The Smart City Evolution: The Possibilities in the Future

Manojita Chakraborty
Oct 28 · 4 min read
Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

By this time, we have all heard about Smart Cities. The concept of Smart Cities has evolved from it’s initial phase termed as Smart City 1.0 to a one more advanced, termed as Smart City 2.0. While Smart City 1.0 majorly dealt with connecting various threads of public infrastructure and knitting the data collected through them into an integrated network, Smart City 2.0 brings the government, enterprises and citizens together under one umbrella band. Smart City 2.0 focuses on enhancing citizen experience making the entire spectrum connected, networked and collaborative.

But why Smart Cities?

As per the UN Department of Economics data published as part of Deloitte's article, “Forces of Change: Smart Cities”, currently more than half of the world’s population lives in towns and cities and this percentage is set to reach ~66% by 2025. As per a World Bank Analysis, the world’s top 600 cities are expected to account for 60% of global GDP by 2025. This acceleration in urbanization puts the cities under tremendous pressure to provide adequate housing, sustainable living conditions, ensure physical safety for the residents while meeting the constant needs of rapid economic growth. Smart city technology comes across as the most plausible solution.

In a Smart City 2.0 scenario, the citizens are empowered. They are co-creators to change. They are ideators and often the executors. The traditional role of enterprises to act as silent financers to a government initiative is also evolving. In this dynamic Smart City environment, private enterprises are participators and the governments are enablers, turning the city into a connected platform, facilitating informed and intelligent decision making.

Smart City Technology Levers enabling Connected Intelligence

But how imperative is Technology in making this collective intelligence a reality? What are the levers that constitute a truly Smart City?

As per Mckinsey&Company report on Smart Cities, every smart city sits atop three layers of “smartness” — Tech base, Smart Applications & Analytics, Adoption & Usage. At a time, when we are standing at the forefronts of global 5G rollouts, it is imperative to understand the gears that propel the smart city engine.

The underlying tech components in a smart city environment consist of a combination of a network of smartphones and sensors connected through high-speed communication networks, as well as open data portals. Sensors collate data from various interfaces like traffic signals, connected cars, home utilities, infrastructure, etc. Traditionally, these massive reserves of data were analyzed through continuous connections to the cloud (hosted by server farms owned by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google). The need for increased computational capabilities has given rise to Edge computing where processing and storage shifts to computers located at the very edge of the network. 5G powered smart cities of the future would also include a range of technologies such as ultra-small cells, ultra density, mmWave communication, extreme beamforming apart from Edge Computational capabilities.

As an upper layer that translates raw data into alerts, insights, flags, and notifications, the Smart Applications & Analytics entails building tools in multiple domains that can seamlessly engage in interfacing with the end-users. These tools span across multiple domains — security, mobility, health, utilities, housing, economic development, community engagement, etc. With the advent of 5G, data analytics is also undergoing a tectonic change. If we go back, 5 years, we were dealing with massive infusions of data, which we called “Big Data”. At present we are facing fast data (a term loosely referring to the application of data analytics and data sets in real-time) or streaming data. With more IoT devices coming on board and getting connected to mobile phones, the need for nuanced and real-time data analysis will only increase.

The third and most important link to this is Adoption & Usage. Unless an application is adopted by the end-user and in turn is widely assimilated and manages to alter the usage patterns of the consumer, it is rarely considered a success. Therefore, an ideal application puts the end-user in the driving seat and gives them a more transparent hold over connecting the dots. Services like sensor powered connected street lighting, security cameras, worker messaging, sensor monitoring, connected parking meters are contributing in greatly enhancing public spaces.

Enterprises in Smart City Sweet Spot…

Smart Cities are a perfect opportunity for private enterprises and public bodies to come together and collectively collaborate with the governments. Public-Private Partnership models (PPP) are a common phenomenon in the Smart City domain. Examples of successful implementation of this model can be seen in cases like — Kansas City and Cisco collaboration, LinkNYC program through which legacy phone booths are to be replaced by 7,500 digital kiosks providing high-speed Wifi in New York City. Another such funding model is via grant-based pilots. The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory are partnering to collect data through sensors spread across the city of Chicago.

Smart Cities Adoption Rate set to grow…

Smart city's adoption across the globe will fit the various jigsaw pieces together and is expected to bring down the overall cost of living by 1–3%. In a 5G powered Smart City, environment quality will get better to up to 30% enriching the quality of life (through control of GHG emissions, water conservation, recycling of waste). Bringing together these key technologies and applications will also positively impact the employment scenario, thereby creating more opportunities. Enterprises, in this new world scenario, are uniquely placed to not just utilize this growth opportunity, but also to educate and carve out niches to bring technology and consumers one step closer.

Data Driven Investor

Manojita Chakraborty

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Writer, Blogger, Book Worm. Technology, History, Media enthusiast.

Data Driven Investor

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