Making Happier Cities By Connecting Citizens With Local, Smart Mobility

The View From Smart City Expo, Barcelona

‘Our vision is to make Dubai the happiest city on Earth. Our mission is to create happiness, by embracing technology innovation’

This quote was presented by Josep Ramon Ferrer Escoda, the Director of International Business Development at Doxa, and ex-head of Smart City Barcelona, as part of his presentation to the EEN trade mission of which PassageWay was an attendee.

PassageWay real-time digital wayfinding and transport signs at the EEN trade mission to Smart City Barcelona
Attendees of the EEN Trade Mission to Smart City Barcelona

The three day trade mission sandwiched one day at the Smart City Expo being held in Barcelona (the worlds largest gathering of Smart City thought leaders) with presentations and tours, including a guided, street-level walk around some of the innovations Barcelona has implemented across the city centre plus an insightful tour of Cisco’s soon-to-open innovation centre which highlighted some of their technologies and working practices within a smart building.

The quote stuck with me for the duration of the trip and upon my return to Brexit-torn Britain, I keep thinking back to it. Indeed, it is highlighted in my notebook with several underlinings, drawing me back each time I open my book.

Having never visited Dubai I can’t attest to how happy it is as a city, but I believe the sentiment to be one that resonates with every city and their citizens.

Whilst happiness is subjective, the notion of happiness indices can be found referenced in multiple articles and research papers. As a recent example, in June 2018, a report from the University of Toronto found that inner city living gave people a greater sense of happiness compared to less hectic environments, mainly because people who lived in dense urban environments, feel that they are making better use of their time. Whilst Layla McCay, the founder of the Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health, in an article with CityLab about how mental well-being can be designed into the structure of the urban environment, highlighted four kinds of spaces people need to feel good about where they live, namely green space, active space, social space and safe space.

Josep’s point, however, is that from a Smart City technological perspective we need to look at their evolution in a holistic manner rather than the silo-based, application-led manner that was the modus operandi previously. For example, a city may have previously developed strategies for smart water waste management, smart electricity generation, smart mobility etc but that this approach was flawed as it didn’t look at the interrelationship between the entities. Instead, cities should take a contextual approach to smart city architecture.

What does a contextual framework mean in relationship to happiness? Well, it means having a clear vision of the environment where people come into contact with the city and how they will interact with it and then deploying technology to allow the city to understand, learn and adapt to enhance the experience of its citizens. In short, fine tuning and iterative developments to make a positive difference to peoples lives by reducing the friction that occurs in their interaction with the built environment.

PassageWay real-time digital wayfinding and smart mobility signs support this philosophy, by connecting citizens with local, sustainable mobility options, PassageWay helps reduce the angst people experience when navigating a city, encouraging them to use mass transit options; reducing congestion, pollution and reducing the barriers between citizens. We hadn’t previously considered ourselves as happiness generators, but it’s not a bad mission statement is it?