Western cities have done a better job of integrating technology into their infrastructure than the new wave of Asian smart cities, according to architect and television presenter Jason Pomeroy.
Singapore-based Pomeroy, the architect behind Asia’s first zero-carbon house, claims that Barcelona and Amsterdam are far more successful examples of a smart city than places like Songdo, the new hi-tech satellite city in South Korea.
“They have a greater sensibility to the needs of the people there, because they’ve been around a lot longer,” he told Dezeen in an exclusive interview.
“And when I look at the developing Asian economies, it feels more heavy-handed government top-down, as opposed to bottom-up.”
Pomeroy, 42, visited eight different cities for the recent television show Smart Cities 2.0. The first episode profiled Songdo, the city built in just 10 years on reclaimed land on the outskirts of Seoul.
Despite its impressive features, which include an electric-vehicle infrastructure, emergency-service drones and homes with connected video screens, Songdo is already becoming outdated, said Pomeroy.
“The idea was that if you embed the technology at the beginning, incorporate opportunities for big data and big technologies, and put an amazing amount of investment put into waste management systems and surveillance, that the city will be smarter and people will love it. But that’s not always the case,” he explained.
“When you look at the city now, a lot of the technologies are obsolete. People can FaceTime on their phones, they don’t need to be FaceTiming in the comfort of their flat. So it demonstrates that technology has to be used wisely, otherwise you’ll end up in the situation where it will just become obsolete.”
By contrast, said the architect, Barcelona and Amsterdam show how important it is for technology to not only be facilitated by the city government, but also to be embraced and celebrated by citizens. Successful initiatives in Barcelona include Fab Labs, which teach people to be more entrepreneurial, while Amsterdam is a pioneer in using data to drive infrastructure change.
“The most successful smart cities have acknowledged that it’s neither top-down nor bottom-up approach, it’s a combination of both,” added Pomeroy.