The highs of a Smart City

By Johanes Chua

Traffic is not only a seasonal occurrence but is now a daily chore that one has to endure – no matter what time of the day. A credible study estimates that we lose around P3 billion a day in traffic. Imagine the lost hours that can be devoted to work, to fellowship with friends, especially to bond with family.


Add to that, population is rising at an alarming rate. Proper healthcare is beyond the reach of most. Quality education is not accessible to those who truly deserve it.

All these problems are symptoms of bad urban planning. With the loss of so much money and productivity, it is ultimately society – especially the poor – who suffers. Basic services are not delivered on time. Goods are more expensive because of rising gasoline expenses. Health cost is staggering because of pollution from all forms and directions.

Erase all these negative images and flip the picture. Imagine a world where going to one point to another doesn’t take so much time. You arrive on time, refreshed and ready to work. After that, everything you need is just a ‘click’ or a walk away. You feel secure and safe so you can take that after-work jog in an area filled with greens and open spaces.

This scenario may well be known as paradise, but one doesn’t have to daydream because it is now a reality. Simply put, this is what a ‘Smart City’ is.

Juniper Research defines Smart City as an “urban ecosystem that places emphasis on the use of digital technology,
shared knowledge and cohesive processes to support citizen benefits in areas such as mobility, public safety, health and productivity.”

In a Smart City, mobility includes ease of using urban transport systems, with emphasis on the site’s walkability and the non-reliance of citizens on cars.

Second, a Smart City puts importance on healthcare delivery for citizens. There should be no sick or weak left behind. Third, that city should prioritize public safety – crime levels must be low or zero while enforcers have dignity and are respected. Lastly, a Smart City is where its citizens are all productive – they are given the chance to incur wealth and to live accomplished lives.

A big part of developing a Smart City is the use of technology, specifically the “Internet of Things” to gather data and to use these data for the greater good. Sensors, Bluetooth technology, radio frequency identification can all help gather data which will be utilized to improve various aspects of urban living.

But most of all, a Smart City is also a sustainable one. Buildings are environment-friendly (which becomes worker-friendly too) and homes use technology for ease and comfort making it a ‘Smart Home.’

In the Philippines, a lot of symptoms of poor urban planning are felt by all – from young to old, from rich to poor.

This is the reason why Metro Manila, even with all the solutions recommended, remain congested and polluted.

Maybe, it is too late to develop a Smart City in Metro Manila – we may have to look somewhere else, somewhere north such as Clark.