SCCANZ in Action: The first principles of smart communities

Last week I shared extracts of my interview with Chris Isles from Place Design Group, one of SCCANZ’s member organisations working on IDEA City at Springfield – a new city being built from scratch, within the City of Ipswich in Southeast Queensland.

But not all smart cities projects, well most in fact, are not of this scale. Australian cities tend to grow at a smaller scale, such as precincts, neighbourhoods, townships, villages, and campuses. And what is certain is we increasingly live at multiple scales. Indeed, many local authorities are taking a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood approach to growth management. For many growth regions in Australia, we will be 'growing' through infill development.

The smart city could therefore be described as a derivative of the smart community. This scale - the community, the precinct, the neighbourhood – is human, and relatable to its citizens, and provides one of the best opportunities to improve liveability and sustainability. It's at a scale in which our daily lives play out.

The main street upgrade, the urban infill project, a campus development, industrial precinct, and the greenfield master planned community. These are all important building blocks through which we can influence sustainable city outcomes through smart communities’ projects.

While we see more and more smart city strategies developed for the city-wide context, what might the smart community strategy embody? What are the conditions required to help build the case for and successfully deploy, pilot, replicate, and scale data-driven decision making approaches, technological strategies, and intelligent design processes?

Here is a set of 'first principles' for smart communities projects that may help you.

1. Think People It is fundamental to nurture a community of smart citizens. This is where smart communities begin and end. The experience of the residents, the workers, and visitors, must be central to your strategy. This is where your vision, and sustainability goals and targets start to evolve, through engagement and collaboration with stakeholders, across various sectors. Using innovative approaches to encourage broad participation in key community decisions must be encouraged.

2. Think Place The planning of a community must embrace the principles of smart growth. A mix of land uses, density done well, proximity to transit, encouraging walkability, and access to services are essential. Promoting a variety of transportation options, housing choices, and encouraging community collaboration are also must-haves. This is true for all development types, whether a new greenfield master planned community, a brownfield redevelopment, or the infill or redevelopment of existing neighbourhoods.

3. Think Data Ubiquitous connectivity is a prerequisite for the smart community, along with a network of sensors. This requires a data gathering, analysis, and communication architecture that can serve as the foundation for converting data into information and intelligence. This is the Internet of Things.

4. Think Services With a data-driven mind-set and the infrastructure in place government can focus on enhancing services to its residents, workforce, and visitors. Services across multiple sectors can be improved, such as mobility, water, energy, health, finance and payments, and equity and prosperity. Using data to provide better services that make our lives better, with fewer resources, is a key goal of the smart community.

5. Think Performance It is not an exaggeration that we are often ‘flying blind’ on the performance of our communities and cities. It is critical that we understand how we are performing because only then can our communities thrive. Setting comprehensive metrics, gathering and crunching data, and doing the analytics to understand our situation, is critical.

These first principles are the start of a dialogue that Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand is looking to build up over the coming months as it prepares to launch its latest project – The Code for Smart Communities. Stay tuned.

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