The housing market is being revolutionised by smarter city principles. In the US, over the next 8 years, an estimated US$2.4 trillion of affordable housing costs could be saved through modern design and technology innovations.
Government services
Government expenditure could decrease by as much as 10% through “e-services”. In the US market, a predicted 10% saving from e-services would result in US$3.6 trillion per annum being released for funding new government services, or perhaps even being returned to tax payers!
Automotive sector
The automotive sector is facing a global transition in the typical ownership of a vehicle, due to driverless cars and shared-ownership. It means that US$1 trillion of spend on automobiles and related services can be freed up for US households. This swing has been dubbed as the biggest shift in retail spend in US history.

A Smart City transforms the urban space through enhanced resiliency and sustainability, cheaper and cleaner energy sources, efficient manufacturing and effective retail, improved safety and security, efficient training and education, enhanced health and wellness, and higher inclusivity and access to sports, culture and arts. This can also be achieved in Buffalo City by integrating existing ICT solutions into the city’s operations. The space to innovate is wide open and the opportunities are literally limitless. As Intel says: “(t)he best way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas”. Let’s start up these ideas and get Buffalo City onto the forefront of Smart!


WRITTEN BY: Dr Chris Ettmayr
Renewable Energy & ICT Sector Manager at East London Industrial Development Zone

EDITED BY: Angela Barter (The PR Agency)

Chris is an Economist by profession with a strong background in research and business development. His work history has varied between public and private institutions such as; the National Intelligence Agency, the East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ) and Geonomics, a private company engaged in economic consultancy and research. Chris has been extensively focused on trade and investment promotion and business development within the ELIDZ. More recently Chris has been mandated by Provincial Government to develop the Eastern Cape’s Energy Strategy. This has become a passion to try and bring the province to the forefront of this very new industry within South Africa.