If you purchase Amazon Alexa or start using intelligent devices for your house such as Phillips Hue, you begin the journey of turning your dwelling place into a Smart Home.

These solutions will progressively learn from your interaction and generate data that will make them even “smarter.” They will also feed other devices and systems with your data, so they too can learn from your activity and that of other users.

On the other hand, we have cities, countries and even continents like Europe trying to become “smart” as well. The technological approach here is of course different, but the usefulness of data remains at the core of the initiatives.

Smart Cities with smart transport, smart security, smart waste disposal and smart governance. If it exists and can be improved with “smart” technology, there will be interest from cities all over the world to implement the solution.

Because it is not just the cool thing to do. It saves time and money. Most importantly, it gathers data. A lot of it.

We now have smart environments both at domestic and macro levels. They involve different types of devices and different quantities of data. You could use an IoT device at home such as a smart curtain (slide.innovationinmotion.nl), that will learn from your routines and slide open at 7am in lieu of your noisy alarm clock. They will slide when you are away on holidays, to give the impression that there is activity going on indoors.

Or if you live in a Smart City, you could download an app that will show you the most efficient route to work, telling you when you need to start moving based on your location, time of the day and real-time traffic conditions. It could also recommend a quick stopover for coffee or grocery shopping based on your past behaviour.

In either situation, there seems to be an opportunity to connect these two realms of smart living. This is where residential communities –also known as homeowner associations—may play a big role. Technologies like machine learning, blockchain and smart contracts may allow for automation of tasks and homogenised data flows between Smart Homes and Smart Cities, via Smart Communities.

A residential community has a distinctive characteristic which is the governance of shared spaces within the private sphere. This can be a crucial advantage for urban areas looking to implement citywide pilot programs at a reduced scale but with similar dynamics. Residential communities can decide, implement and adapt more quickly than Smart Cities. They can automate and access data from Smart Homes without the need for cumbersome legislation or data processes.

Smart Home devices can generate significant data for Smart Cities, but it is unrealistic to expect them to tap into this pool without the mediation of an entity like a Smart Community. Credit:

Two startups leading the way in the “smartification” of residential communities are Urbytus from Spain and Common Sense in California, USA. Separate research by Italian and Slovakian academics also back the idea of smart communities underpinning the development of smart cities from a social point of view.

A report by geomapping software company ESRI proposes a framework for different types of communities to become “smart”. From localized results to full automation, going through stages of enhancing integration and building proactive intelligence as the community feeds and generates more data. Worth a read, for sure.

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