Advances in smart technology and automation have seen an increase in intelligent products from wearables and gadgets to large-scale applications in smart industries using automated systems. Now, smart technology is extending its reach to the masses on an even grander scale. Smart cities are among the newest and most ambitious attempts at automating everyday activities and processes.

What are smart cities?

The term ‘smart city’ does not necessarily refer to a technological utopia run by robots– a common misconception. The reality of a smart city is much more humble – at least for now. It describes a city in which smart technology is used to improve every aspect of the city’s operations to enhance service delivery and quality of life for the residents. It sounds a lot less impressive when put in those terms, but automation of city services has registered impressive citywide efficiency in some of the world’s largest and most industrious cities. These services include public amenities like sanitation and water systems, public transport, power plants, hospitals and public information systems.

The technology driving smart cities

Smart cities are powered by collective information gathering. Physical assets gather data around the city using sensor technology and communicate via the internet, sharing valuable information to automated processes in sync, interconnecting between autonomous cars, cloud data platforms and a plethora of real-time embedded systems and sensors.

Take the case of smart traffic lights for example. Sensors, cameras and data platforms monitor every road in the city, and collectively have an accurate real-time picture of the city’s road traffic at any time. Using this information, an artificial intelligence brain decides when the lights go red or green at every traffic stop. To go even further, the system studies the traffic behaviour of the entire city over time using machine learning and can detect minute deviations from the norm, taking pre-emptive action to keep the roads moving smoothly.

That is only one case to show just how efficient smart cities can be. The idea is to implement the same kind of system to as many city services as possible. City planners and city councils can use information gathered by smart device analytics around the city to identify areas that need improvements and to monitor city growth and trends. The data collected from different cities could create a model for the perfect contemporary city, which can be used as a yardstick to improve other cities and even suburbs in foresight.

The future looks promising

More and more cities are embracing the concept and are gradually placing manual services onto the latest 5g digital infrastructure. However, it will take some time to get everyone on board, including members of the public, and to lay all the necessary groundwork. However, the effort is worthwhile to ensure smart urban living.