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By Robert Bell, John Jung, Louis Zacharilla: Intelligent Communities are those which have - whether through crisis or foresight - come to understand the enormous challenges of the Broadband Economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it. They are not necessarily big cities or famous technology hubs. They are located in developing nations as well as industrialized ones, suburbs as well as cities, the hinterland as well as the coast.

Happy 20th Birthday Smart Cities!

February 20, 2014 By

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Well, not quite yet, but as my colleague Robert Bell reminded me last September, that in 2015, we will see the 20th anniversary of a major event that took place in 1995 in Toronto, called SMART95, the very first gathering in the world of telecommunications engineers, architects, planners, sociologists, mayors and CIOs to learn about “Smart People, Smart Building and Smart Cities”. 

According to Networked Communities, written by Sylvie Albert, Don M. Flournoy and Rolland LeBrasseur, “the first true ‘intelligent communities event’, which linked the emerging telecommunications revolution and the fledgling Internet to economic development, was held in Toronto, Canada, in 1995. This event, called “SMART95,” for the first time, saw the telecommunications industry and the world of urban planners, political policy makers and economic development officials gathered under one roof to examine the impact of telecommunications on communities and economies.”

A record breaking twelve hundred international government, private sector and institutional delegates attended the event over a 5 day period including nearly 300 Asian visitors, many in Japanese delegations, from Teleports in Japan and throughout Asia. This event was more than just a conference – it was also a gathering of experiments and global firsts. The plans for the event were so new and provocative that active participants and organizers from Toronto’s media elite were connected to this event, ranging from former Marshall McLuhan advocates to Toronto Film Festival founders, Dusty Cohl and Henk Van der Kolk. However the most memorable “first” was a broadband test that was initiated and coordinated by Lighthouse’s Paul Hoffert, leader of the famous Canadian band known for its songs “One Fine Morning” and “Sunny Days”. Founded in 1969 and at its height during the 1970’s, fast forward to the early 1990’s and Paul was now a professor of York University and Director of the CulTech Research Centre. We found common ground during the planning of SMART95.We discussed how we could demonstrate music over long distances with both satellite and fiber-optics. My role was in ensuring the network connections and permissions among telecom competitors and in financing the last mile to make the event take place in the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel on Toronto’s Waterfront, which was devoid of the proper links at that time to make this happen. Paul Hoffert’s role was to build the world’s first ever experimental music and cultural collaboration over distance. A major issue was the slight delay over satellite between the twang in one city and the ping in another. But it eventually was sorted out and the band held one heck of an incredible experiment and concert back in 1995. That experiment was the highlight of the public events at SMART95, demonstrating the power of technologies and connectivity at the time and the role that culture plays in bring these together. (By the way, it was again undertaken with Lighthouse 5 years later in Toronto to demonstrate the advances in the technologies and linkages. And yes, we just loved the songs!)
 
In the audience that day back in 1995 at SMART95 were hundreds of delegation members from teleports around the world. After all, the underlying conference that hosted SMART95 was the Eleventh Annual General Assembly of the World Teleport Association. The connection?  Nothing short of the 1998 Nagoya Winter Olympics and the great Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa joining musicians around the globe including the SKO and six choruses located on five different continents – Japan, Australia, China, Germany, South Africa, and the United States – all linked by satellite to open the ceremonies in Nagano, Japan, by conducting the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The link was the successful experiment by SMART95 and Lighthouse which provided confidence to the organizers of the Opening Ceremonies, some of whom were connected to part of the Japanese Teleport delegates in the audience. The power of culture proved that the technology was now possible to embrace new ideas as never before. It was a proud moment for me, for Toronto, for Canada and for what was to become ICF.
 
Since that event, ICF was formed and for many years we promoted what today the world refers to as “Smart Cities” – the development of high-speed broadband in cities around the world and ways to create the most efficient, productive and prosperous communities possible based on evidence-based data and metrics. For two decades we advocated the development of infrastructure as an essential utility to ensure that communities could properly be part of the emerging broadband-based economic, social and cultural changes happening worldwide and at times we seemed to be the main champions (and voices) for it.  Today, we see many new organizations advocating the creation of “smart cities” – from vendor-led voices to country-wide associations and new commercial conferences. We are proud to have been the leaders for two decades in what today is being promoted as “Smart Cities” and we are happy to share the new podium with everyone who seeks to create a better community and a better world for our citizens everywhere. However, ICF moved on from the initial vision of a broadband world two decades ago to improve transportation, utility efficiencies and data based public decision making. It soon realized that infrastructure, the smart city focus of many today, would limit the opportunities to create a truly intelligent city and community. As a result, before the Millennium, ICF was formed with a new name to advocate a much broader and extensive set of criteria than focus on efficient infrastructure using broadband, meters and routers. It therefore emerged to include discussions around knowledge centric issues, including working closely with post-secondary institutions; the importance of innovation and creativity in the global economy and in city and community-building; the importance of making the digital world available to everyone and to all ages and abilities; the importance of good governance and advocacy in creating an innovation ecosystem that is built on trust and confidence; as well as other indicators such as sustainability, leadership, collaboration, venture capital attraction, among others.
 
Back then in 1995 we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and wondered about what the opportunities of an ultra-high-speed world could be like. Well, twenty years later we have seen tremendous changes. The Toronto waterfront, where the first smart cities conference took place in 1995 is no longer a former port-related wasteland. It is now blessed with one of the most robust and dynamic high speed broadband networks in the world; the city is host of the Pan Am Games in 2015 and the city and region boasts new institutions from MARs (Medical Arts and Related Sciences) to Ryerson University’s startup community at the Digital Media Zone to a future Innovations Center to be built next to the new Corus Entertainment complex on the Toronto waterfront. Waterfront Toronto embraced the Intelligent Community movement and today, the condominiums, office towers and media centers in the city core and waterfront areas have transformed the way the city looks, acts and feels. It is an entertainment, tourist and cultural center and along with waterfront views and related open spaces and uses, the area will further evolve following the Pan Am Games. The anniversary opportunity of SMART95 can once again perhaps provide new directions and experiment with the next generation of Intelligent Communities. 
  
Accordingly, it is only fitting that ICF should hold its 2015 Summit in Toronto in 2015. Plans to launch such a major opportunity are just getting underway. So watch for news over the next few months and come to the 2014 ICF Summit to learn more it and meet some of the people who will be behind this event. Perhaps we may be able to once again try our hand at some unique experiments and collaborative events that will help to demonstrate the art of the possible once again!

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About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.

Robert Bell
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.

John Jung
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.

Louis Zacharilla
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.