Blockchain redefining the way we live in cities

Smart Cities Today

With the continuous growth in population and more than half of people living in urban areas, the concept of smart cities has emerged as an essential topic of discussion. Smart cities not only allow a better and more efficient way to manage the challenges associated with growing urban population but use a wide range of inputs and sensors to collect process and analyze data, thus managing assets and resources more efficiently. This data can be obtained from residents, devices and assets which can help in managing and monitoring systems ranging from traffic and transportation systems, water supply networks, power plants waste management, law enforcement, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, emergency services and electrical grids.

At present, approximately 700 cities aspire to become Smart Cities, some of them are Singapore, Barcelona, Stockholm, and New York City. Individually each of them is exploring different approaches to find solutions which best serve their citizens.

Current projects within Smart Cities:

Though there are a large number of ongoing projects, the following are some of the notable projects that are worth being considered:-

  • Automated waste bins: These smart bins detect how full they are at any moment and communicate this to optimise waste management.
  • Location Tracking: Buses, trains and bicycles communicate their locations, that can be viewed on a digital map which makes public transport more accessible.
  • Find the lost object: Connecting CCTV cameras having the ability to search by objects throughout the city. For instance, one can search for a lost red suitcase.
  • E-governance: Government using the information and communication technology for facilitating government-to-citizen (G2C), government-to-business (G2B), government-to-government (G2G) and government-to-employees (G2E) system to work fluently
  • A trend towards “open data”: It refers to public policy that encourages federal agencies to publish data sets and make them public and freely available — for instance, citywide crime statistics, city service levels and infrastructure data.

The Problems that Smart Cities are Facing

Fragmentation

One of the essential requirements for smart cities is the integration of a diverse range of hardware and software- from electric bikes to water meters, from traffic systems to connected rubbish bins. This can pose several challenges which are mostly the result of the lack of interoperability among data-sharing systems.

The lack of data standardisation to achieve ease of interoperability affects in the same way to an enterprise as it does to the smart city and outsourcing the task to a third party centralised company is not a solution. On one hand, numerous enterprises presently provide out-of-the-box solutions to connect their service with the city. This results in a municipality handling a portfolio of discrete systems. And there are plenty of data provider types ,consisting of: public transport systems, electricity grids, water distribution systems, waste disposal services, weather data, traffic monitoring, locations of public facilities such as drinking fountains,, Wi-Fi networks, public toilets, street webcam feeds, as well as warnings about power outages and emergencies such as earthquakes, traffic accidents, and fires.

Data Security and Sovereignty

Collecting a large amount of data related to Smart Cities pose another challenge. This is one of the dark sides of losing control of this data posing a threat to the city and its residents. The data centralisation associated has resulted in government firings over privacy losses in Toronto, hacking of public data and ransoms in Atlanta, and dismantling of city sensor networks in Seattle. Once again, it is one of the demerits of data gathering. Though it is a problem related to data centralisation, this is the place where blockchain comes into the picture offering a suitable solution by ensuring control of each data packet for its rightful owner.

Solutions put in by Blockchain

The basic features that can be guaranteed by blockchains are transparency and immutability. Few instances where blockchains can assist include minimising frauds, the cost of trust and ensuring transparent use of public funds.

Minimising Fraud

A recent survey has found that 1 in every 250 online payments are fraudulent with the total cost to business exceeding $25 billion by 2020. The irrefutable and irreversible tracking of identities and transactions secured by a blockchain can significantly reduce the incidence of fraud and its costs. The advantages of this are applicable to both the public and private sectors which overlap throughout commerce.

Lowering the Cost of Trust

Nearly 35% of global GDP is spent on trust via audits and verifications leads to 29 trillion dollars of economic opportunity being wasted presently. Provided that a significant portion of these pass through government audits, cross-referencing made possible by a standardized, interoperable ledger such as Unification can significantly lower these costs.

Transparent Use of Public Funds

Usage of public funds is usually criticized lacking transparency and being corrupt.

Moving a city’s finances to a public blockchain hence offers various benefits.

  • Firstly, the transparent use of public funds can mitigate ill-practices like corruption. For example, patterns of awarding federal contracts to particular contractors in a biased and unfair way may be made patently evident when exposed to the light of a public ledger.
  • Secondly, opening up the transparency of how funds are allocated both across departments and to the public can result in more informed decisions on budgeting or greater transparency offers greater democracy.
  • Finally, running finances over a blockchain can enhance the efficiency of accounting. Using an immutable public ledger hence allow a unified platform for streamlining the accounting of a Smart City.

Conclusion:

Since there are several tangible benefits that blockchain holds, thereby we conclude that blockchain is so far the best technology that holds enormous potential in making lives of people more comfortable, thereby redefining the way we live!

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