Emerging technologies are reshaping urban environments. As the global population continues to grow, more and more people are moving to cities every single day, and as our planet becomes more urban, our cities need to get smarter. To handle this large-scale urbanization, new ways to manage complexity, increase efficiency, reduce expenses, and improve quality of life are needed.
Cities are increasingly concerned with ways to make themselves smarter. They want their services to be more efficient, effective and streamlined to keep costs down or revenue high. Jo Bertram, the Regional General Manager for the UK, Ireland and Nordics at Uber, discussed these challenges at Slush 2015. On her second visit to Slush, she talked about smart cities of the future and how Uber is extending public transportation around the world. Since day one, Uber’s mission has been to improve city life by connecting people with safe, reliable, hassle-free rides through the use of technology.
Uber was launched in Helsinki, Copenhagen and Oslo at Slush 2014. Just as other cities, Helsinki has as an aspirational target to reduce the need of private car ownerships by 2025. This doesn’t mean that one can’t own a private car of his or her own in the future. Instead, it means that one doesn’t have to because there will be a range of other options to get around. But how does this vision come into reality? According to Bertram, there are three essential elements to consider.
Smart cities of the future will be:
- Multi-Modal, an ecosystem of complementary transportation options eliminating the need for private car ownership.
- Integrated, seamless solutions to help people travel from A to B in the most efficient, cost-effective and customised way possible.
- Data–driven, effective use of big data to optimize the flow of city and improve overall mobility for its inhabitants.
In order to develop further and become smarter, cities are looking into the data offered by technology companies. For example, transport planning is a vital part of the city development, and a process that requires a lot of data and complex models. Bertram emphasizes that today there is a lot of data available, but not many people have the skills and ability to use it and get the needed insights. She refers to a study by The McKinsey Global institute where it is estimated that by 2018 in the US there will be a 50–60 percent higher demand for people who have the skills and know-how to use the analysis of big data than there is supply to fulfill it.
“That’s where we at Uber think we could help. We are committed to work with stakeholders and other players in the cities where we operate, trying to bring some of those insights. Our data can show where the most congested areas are, where people want to get to and where there might be gaps in other sort of transports,” explained Bertram.