"Smart cities aren't just a smart idea, they're an imperative," warned SapientNitro chief creative officer Malcolm Poynton at today's 4 Minute Warning conference hosted by The Drum.
Discussing 'Smart Cities in the Next Age' this morning, Poynton remarked that our cities were not built for how we live today. "The reality is our cities are built on Roman infrastructure and they're very disconnected," he said.
At the beginning of his talk Poynton asked the audience if they believed the creation of smart cities had anything to do with them, which unsurprisingly was met with a resounding no. But if it's not the population of a city who connects it, who does?
"The creation of a smart city isn't like turning on the Christmas lights at Oxford Street, there isn't a big switch waiting to be flipped. The government and big business aren't going to create it for us," he explained.
"Smart cities are created in small steps and it's about every one of us doing our bit. Active citizen participation will ultimately create the infrastructure and we should all feel responsible."
According to Poynton data is key to the creation of a smart city's 'nervous system' with mobile and digital creating "exhaust fumes of real-time information." Of course this raises the age old debate of privacy which Poynton claims will not be an issue as "if what you're doing is useful then people will run towards it."
This idea that people "run towards" data sharing when it's for a purpose can be seen in the role Honda Internavi played following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Northeastern Japan in 2011.
Internavi data was used to help coordinate aid efforts detailing which roads were open, closed and usable. And this real-time data that was so invaluable to relief efforts can be harnessed in similar way by brands to connect the way we live.
Other examples of data sharing included the Red Cross app in Singapore which connects first aiders to emergencies due to the slow response time of the local ambulance service and Parker, an intercity parking app which aims to reduce car fumes by alerting drivers to available parking spaces save people from driving about to look for space.
"We need to start figuring out how to harness the collective power of those in the area. The private sector is the one that will change things. We need to create it ourselves, and communications, experience, technology and analytics will make things happen."
He added that like the days of "VHS vs Betamax" dominant technologies will emerge but data sharing between owners is imperative to not "gate out development".