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Smart cities: A standardisation dynamic through IT products

IT products are turning our cities into smart cities. Vehicles move autonomously, the utilisation of transport means is automatically recorded by sensors, computers send recommendations for congestion-free travel to smartphones, and digital technologies are turning urban infrastructures into intelligent systems. The research project, led by Gernot Grabher, is investigating the extent to which off-the-shelf IT products are leading to increasing convergence in cities around the world.

The study is focusing primarily on three areas of tension and breaking down the standardisation in each. Firstly, the desire of technology providers for global marketing is opposed by the need to adapt the respective systems to local specifics. Secondly, while the expertise of private-sector technology providers is urgently needed for the modernisation of urban infrastructures, the question arises as to how access to public goods can be made as broad as possible. Thirdly, the worldwide expansion of smart-city projects is following a contradictory geographical pattern. While most of the technologies come from the industrialised countries, pilot applications are mainly taking place in emerging countries. The researchers assume that the extent of standardisation can only be determined specifically on the basis of local case studies. "The extent to which global standardisation logic is being implemented depends on the specific actual negotiations between technology providers and local urban decision-makers. The conflicts between global and local, between private and public, and between industrialised and emerging countries are being resolved in these negotiation processes", says Gernot Grabher.

The two cities of Amsterdam and Singapore are at the centre of the research work. Both cities are leaders in the use of digital technologies in urban development. In addition, they ideally reflect the difference between industrialised and emerging countries.

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