The Project Auckland series looks at the challenges facing Auckland as it seeks to become a world-class city.
Smart City enthusiasts may have found a champion in Auckland Council's interim chief executive Doug McKay.
McKay is switched onto the global trend where cities that "are performing" have a strong focus on connectedness and information technology acts as the power engine of what's known as "smarter cities".
The "smarter" or "smart cities' concept has been grabbed with open arms by leading world cities ranging from China's economic powerhouse Shanghai to Sweden's Stockholm and Asia's city-state of Singapore. Such centres are using information technology as the platform to drive greater automation within city utilities and to create more energy efficient and productive places in which to live and work.
As McKay gears up to lead the new Auckland Council's executive team he is also thinking about how the Super City's effectiveness might be improved. Greater focus on connectedness in its transport structures, the "why and how" about keeping diverse communities connected, and virtual linkages.
Of itself, IT platforms will not amount to a "game-changer" for the Auckland economy - but they will assist business.
A Super Smart City's menu will include initiatives on:
* Congestion - Stockholm and Singapore use invisible tollbooths, pre-pay travel cards and variable charges to make traffic flow more efficient. In Singapore's case, signals also indicate available parking spaces within the city.
* Smart cards - where integrated ticketing systems are the norm. French electronics company, Thales, in partnership with BNZ and Transfield services has been selected the preferred tenderer to deliver a system for Auckland.
* Rail - where IBM has launched a project with KiwiRail to improve the speed, safety, and reliability of rail service across rail lines, tracks and bridges. Using advanced analytics and software to track the intricate working of the rail lines and equipment, KiwiRail will be able to proactively manage, maintain and track their assets from tracks to trains; predict and prevent break-downs before they happen; and redirect freight traffic before it impacts operations.
Rick van Barneveld, general manager (KiwiRail Network) says the company has already done a lot of track related work in Auckland.
"But we're now looking to provide reliable train services in Auckland and secure a step change."
"You can carry on doing this with No. 8 wire - or use good practice tools."
Both KiwiRail and IBM believe with rising fuel prices and congestion on the roadways, railroads have emerged as a fuel- and cost-efficient means of moving goods and people."
In IBM's case it has a Big Ideas mantra - "instrument the world's systems, interconnect them and make them intelligent".
IBM chairman and chief executive Sam Palmisano posed key issues to a Shanghai forum earlier this year.
"Consider transportation. Estimates suggest that in both developed and in developing cities, traffic congestion costs between 1 and 3 per cent of GDP.
"That's big - and it's only going to increase. In the cities of emerging markets - such as here in China, or in India, or in Asean - car ownership rates are skyrocketing. What if they reach the 75-90 per cent we see in OECD countries? Think of the strain on transport infrastructures.
"Cities also face significant healthcare challenges. With growing populations, the fiscal sustainability of urban health systems will be pushed to the limit. Yet some cities are achieving significantly lower costs than others for similar levels of care.
"Ensuring public safety is crucial to cities' quality of life - and to attracting work, investment and talent ... This no longer appears to be a losing battle. New York and other cities are using advanced data analysis to achieve historic reductions in crime.
"Finally, smarter government services are crucial for both citizens and businesses. It is estimated that a 25 per cent reduction - for instance cutting the time spent filling out forms - could yield savings of up to 1.5 per cent of GDP."
At Shanghai's 2010 World Expo "Better City, Better Life", Cisco also spruiked its vision of Smart+Connected Communities where IT solutions could help drive sustainable economic growth and GDP, enable environmental sustainability through resource management and operational efficiencies, and enhance quality of life for residents.
Seventy per cent of the world population is projected to be living in cities by 2050. In China, more than 50 per cent of its population is now urban-based.
One-third of New Zealand's population will come under the boundaries of the new Super City. The Government's Ultra Fast Broadband initiative is integral for the drive to create Auckland as a world class smart city.
ICT Group chief executive Brett O'Riley says cities rely on the connectivity of core systems composed of different networks, infrastructures and environments, all related to citizens, services, business, transport, communications, water and energy.
"They rely on these smart services to perform efficiently to provide better quality of life for the people. Using smart technology to improve our environment is paramount," says O'Riley. "One example of this is in Stockholm, Sweden. Through smarter technology and logistics, Stockholm has used tolling to dissuade people from driving at peak times, which has reduced emissions by 35 per cent. With New Zealand's 65-plus age group projected to make up more than one-quarter of our population from the late 2030s, compared to 12 per cent in 2005, our health system will also need unprecedented access to new technologies as it copes with an ageing population."
Amsterdam's plans provide a window into a future which combines the smart city ethos with sustainability values: Street rubbish collected by non-polluting electric trucks; electronic displays in local bus stops powered by small solar panels; energy-saving system aimed at cutting electricity costs; special financing from Dutch banks energy-saving light bulbs to ultra-efficient roof insulation.
Amsterdam aims to complete its first-round of investments by 2012.
In Ireland, they have gone a step further by positioning Dublin as an IBM "test bed" for Smarter City initiatives. IDA Ireland chief Barry O'Leary says global megatrends, such as demographic changes present business opportunities for companies prepared to research, plan, prepare and innovate.
"Ireland's ability to act as a test-bed for research and new technology to enable companies develop and internationalise innovative products and services is a decisive factor in winning new investment of this kind."
Maybe Auckland should position itself in a similar fashion