The smart city movement is booming as technology transforms the new economy. Smart cities improve infrastructure, deliver services with technology, develop ways to use land more effectively, foster an entrepreneurial economy and increase citizen participation to make their cities a better place to live.
The hard hit U.S. economy triggered growth in the smart city movement as city leaders searched for ways to make communities to attract technology companies. The movement is drawing the attention of business leaders, who are looking for communities to move businesses to that are not only open to change but relish in the challenges that are needed to transform cities in the technological revolution.
San Francisco may have been the first major U.S. city to adopt the movement, getting its roots way back in the 1960s when Hippies staged sit-ins to aid the poor and protested against capitalism. Former hippies later took jobs as creative producers at computer companies in Silicon Valley and bought into the growing technological revolution. The Internet was first born on the premise of the free exchange of information as the technological highway went mainstream.
Income inequality has been magnified by the global financial crisis. Urbanist Richard Florida suggests that the epicenter of the Bay Area entrepreneurial system is moving from Silicon Valley back to San Francisco with a compilation of start-ups giving birth to new businesses online in the city that sparkles like a jewel.
Financed by angel investors and venture capitalists from San Jose and elsewhere, the city of San Francisco has a major entrepreneneurial ecosystem. “The City by The Bay” embraced smart urban development and has been named to the top of North American green city rankings for years. San Francisco has 302 LEED certified buildings.
“The emergence of a new urban geography of concentrated wealth and advantage juxtaposed to endemic poverty and concentrated disadvantage poses troubling implications for the economic mobility of people and the economic health of cities,” Florida wrote in the Atlantic Cities. “Just as lower-skill, higher-pay manufacturing jobs have dropped out of the labor market, and work in America has bifurcated into high-skill, high-paying professional and knowledge occupations and much lower-paying, low-skill service jobs in fields like food service and retail trade, America’s once middle-class neighborhoods have also begun to disappear.”
Smart cities are prospering. Seattle was named by Fast Company as the #1 smart city in North America. The Seattle region is home to innovation, and major technology companies, including Microsoft and Amazon. Bainbridge Graduate Institute is located in Seattle, with a leading master’s degree program offering a program on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship.
Seattle is also a major hub for startups with more than 1,000 open data centers to support the growth of startups and increase mobile apps to improve the quality of life for Seattle residents. The city attracts creative and entrepreneurial talent like few other cities. But New York City and other major metropolitan centers are also in the forefront of the movement as they build the infrastructure for the new technological era.
Boston is another leader in the smart city movement, boasting more than 70 universities to feed the technology business. A whole new business district has been developed to drive new startups, the Innovation District, and create the support to accelerate programs.