Smart Cities

According to research conducted by consulting firm International Data Corporation in 2016, the biggest challenges concerning the effective use of the Internet of Things (IoT) involve security, privacy, implementation and maintenance costs, IT infrastructure, and specialized skills for this new market in which the ability to process substantial volumes of data is critical. These challenges would already be noteworthy if we considered only IoT applications in the corporate world. By also taking into account the inevitable application of technology in homes and cities, dealing properly with these issues becomes vital.

“Smart cities” are a priority for governments and businesses around the world, with a market potential for segments such as power, infrastructure, security, transportation, construction and health that reach $1.5 trillion according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. The steady population growth in urban areas — due to migratory flow and increased population life expectancy — as well as behavioral changes in society, ranging from a stronger ecological awareness to a new way of consuming and using goods, systematically increase the demand for change. Non-profit organization Population Reference Bureau estimates that 70% of the world’s population will be composed of city dwellers by 2050 — in developed countries this figure is already at 75%.

This unprecedented urbanization will require greater efficiency and robustness in virtually all processes and services observed in cities, generating business opportunities in many industries. Due to the nature of these large-scale projects — which will require gathering, transmitting, analyzing, and acting on information in real time — typically four types of participants will perform critical functions: equipment suppliers, telecommunication providers, integrators, and service managers.

Equipment suppliers are responsible for “equipping” cities with sensors capable of performing the specific tasks required by projects addressing issues such as water leaks, power consumption, traffic volume, waste toxicity and noise level. The information collected is transmitted by the telecommunications structure, focusing on the communication between equipments and those in charge of the actual services. Integrators unite the various services into one homogenous and consistent platform, and ultimately the service managers monitor and ensure the desired result.

Power and traffic are recurrent themes concerning the progress of cities. The development of the so-called smart grid involves the use of new meters and home energy storage systems, allowing stored power — as well as alternative and clean sources — to be used at peak periods (during which consumer rates are more expensive). Dynamic control of traffic lights according to traffic volume, street sensors, and route optimization for medical services are also part of the necessary infrastructure development of a smart city.

In 2016 Juniper Research chose the five smartest cities in the world, after analyzing aspects such as traffic control and improvement, wireless access, smartphone use, information availability via apps, and the use of smart networks for lighting and power consumption. The winners were Singapore, Barcelona, London, San Francisco, and Oslo. Next week we will discuss the initiatives adopted by these and other cities that are already working directly on issues critical to improving their populations’ standards of living. See you then.