January 16, 2021

The Hierarchy of Needs for Connected Cities

I help our customers and partners with their digital journey, which involves innovation, business growth, and digital transformation. I’m involved in public and private initiatives and programs on a global level, scaling from small up to medium and large rollouts across the value chain.

I’m often asked, “What is a smart city?” “We want to build a smart city. What should we do?”, “Which is the smartest city in the world?” and “How can we implement a project like smart parking?”

To answer these questions, I started a blog series earlier this year. In this blog, I tried to look at the “building blocks” of connected cities in the context of:

  1. The concept of the universal framework for smart city construction 
  2. Implications for city managers, the role of eGovernance and how it evolves
  3. The intelligent city ecosystem and industry convergence
  4. Why enterprises cannot compete on their own
  5. How intelligent cities will evolve into a connected cities ecosystem
  6. The hierarchy of needs for connected cities (this post)

The aim of this blog series was to produce a
framework that might help city planners and governments to better determine
their next steps on the smart city journey and how to approach evolving the
brain and nervous system of smart cities.

To start-off this framework, I asked you to visualize a cube.

Why a Cube?

I referenced Hungarian architect and mathematician Erno Rubik whom wanted to create a structure from which its pieces could move independently without making the structure fall apart. Not long after, his Rubik’s Cube was launched.

What we don’t necessarily know is
that the principle of his cube is based on a universal framework that we can
actually visualize. I don’t mean the cube or its pieces. What I mean is the wireframe that holds the individual pieces
of the cube together
.

I consider intelligent cities to
be a platform that links and integrates all programs and initiatives that help
move a city higher up the value chain. Such a platform is of course technical,
but we can also look at it as a principle or framework – like a cube with
building blocks and individual pieces that builds and makes the connected city
and holds it all together via this wireframe.

Each piece in a connected city has
its unique identity and characteristics. In the cube-analogy, this platform holds
pieces which all can move independently without breaking the overall structure.

Visualizing
the Hierarchy of Needs

Just like a cube and its wireframe can be
nicely visualized to help understand how each piece is positioned, and can move
independently without making it fall apart, so can a Hierarchy of Needs be
applied and visualized; the pyramid-shape is very often used for it.

Such pyramid-shape exists alongside and within each cube.

In fact, each side of a cube can be considered
the base of such pyramid-shape. If we unfold the cube, these shapes become
visible. And as such, they conceptualize and visualize the Hierarchy of Needs,
as it applies to each individual piece of the cube.

The
Hierarchy of Needs for Connected Cities

The most commonly known hierarchy of needs outlines a range of needs,
including physical needs, safety, esteem, and self-actualization needs.

To me, a city’s digital needs are quite similar. I would divide this
hierarchy for Connected Cities into four basic layers, each building up the
pyramid-shape. From the ground-up:

  • The first layer is ICT infrastructure – the foundation of a digital economy.

New
infrastructure creates new opportunities and innovation potential, and underpins
transition into the digital economy. As we are seeing today, it also builds
economic resilience; e.g., high-speed broadband and cloud allow the transition
to remote working, education, health, and ecommerce. Strong ICT also enables
e-governance, which in turn underpins connected cities.

  • The second layer is security – safe cities are the cornerstones of a connected city foundation

Security covers
both the physical and digital worlds. In the physical sense, video technology
powered by cloud and AI has seen wider deployment in recent years and is at the
heart of the safe city approach, which is a precondition of intelligent cities.
Data privacy and digital security are equally important to ensure citizens can
trust how their data is used and to minimize cybersecurity risks to, for
example, businesses, governments, and the greater attack surface presented by
IoT.

  • The third layer is industrial digitalization

The third layer
involves helping industries go digital to gain a competitive edge. From a
top-level perspective, many countries are releasing plans to help their
industries go digital. The speed, low latency, high bandwidth, and massive
connection capabilities offered by 5G will underpin industry digitalization,
especially when combined with IoT and AI. Enterprises need to go digital and
start leveraging data to be more competitive.

  • The highest layer is creating a digital brain and nervous system

A digital brain
is the ultimate goal of digital transformation. Such an environment will merge
“city-wide computing” and aggregates data across industries and
domains to create huge business and social value. Hangzhou is a good example of
how this is happening in China.

Read more: Hangzhou: A story of 5G + gigabit

Tying
it All Together

This is a blog post in a series of 6
publications on the “building blocks” of connected cities and the universal
framework that holds it all together, in the context of a framework that might
help city planners and governments to better determine their next steps on the
smart city journey and how to approach evolving the brain and nervous system of
smart cities.

The last blog in a series of 6. However, this
blog is also the first post of a series on The Hierarchy of Needs for Connected
Cities in the context of Industries.

In my next post I will be looking at the Hierarchy of Needs for Industries, such as education, healthcare, and transportation, to name but a few.

In the meantime, subscribe to the blog and make sure you don’t miss the Trust in Tech on December 10 where I’ll be speaking on “Injecting Hope in the Fight Against COVID-19.

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