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What is Smart City?

The “smart” had become buzzword all around during the recent years with the rise of technological devices number utilizing advanced technologies.

It is estimated that by 2030 more than 5 billion people will live in urban settings. However, before we get to that kind of population density, we have to optimize our cities — we need to make them smarter and better; technology can help.

For now, official of the most advanced cities all around the world work with developers and contractors to make the living better, whether it’s improving the timing of traffic lights or creating a useful app, which becomes more powerful as smartphone penetration continues to increase. Apps and well-implemented technology can help cash-strapped governments save money and, be more efficient. Here we outline a list of the technology that we want to see in every major city. If we missed the item on your urban tech wish list, leave us a note in the comments.

Smart cities are connected cities, and they work in conjunction with everything from IoT sensors to open data collection and smart streetlights to provide better services and better communication.

Smart cities are no longer the wave of the future. They are here now and proliferating as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands and impacts municipal services around the globe.

The smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities worldwide. These cities are expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025, according to McKinsey research.

While there are many definitions of a smart city, in general, an intelligent city utilizes IoT sensors, actuators and technology to connect components across the city, and it impacts every layer of a city, from underneath the streets, to the air that citizens are breathing. Data from all segments are analyzed, and patterns are derived from the collected data.

These are key technologies that make a smart city work:

Smart energy

Truth be told, both residential and commercial buildings in smart cities are more efficient, using less power, and the energy used is analyzed and the data collected. Smart grids are essential parts of the development of a smart city, and smart streetlights are a natural entry point for many cities since LED lights save money and pay for themselves within a few years.

Lighting is ubiquitous — it’s everywhere that people work, travel, shop, dine, and relax. Digital communications and energy-efficient LED lighting is revolutionizing urban lighting infrastructures already in place, transforming them into information pathways with the capacity to collect and share data and offer new insights that enable, and really drive, the smart city.

However, overall energy usage is also part of a smart city. Many may have experienced this already with the installation of smart meters at their homes. However, with the rise of home solar power systems and electric vehicles, hardware and software technology will allow for the potential of better grid management, optimization of power production through different sources and distributed energy production. Furthermore, buildings that monitor their energy usage actively and report this data to utilities can reduce their costs. This will ultimately lead to lower pollution and much better efficiency as cities become more urbanized.

Moreover, there are also smart grids and smart meters. Smart grid solutions play an important role in the development of smart cities. From prepaid energy applications to advanced metering infrastructure, there are several solutions to enhance energy services. With a smart grid, you can improve outage detection, the speed of data capture, continuing and disaster recovery, field service operations and overall grid modernization techniques.

Smart transportation

A smart city supports multi-modal transportation, smart traffic lights, and smart parking.

“One of the key areas that we have seen much activity on has to do with mobility. Anything around transportation, traffic monitoring, parking,” said Sanjay Khatri, director of product marketing and IoT services for Jasper. “These are areas where cities are seeing a speedy return on investment. It not only helps to reduce the cost of monitoring parking and making sure that they are collecting fines, but it’s also reducing congestion.”

By making parking smarter, people spend less time looking for parking spots and circling city blocks. Smart traffic lights have cameras that monitor traffic flow so that it’s reflected in the traffic signals.

Moreover, even city buses are becoming connected so that people have real-time information on when a bus will arrive at a bus stop. In Australia, traffic lights are prioritized based on the bus schedules so that traffic flows more freely during rush hours.

Also, using sensors to collect data about the movement of people, all forms of vehicles and bikes. A smart city is one that greatly reduces vehicle traffic and allows people and goods to be moved easily through various means. Intelligent traffic systems are an example of this, and the achievement of autonomous vehicle transportation would be a prime example of success for a smart city, as this could reduce vehicle-related deaths. All these efforts would reduce pollution as well as time stuck in traffic, resulting in a healthier population.

Smart data

The massive amounts of data collected by a smart city must be analyzed quickly to make it useful. Open data portals are one option that some cities have chosen to publish city data online so that anyone can access it and use predictive analytics to assess future patterns. Companies such as CommunityLogiq are working with cities to help them analyze data, and they’re in the Startup in Residence (STiR) program for the city of San Francisco.

“The pervasiveness of technology and the expansion of open data policies are about to unleash an economic growth engine for urban innovation that we have never seen. We are moving from analyzing data that exists within city hall, to generating new data from sensors that are deployed all across cities for use by multiple departments and people for multiple uses,” said John Gordon, the chief digital officer at Current, powered by GE.

Even the data collected by streetlights can be used to benefit citizens. Hidden within the exponential volumes of data collected from connected lighting systems and other IoT devices are valuable insights and information about how citizens interact with cities. For instance, traffic data captured by streetlights can uncover a prime location for a new restaurant in a revitalized neighborhood. Predictive analytics helps cities filter and translate data into relevant and actionable information that makes city life better, easier, and more productive.

Smart infrastructure

Cities will be able to plan better with a smart city’s ability to analyze massive amounts of data. This will allow for pro-active maintenance and better planning for future demand. Being able to test for lead content in water in the real time when the data shows a problem is emerging could prevent public health issues.

Having a smart infrastructure means that a city can move forward with other technologies and use the data collected to make meaningful changes in future city plans.

