Following her interview with Zoe Eather on the Smart City Podcast during the “Future Leaders, Future Cities” conference in Japan, Emma Hendry returns to the show to delve deeper into what defines a “Smart City” and the challenges we face in embracing the digital age in the Built Environment. You can listen to an excerpt of the podcast below, or read our highlights from the interview. To listen to the full version of the podcast, you can visit the Smart City Podcast website.


ZE: What is a smart city to you?

EH: I would view it as a series of processes and steps by which buildings and cities can become smarter, safer and more sustainable. It is an integrated, optimised and interconnected platform in which smart technology and the sharing of data can enable better working and social environments.


ZE: Why do you think that this concept is so important in the modern age?

EH: It is not a ‘static’ concept. People can continue to evolve this definition to solve the particular problems of the day, whilst enhancing the sustainability and wellness of the built-environment for everyone. It is imperative to understand, when we are facing these problems, how our resources are being stretched and demanded… to act in a more intelligent and interconnected manner, so that we may optimise our current wealth of resources and enable the formation of better plans for the future.


ZE: I’m keen to hear about collaboration in particular. What are some of the things you do to enhance or enable collaboration in your environment?

EH: We need first of all to facilitate communication between groups. You will need to arrive at a consensus of what is occurring and define a shared end goal. Engagement therefore is key to enhancing collaboration in this way. Placing everyone on the same level, we can have an open playing field focussed on discovery of issues, elements at play and capabilities to promote interaction across perspectives and disciplines.


ZE: What do you think of Australia’s approach to embracing the smart city concept?

EH: Some sectors and areas are clearly more progressive than others, but I have found that lately it’s really exciting to see ‘smart cities’ becoming a talking point not just in industry but equally in academia and in government. Australia is ripe to embrace the smart city concept and reap the benefits of its implementation as a guiding principle for society. We’re seeing a lot of our clients seeking us out and asking us about the ways in which we can integrate as we’ve participated in a number of public speaking events and academic forums in which we’ve seen this topic consistently be the greatest in terms of demand by the audience. People are asking quite insightful questions regarding this movement and its momentum.


ZE: What do you think are the emerging trends which people aren’t effectively discussing at the moment?

EH: There is a great deal of corporate and social anxiety out there regarding the differing platforms for digital services, our means of transitioning and preparing adequate IT and systems infrastructure and planning. There is so much that has been simply spoken about, for example automation in the current context and fears of its impact on employment and the job market. What I am most focussed on is the action which results from our planning and discussion of ideas. I don’t think that we are actioning integration enough and putting these ideas and principles into practice. We are talking a lot about these things, but there are very few companies diving into these opportunities unless they are a technology focussed or dependent firm. These ideas and technologies are here, they are no longer conceptual. We need to persevere with these ideas rather than take the perspective of ‘I’m going to watch what my competitor does before deciding whether it works or not.’ By the time you up-skill your workforce and transition your business models to be ‘digitally ready’, it might even be too late and you’ll find yourself disrupted by others who take initiative.