By Ike Señeres

A few years ago, a city in Metro Manila claimed to be the cleanest city, despite the fact that its rivers were still heavily polluted. Recently, another city claimed to be “smart”, based on the fact that its CCTV cameras are now connected to a centralized monitoring center. Obviously, what we have here is a situation where in claims are just being made unilaterally, without using a set of approved standards and possibly without peer validation too. That seems to be the situation in local organic certification nowadays. It seems that anyone could just go ahead and sell organic foods, without a real certification process and without a generally accepted standard that should be the basis for their claims. I remember that about eighteen years ago, I was faced with a similar problem when I was a Commissioner of the Y2K Commission.

At that time, any one could just claim to be Y2K compliant, without a real basis for their claims. As a solution to that problem, I proposed the adoption of the standards of the British Standards Institute (BSI), arguing that there was no more time to create our own set of standards. After the Commission approved my proposal, all claims of compliance were based on BSI, without any question on what the basis of their claims would be. How I wish that there would be a clear standard in order to determine if a city is really “smart” or not. You get it right however, that the standards have to be generally acceptable, and it has to be nationally recognized, if it is not yet globally accepted as well. As far as I know, there is no official global standard that would determine whether a city is “smart” or not, but there is already a general agreement as to what the criteria should be.

As far as I know also, there is still an active debate as to which one is really desirable, to be a “smart” city, a “green” city or a “safe” city. As of now, I already prefer the third choice, because of my belief that a “safe” city should be a “smart” city in the first place, because a city could not be “safe” if it is not “smart”. To add to that a city could also not be “safe” if it is not “green”. That is because it would be prone to many disasters if it is not “green”. If a city is not “green”, it would certainly be polluted thus making it not “safe”. By comparison, I would really prefer being “safe” to being “smart”, because being “safe” tends to be more people oriented, and being “smart” tends to be more technology oriented. It is true that being too techno centric tends to marginalize the focus on people.

Also by comparison, being “green” tends to be more planet oriented, somehow forgetting the fact that the people who live on this planet are more important than the planet itself. In reality however, it is possible to achieve a healthy balance, because the ultimate goal is to sustain a “safe” planet, safe not only for the people who live in it, but also for the animals in the wild who are now threatened by the pollution that mankind has caused in the air, the land and the bodies of water, including the deep oceans. It seems that mankind itself is not too “smart” to realize that our food chain is already threatened if not damaged, because many aquatic food sources are now contaminated by the pollution that we are throwing into the oceans. We may not see the visual effects of the pollution that we have caused, but believe me; they are already in the food that we eat.

Somehow, someway, our local government executives should eventually realize that being a “smart” city means more than just connecting a few CCTV cameras to a central facility. It also means more than just connecting by way of the telco companies, because it would really be considered “dumb” not to tap other non-telco means of connectivity as well. A first lesson to learn perhaps is that the so-called “Internet of Things” (IOT) means more than just using the mainstream internet core, but also the alternative frequencies that are “beyond the commerce of man”, so to speak. One thing that is obvious is that it is going to involve all kinds of sensors, far beyond the present generation of sensors that we are now using to turn on and turn off our lights and faucets. Good to know, some gates and doors could now be remotely controlled by smart phones.

For lack of a better term, we could actually say that anything that would make anything easier to do and thus removing difficulty would mean being “smart”. Certainly a city could not be considered as “smart” if the people who live in it and visit it find it difficult to go around the city because taxis and buses are either scarce or are not available. Of course, a city could not be considered “smart” if water and electricity are not always available. I might be coming from the left field, but I really think that a city is far from being “smart” if garbage is not recycled up to about 90%, and if crimes are also not solved up to about 90%, because of the lack of crime detection technologies and crime investigation technologies such as forensics and Automated Fingerprint Information Systems (AFIS).

Leave a Reply