Smart mobility

Mobility refers to both the technology and the data which travels across the technology. The ability to seamlessly move in and out of many different municipal and private systems is essential if we are to realize the promise of smart cities. Building the smart city will never be a project that is really finished. Technology needs to be interoperable and perform to expectations regardless of who made it or when it was made. Data also needs to be unconstrained as it moves between systems, with all due attention to intellectual property, security and privacy concerns.

Smart IoT devices

Moreover, finally, one of the critical components that ties everything together in a smart city is IoT devices.

“Whether we like it or not, sensors and actuators in our cities are here to stay. Fusing sensor information into our daily life and integrating it all with third-party social networks will knit the fabric of society closer together while leaving city leaders to grapple with serious privacy and security challenges,” said Carl Piva, ‎vice president of strategic programs at TM Forum.

Sensors are essential in a smart city, said Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave Technologies. Allen said that a smart city has “a wide range of reporting devices such as sensors, visibility devices and other endpoints that create the data that makes a smart city work.”

Blewitt said, “ In a smart city, information will increasingly be obtained directly from purposefully deployed sensors or indirectly from sensors deployed for another purpose but which gather and share useful information. With this information, freely exchanged, complex city systems can be managed in real-time and, with sufficient integration, to minimize unintended consequences. As dependence on sensors grows, so too will the need that they are reliable and that the systems to which they are connected will be able to tolerate the inevitable failures.”

Beacons are another part of IoT, and one of the problems with a smart city is the vast amount of information. Too much information can be overwhelming. Information received at a time when one is unable to take advantage of it is mostly noise, Blewitt said.

“As cities move from millions to billions, and then trillions of devices transmitting usable and potentially unusable information, bandwidth efficiency and capacity could be challenged. Short range notification that a user-selected need can be fulfilled nearby, whether it is the location of a subway station or a service, provides convenience without tying up some of the bandwidth of the carrier data networks. Perhaps this will have the side benefit of a reduction in the number of signs and therefore the visual clutter that they cause on our city streets,” he said.

Each of these technologies works together to make a smart city even smarter. 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.

Moreover, less significant future city trends should also be outlined:

1)Open-data initiatives and hackathons, like New York City’s BigApps competition, which produce useful and resource-saving apps to improve cities and keep citizens informed. Things like air quality, restaurant sanitation scores, building inspection scores and impending legislation should be readily available for all citizens.

2)Parking apps that show drivers where the nearest available parking spot it. These will save commuters time, gas, emissions, and money, while also easing the flow of traffic.

3) The apps designed for city convenience — trash cans, call boxes, trees, fire hydrants, etc. — so the city doesn’t have to spend money sending personnel to tend to them. Boston and Honolulu already have something similar in place, through Code for America, and these projects make citizens feel more invested in their neighborhood.

4)High-tech waste management systems. Pay As You Throw (PAYT) garbage disposal would encourage people to recycle more and waste less while using tools like RFID could improve sorting so recyclable plastic bottles don’t end up in landfills.

5)All-digital and easy-to-use parking payment systems — think EZ-pass for parking. We don’t want to put receipts on the dashboard or be confined to time limits that make us run out to put more coins in the meter (if you’re going to keep money meters, at least let us add money via an app). It’s okay that you charge for parking, but improve the system.

6) City guide app, with information about museums, parks, landmarks, public art, restaurants and real-time traffic data. These apps, like the ones in Baltimore, Ottawa, Charlotte and New Orleans, help citizens and tourists alike improve their experience in the city.

7)Touchscreens around the city — whether it’s a kiosk to buy a MetroCard or the TVs in taxis — should be bacteria-resistant.

8)Wi-Fi in subway stations and on trains, along with weather information at every station.

9)Sustainable and energy efficient residential and commercial real estate.

10)Dynamic kiosks that display real-time information, concerning traffic, weather and local news, like Urbanflow in Helsinki.

11)App or social media-based emergency alert and crisis response systems — every citizen should have access to vital information. Whether it’s an alert about a crime that just happened or advice for a storm approaching the city.

12) The real-time data for police that forces to monitor and prevent crime.

13) More public transit, high-speed trains, and bus rapid transit (BRT) to help citizens traverse the city with speed and low emissions.

14) OLED lights and surveillance in high-crime zones — like the 24/7 system coming to Kolkata

15) Charging stations, like the solar-powered Strawberry Tree in Serbia. They also function as bus stops and Wi-Fi hotspots.

16) Roofs covered with solar panels or gardens. You could even generate solar energy on bike paths, like Amsterdam’s SolaRoad.

17) Bike-sharing programs, like in Paris, Washington, D.C., and the ones coming to Los Angeles and New York. Also, bike parking would be excellent, too — maybe even underground and machine-driven, like the Eco-Cycle in Japan.

18) Smart climate control systems in homes and businesses, for example, the Nest thermostat.

19) Widespread use of traffic rerouting apps, such as Greenway and Waze. The average person spends 60 hours in traffic each year, according to Greenway; these apps calculate the best route for each driver to speed up traffic flow and reduce CO2 emissions. They also ensure that a traffic jam on one boulevard doesn’t just get displaced to another area.

20) Water-recycling systems, because while water covers 70% of the earth, we’re not preserving the resource the way we should.

And the last one, ride-sharing programs: Because it’s a waste of money and gas to have two cars go the same place when neither is filled to capacity.

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