Small cities with fresher air, a better environment and less population are smart cities in itself. Today, some of the megacities which we refer to as smart cities may look great from the outside. But if you ask the residents, life is not as good as it should be. There is non-stop chaos, congestion, hustle and bustle that doesn’t really allow people to have time to relax. Eventually, this has a negative impact on the body and mind.
On the other side, small cities and towns have a slow-paced life that provides a better way of living. They offer better quality in terms of livability. So, if you are looking for a peaceful and quiet refuge, explore these small cities. Picked from different corners of the world, each one has a smart city soul resting within. You’ll either wish to retire here or move in with your ‘work-from-home job’ that might soon become the trend.
Aalborg in Denmark owns a restored harbour-front and cycling lanes. The city is deeply aware of the burgeoning challenges of sustainability. And hence it intends to spread this awareness across the local governments in Europe. So that everyone can act in an integrated manner.
The Aalborg City Council signed the Aalborg Charter in 1994 and the Aalborg Commitments in 2004. Each agreement devises the political framework for sustainable development. This in regards to traffic, climate, nature conservation, urban development, waste management and more.
SMART Aalborg is a program that helps secure local jobs with cooperation between knowledge institutes, businesses, citizens and the municipality. The city organises meeting spots where citizens can participate to develop holistic solutions. innovation, digitalisation, data and ICT and important elements of the city activities.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, located in a remote place in Thailand, is laden with a picture-perfect landscape. The small city is among the seven ‘Smart Cities’ of Thailand. As per Supachai Lamsuwan, the Provincial Governor, the city is on the way to enhance the quality of life.
It is working on improving public facilities and promoting cultural tourism under a smart city model. It also focuses on safe agriculture practices that help farmers earn more income. Environment conservation, the health of locals (including the elderly) and business are among the top priorities.
Going further, it is planning to relocate electricity and utility cables underground to improve the urban landscape. It is also adopting electric vehicles with clean energy. The aim is to achieve sustainability with public participation.
Chigasaki in East Japan adorns the beauty of encircling snow-capped mountains. This beautiful small city is famous for its peaceful neighbourhood, fresh air and safe streets (devoid of traffic).
On April 1, 2014, the city implemented the “Chigasaki Solar Energy Credit” program. Through this program, the environmental value of power generated by residential photovoltaic generators is converted into emission credits. It sells the credits to businesses and returns the profits to residents.
Since 2015, the city has been striving to make life easy and enjoyable for the ageing population.
A ‘Community-based Integrated Care System’ is set up to provide different services to the seniors in an organised manner. This involves housing and living support, medical and nursing care, and prevention of care dependency. In order to strengthen this system, the city has also created the ‘Older People’s Welfare Plan’ and ‘Public Nursing Care Insurance Project Plan’ in 2018.
Eindhoven in the Netherlands boasts outstanding architectural monuments, tree-lined streets and creative industries. The small city loves to be called as ‘Smart Society’ instead of ‘Smart City.’ It’s because its ‘smart city’ principles lay on the foundation that citizens are at the core of solving problems. They provide the right direction for the implementation of innovation. Their approach is human-driven, further supported by technology and design.
The city has an all-inclusive Smart Society Programme. It begins with identifying the social issues from the ground up. Citizens actively participate and show their disappointments, concerns and desires. Next, the city brings these points to the attention of potential partners, experts, designers and knowledge institutes. Together, everyone collaborates with citizens to comprehensively understand each problem. For this, the city organises ‘Smart Society Cafes’ to connect and exchange knowledge.
Greyton, South Africa
Officially, Greyton is not a city but a town in South Africa. The residents of the town believe in the slow life and there is a true sense of community. The streets of Greyton are lined with historical sites, art galleries, and antique shops. The place gives people plenty of space for walking, horse riding, and hiking.
On weekends, the town is busy with the Saturday Morning Market. This market helps people sell fresh home-made products and handicrafts. Every week, the seller donates 10% of their profits to the Greyton Conservation Society that works to protect the natural and built resources of the town.
Hobart in Australia aims at becoming the most economically, socially and environmentally connected community by 2030. The city is surrounded by natural sceneries, hiking trails and cycling routes.
The city is planning to upgrade existing infrastructure by utilising integrated data. These include street lighting, communication network, city signage, bus shelters and more. The city believes in combining traditional and innovative approaches to achieve technological advancement.
As per the local government, it is impossible to get better without ditching cars. Recently, the city council has announced plans for automated vehicles trials.
Through GPS technology the distance covered by private cyclists and riders is recorded. A fee per kilometre is rewarded for their commute between home and work. The council is also working on transforming park benches by integrating advanced technology.
Lausanne is a picturesque city on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It is home to a 140,000 multilingual population out of which 40% are non-natives. Popular as the smallest city in the world to have a metro, the public transport system is impressive. Yet it is replanning for the better.
From the smart city perspective, Lausanne is leveraging data through connected devices. It is gathering relevant data of mobile phone users to understand the behavioural patterns of residents. With Swisscom, the city uses the data to optimise traffic in the centre.
For Lausanne, a smart city is a place where ecology, sustainability and livability are all interconnecting. Currently, the city is developing two large eco-neighbourhoods certified as 2,000 watts sites. Following environmental standards for construction, the places will be home to 20,000 people by 2022.
Savannah is a less known city in the US with a rich heritage and tree-laden streets. The small city in partnership with Roadbotics developed a database of road infrastructure conditions. This project grades every mile of the Savannah road network.
On account of the initiative, Savannah received recognition from International Data Corporation’s 2019 Smart Cities North America Awards. It has been ranked as the finalist in the Transportation Infrastructure category.
Another initiative in the same category is worth remarking. The TravelSafely app launched by the city enables drivers to connect to traffic lighting and driver feedback signs. It also connects to school beacons, alerting drivers when they are in an active school zone area. The app is beneficial even for cyclists and pedestrians warning them about an approaching vehicle that is driving at an unsafe speed.
Each small city listed here provides the opportunity to beautifully balance work and play – a key to the quality of life.