The Internet of Things (IoT) has already started to revolutionise homes, workplaces, and cities. With intelligent fridges and personal assistants like Alexa entering our homes, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing similar technology used in our cities. The smart city of the future will incorporate all aspects of contemporary urban living to make it easier.
How does it work, and how can we be sure of its effectiveness?
Smart cities are designed to fuse technology and infrastructure together to improve the quality of life for those living in them. All possible thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices, which allows entities and objects (M2M – Machine-to-machine) to communicate with one another. Meaning cities can be observed in real-time, ensuring problems can be pinpointed and dealt with much sooner. It is providing a more cost-effective and innovative way of running cities.
As smart cities continue to advance, it is expected that they will become more eco-friendly too. Ultimately, smart cities will not only improve how we interact with the environment around us, but how the environment interacts with us.
The next step in modern infrastructure
Because a lot of cities suffer similar problems, traffic and public transport networks are inefficient. Water and gas supplies can often see a significant amount of waste due to ageing infrastructure. These issues can be easier to solve by gradually transforming into smart cities through the use of infrastructure monitoring.
The most notable feature in all cities, roads can make or break a person’s day. If the commute is pleasant, and traffic flows, then the workforce will arrive positive and productive. On the other hand, the traditional jams at rush hour can turn an entire day sour. By adequately monitoring congestion patterns, sensors can adjust traffic light timings, speed limits, and even change the direction of lanes. Ensuring traffic flows and people get to and from work on time.
While infrastructure monitoring is a fairly new phenomenon, one of its most promising examples is the London Underground. The sprawling web of tunnels ships around 2 million people every day across the city, and runs swiftly and consistently. Mostly thanks to a high level of monitoring of the system.
Every train is monitored as it travels, and times are updated continuously to keep travellers informed and able to go to their destination quickly. High-level monitoring on public transport networks such as this keeps transport networks flowing, and citizens on time when they need to move across the city. With all of this information, a smart city is a more effective one.
Gas and water
Gas and water pipes are some of the oldest parts of any city’s infrastructure, as they were built many years ago and built upon in the years since. Meaning they are liable to leak and create a much less efficient system that doesn’t get resources to where they need to go.
Infrastructure monitoring, in this specific case, would mean tracking pipes at multiple stages along their routes. It would become a lot easier to find leaks and repair them quickly, rather than relying on people reporting problems weeks, or potentially months, later.
A concept more to do with services
One of the reasons there’s so little recognition of the benefits and role of the smart city is because it’s a concept that is more to do with services, transport, and city management. Once smart cities are in place, it will be possible for every lamp post, traffic light, car, home, business, and service to be interconnected.
It will be far easier to travel around the city via public transport and also enhance the introduction of driverless technologies. City energy and emissions management will also benefit from the smart city connected environment.
But what exactly does that entail? And when can we expect to see these changes?
The reality is that these changes are already happening. The technology is already in places such as Amsterdam and Boston to make sure these cities are running as smoothly as possible.
Boston employs technology that allows sanitation workers to see which refuse bins are full, and the fastest route to them, keeping the city cleaner and more productive.
By implementing technology such as this, smart cities will be a place where people want to spend more time. By offering free WiFi and better transportation links and more intelligent energy use, travelling through a city will no longer be a stressful affair.
Some of the existing smart cities in the world (as of February 2020)
The recent IESE Cities in Motion Index listing of the top ten smart cities in the world is sure to be of interest;
It may come as a surprise to note that New York holds the top spot for the world’s best smart city, and that’s down to two tech innovations within the utility sector. The first is an automated water meter reading system, enabling city authorities to track daily water consumption of up to one billion gallons. It also provides residents with useful water use tracking for personal monitoring.
The other smart development is in the waste sector, where BigBelly bins monitor the amount of rubbish inside and get in touch with disposal units when they need emptying.
Some of the most exciting smart city techs can are in London, which was rated second in the index. The UK’s capital achieved the rating because of its high-quality mobility and transportation technologies, alongside advancements in governance, international outreach, finance/economy, and city planning. It was also recognised that London’s high levels of human capital and leadership within the arts, commerce, entertainment, fashion, education, etc., make it a national nerve centre.
The third place for the top smart city went to Paris, which is recognised for its prominent international outreach and advances in transportation. One quoted example was the new Grand Paris Express which will create 68 new metro stations and features almost 130 miles of fully-automated lines.
Japan, Singapore, and South Korea are fast outstripping many of the countries traditionally thought of as world leaders. Their increasing development of smart city environments is purely due to the provision of ultra-fast Gigabit connectivity (domestic and commercial).
They are making it far easier to incorporate smart city innovations throughout entire urban areas. However, for some major countries such as the UK, access to high-speed internet for most urban and rural dwellers is still unavailable.
It is the central business district (CBD) of all major cities that are kickstarting the move to smart cities.