Written by Tamsin Jackson

The Sonos system is so perfectly interconnected, the elements can talk to each other from one room to the next. Easy to use and intuitive, the speaker system engages the attention of its users brilliantly. When it comes to planning and building a smart city, we can learn from this.

The British Standards Institute (BSI) defines a smart city as, “the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens”. To the rest of us folk, this means a clean, human-friendly city, with good transport connections. A city that improves our everyday lives.

Smart cities are more important than ever: the number of people living in cities has now surpassed the number of people in rural areas, meaning more people stand to benefit. So much of our day to day lives is impacted by the environment we live and work in. Can you imagine a life without parking nightmares, commuting delays, or heavy pollution? I can’t.

For a city to run smartly though, it needs its citizens to be engaged – after all, it’s about daily actions and the everyday city life of its citizens, not just a group of geeks or enthusiasts. The city is always finished and never finished, continuously updating and improving itself. It’s not planned and made only by the government and project developers anymore, but by all of us. We therefore need to share ideas and ambitions, collaborate and engage, to decide what works best.

Engagement is where communications come in. Just like the Sonos speaker system, the success or failure of a smart city initiative will depend on good communication with users. One aspect of that is creating awareness in the media through engaging content. This however, is easier said than done. The right story needs to be in the right media channel to influence the right audience. Whether this means traditional newspaper, Instagram or something more creative such as a nationwide competition, it’s essential the target audience is researched as we all consume and digest information in different ways. To raise attention, it’s vital to get under the skin of the audience and to discuss the issues they are concerned with. For example, a recent report revealed that over 31% of millennials are concerned about the environment, so use this knowledge to gain initial attention and then get the most out of the people who will use it – by engaging with your target audiences and drawing them into a relationship with you.

The most intelligent smart city will be built with many minds. Make sure you engage them.

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