Smart cities on Blockchain

Will blockchain technology be at the center of the smart city revolution?

More than half of the population on the Earth is living in urban areas. Think about it for a second and do the math. This is more than 3.8 bln people! Cities are becoming bigger and busier. We need to make them more efficient, responsive, and sustainable. We need to make them smart.

New York

As in one of the McKinsey reports is stated:

“Smartness is not just installing digital interfaces in traditional infrastructure or streamlining city operations. It is about using technology and data purposefully to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.”

With so many people accessing smart mobile devices, constantly generating, sending and receiving data, it is only natural to use this resource to improve the lives of city dwellers. Thanks to the incessant technological evolution, cities now have the opportunity to become “smarter” by developing and managing smart data centers. Those are composed of several main components:

  • Smart energy
  • Smart mobility and transportation
  • Smart health
  • Smart water usage
  • Smart buildings
  • Smart public services

It’s Happening!

Open social spaces are often WiFi hotspots where people can interact with various components of the city network. Sensors improve the efficiency of city traffic and with the avoidance of productivity-killing jams. Public transportation is becoming faster and easier to use. Waste collection and management is also more efficient thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) prediction modelling. Shared economy is thriving thanks to fast and trustless transactions.

Smart lightening is turning cities’ streets brighter if crowded or darker if nobody is around and this way saving energy. Traffic sensors are self-adjusting the duration of the go lights in real time.

Payments and commercial transactions are becoming instant, free and available at your fingertips with mobile apps connected to bank accounts or crypto wallets.

Numerous companies, big or small — from startups to tech giants (like CISCO and IBM, for instance), are looking at developing and implementing use cases for Blockchain solutions for smart cities and sustainable business operations. Some of the more interesting challenges on the horizon can be solved with self-sovereign identity and a sharing economy, built on open protocols. It’s interesting that not only companies (incl. divisions of companies) or municipalities are implementing blockchain solutions. Entire countries are jumping in!

Estonia — the Blockchain nation

Welcome to e-Estonia!

In 2007, heavy DDoS attacks caused the websites of the Estonian state services and the government to go offline. This, of course, signaled that the current system is unsafe and unreliable because it has numerous single points of failure. In other words, just like most companies, business and administrations today the Estonians relied on centralized systems to organize public life. As a consequence, they started building their own blockchain — long before mainstream media started covering stories about Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

National health registers moved to a blockchain-based interoperable system that integrates medical data from different healthcare providers to create a common record that every patient can access online. In case of emergency, a doctor can access a patient’s universal, immutable record with an unique cryptographic password. The government can track patients for reoccurring symptoms and keep an eye on epidemics or other potential health risks.

Legislative and judicial systems, as well as security and commercial records, have been stored safely on distributed ledgers since 2012. The system is called the KSI blockchain.

Today, the technology has gone way beyond the scope of experimentation and has reached mass adoption. The government introduced blockchain to provide its citizens with access and control over their personal data. Personal identification, driver’s licenses, medical cards, and insurance are encrypted in the distributed ledger. And any civil or medical servant who accessed their personal data without permission can be prosecuted. Meaning that you can track who checked you up and shall you notice any unauthorized access from a medical servant, insurance agent or somebody else you can hold them legally responsible.

Estonians are also the first nation to vote online (2005). Now almost all Estonians can file taxes online within minutes, something the developing nations can only dream about. In addition, 98% of the Estonian citizens are having verified digital identity through the use of their cryptographically secured digital national ID card system. A very cute kit. Check the picture below. ;)

e-Residency kit

Dubai — the top of the blockchain

While incorporation of blockchain technology sounds like a futuristic scenario for most national jurisdictions, in Dubai things go beyond imagination. Flying cars, fully automated trains, automated sensors, smart solar panels, Wi-Fi benches, self-cooling buildings… you name it, they have it.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

In 2014, UAE launched the Smart City program. The government created a roadmap until 2021, that involves the implementation of more than 545 innovative projects.

The UAE authorities are actively implementing the most innovative ideas with the ambition to turn the city into the first blockchain-based smart megapolis. Also, the first 100% paperless bureaucratical system in the world! That’s right! Completely digital!!!

In the Smart City program are outlined 3 steps:

  1. Efficiency in government transactions by leveraging the blockchain — as all document circulation will be conducted in electronic form;
  2. Industry creation for new business supported by the blockchain by 2020 — launching a business will become more simplified for citizens;
  3. International leadership in blockchain adoption — the infrastructure of the roadmap alone is estimated to cost 8USD billion.
Diamond Developers’ technical tour of its pioneering project, The Sustainable City in Dubai

From banking to mobility, through logistics, healthcare, energy & power, education, security & justice, Dubai’s Smart City program is powered by blockchain. Looks like the next 2 years will be very intense for the administration in the Emirates.

Estonia and Dubai are not the only examples of smart cities based on blockchain technology. They are some of the most developed. Big cities around the world like London, Barcelona, Singapore are also developing their blockchain solutions on their particular problems.

Bulgarian cities are not falling behind this trend. Our team is excited to announce a partnership between æternity Foundation Bulgaria and the municipality of Varna for a smart city project that will be live by the end of the year. The project will target the problem with street animals (mainly dogs) and their living conditions.

Stay tuned for more.

The technology is changing the way we collect and proceed data. One thing is for sure, at least for more progressive jurisdictions — the future is now.