From Smart Technologies To Smart Cities

September 12, 2018
smart cities technology

It’s no secret that we are about to enter a phase where living smart is the baseline, and everything else just falls in the jigsaw to complement that lifestyle. Our world is shaped by how people and machines work together sand technology is there to support this process. It helps to create better cities for all, and we have the power to make it happen, a future where people are empowered by technology to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives in smart cities.

And, what is a smart city then?

The most useful and flexible definition of the term “Smart City” is a city that employs digital technology to improve municipal management, governance, or long-range design and planning.

The concept of Smart Cities is at the center of the approach towards sustainable and innovation-driven urban development. Smart Cities promise to solve social and environmental problems by fostering economic growth and resilience. Concepts and technologies for planning and realizing sustainable urban systems not only offer solutions to the many challenges of an urbanized world, they also bear the potential to unlock significant future markets.

The technologies powering Smart Cities revolve around five essential domains:

Smart energy

Smart energy systems will monitor and control energy usage to more efficiently manage and conserve energy. By using renewable energy sources, manage water supply and have a waste management system, cities can reduce pollution and use less energy.

Smart mobility

Smart mobility strives to find more sustainable transport options. Walking, cycling and combined mobility are a few of the solutions that partially could solve the problem. By conducting big data drive projects, information can be gathered to identify driving and movement patterns and minimize the accident probability. Finding new and improved solutions will reduce costs and have a positive environmental impact. Last, but not least, a huge bonus is the improved health effect some of the solutions bring.

Smart infrastructure

Creates the fundament for all smart solutions. By using new technology to convert raw data into information, urban and regional development can be planned and designed to fit future demand. Also, existing systems can be improved by analyzing data from sensors, traffic patterns and tracking systems.

Smart public services

By connecting city residents and authorities using innovative communication technology, cities can become safer, cleaner and the general city standard will improve. If residents have the possibility to report trash or infrastructural problems, authorities can act faster to solve problems they otherwise would not be aware of.

Smart care

To adapt to changes in population demographics, the development of smarter healthcare services will provide quality services also in the future. Smarter care will reduce costs and connect users within the healthcare industry to provide necessary patient information. Giving caretakers access to patient information will help doctors collaborate in new ways to give the best patient care possible.

As the world’s population grows, and more people move into urban areas, the need for smarter cities will increase to make the best use of available resources. There are some examples of how smart city technologies are optimizing infrastructure, mobility, public services and utilities:

  • Wireless parking solutions reduce traffic congestion in busy areas by making it easier for drivers to find parking and increase city revenues by making it easier to collect fees.
  • Connected waste management helps cities enhance efficiency in waste collection and save money, time and CO2 emissions.
  • Car-sharing and ride-sharing services reduce city traffic and carbon emissions and allow citizens to get where they’re going without the cost and hassle of owning a car in the city.
  • Connected emergency vehicles help responders get help to citizens faster, and put state-of-the-art wireless public safety applications at their fingertips.
  • Connected streetlights let cities remotely adjust lighting to make streets safer, while dramatically reducing power consumption and maintenance costs.
  • Wireless smart grid solutions enable cities and energy providers to create a much more efficient distribution network and reduce power consumption.
  • Connected power and gas meters provide energy consumption visibility all the way from the source to homes and businesses to optimize distribution. Connected water meters reduce leaks and waste.
  • Cities are deploying connected charging stations that make it easier for citizens to use electric vehicles—cutting carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency.

And where do we look for inspiration to create better megacities?

  • Singapore is one of the most advanced Smart Cities and its urbanization model inspires many countries to look for the best practice approaches. Singapore, as always, is ambitious and is seeking to driverless cars, cashless payments, robotics, and technology-enabled urban areas and homes.
  • The city of Chicago is using predictive analytics to improve health inspection schedules.
  • The City of Auckland is aiming to become the world’s most livable city by improving its transportation infrastructure with intelligent intersections and by providing residents with access to real-time data through IoT-connected transport nodes, traffic lights and bus stops.
  • Barcelona’s Smart City vision merges urban planning, ecology, and information technology to improve the lives of citizens, and has already had a large impact in terms of improving both efficiency and quality of life for city residents.
  • Boston in the US is pioneering a peer-produced approach to governance by leveraging the power of collaboration and technology to transform citizens’ interaction with government. The award-winning Citizens Connect app enables Bostonians to become the city’s “eyes and ears” by alerting the city to neighborhood issues such as potholes and graffiti. Also in Boston city officials are collaborating with Waze, the traffic navigation app company, combining its data with inputs from street cameras and sensors to improve road conditions across the city.
  • Da Nang is leading the way among Southeast Asian cities, moving quickly to build plans and adopt technology to create a more sustainable, efficient community for their citizens. By starting with focused, practical areas such as water and transportation, Da Nang is taking a strategic approach to building a smarter city.
  • In Sydney, traffic lights are prioritized based on the bus schedules so that traffic flows more freely during rush hours.
  • In the Netherlands, the city of Almere recognizes that a smart city is more about co-creation than technology and has developed a vision for the creation of a “smart society” that will make more intelligent use of technology, people, and resources for improved urban management.
  • Finland’s Helsinki has endorsed a new program that aligns the operations of city departments, public utilities, and the group corporates and brings forward the city’s central objectives and development focuses.
  • Amsterdam is a shining example of a well-connected smart city that is reaping the rewards of opening the data vault. It shares traffic and transportation data to interested parties such as developers who then create mapping apps that connect to the city’s transport systems. Now, navigating the city is snap for all. In addition, the city built autonomous delivery boats called “roboats” to keep things moving in a timely fashion. It also supported a floating village of houses, solving the city’s overcrowding problem with a sustainable, energy-efficient alternative. Power is generated within communities, and homes receive water straight from the river and filter it within their own tanks. None of this is possible without shared data.
  • Copenhagen is also leveraging open data in its collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop an innovative smart bike system. Embedded with sensors that provide real-time information to both the riders and administrators, data is shared to monitor and manage air quality and traffic congestion.
  • Cities in the Scandinavian region have already implemented transparent e-government models to support low corruption and build a green infrastructure to meet future demand for a carbon neutral economy.

Conclusion

In many ways, the smart city concept is simply good urban planning that incorporates both advances in digital technology and new thinking in the age-old city concepts of relationships, community, environmental sustainability, participatory democracy, good governance, and transparency. Moreover, the smart city means not only designing cities more meaningfully — both economically and ecologically — but above all, it means people’s everyday lives are improved.

The technologies that will solve the challenges of urbanization and infrastructure exist today so that the inhabitants of many cities can enjoy the benefits long into the future. And my advice for everybody is to get engaged with others to strengthen smart cities programs where you live and work.

Altabel Group is an IT company with headquarter in Vilnius, Lithuania  and software development center in Minsk, Belarus. They have been providing custom software development for a wide range of clients all over the world for over ten years. Their blog can be read here.

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