Better Future: What Are The Smart Cities & What Do They Look Like?
Smart cities are urban communes that rely on technology to provide services to its population and solve problems related to urban living. In such cities, smart technology is used to improve public transport and accessibility, improve social services and healthcare, promote sustainability and make the citizen’s voice heard. Here’s a brief overview of smart cities and their impact on modern societies.
The future is integrated
The whole point of smart technology is to bring together technology and infrastructure to improve the quality of life and help citizens communicate with their urban environment. Developed as a keystone of smart technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) allows different objects, entities, and systems to communicate with each other through the internet. The IoT is increasingly finding its role in public transport, relaying important traffic messages, and providing energy consumption data in real-time. By developing more systems that are capable of communication through IoT platforms, cities can tackle the important issues before they become problems, and allocate resources more accurately to maximize their efficiency.
Faster and less stressful commutes
For millions and millions of people in cities worldwide, the workday begins with squeezing into overcrowded buses and trains or getting stuck in morning traffic jams. Cities that are considering smart-mobility applications hope to cut commuting times by 15 to 20 percent, in some cases even more. The yield of each application varies greatly from city to city, depending on the existing infrastructure, population density, and commuting patterns. Through digital road signage and mobile apps, motorists could receive real-time data on delays, allowing them to adjust their routes to avoid jams, while integrated parking apps lead them directly to vacant spots, eliminating the frustration of cruising city blocks.
Improved public safety
Integrating an array of applications could potentially reduce fatalities in cities, either from violent acts, road traffic, or fires. The estimates go that in a city of five million, smart technology could save up to 300 lives each year, with cases of burglary, robbery, and assault, as well as auto theft lowered by 30 percent. However, even more important is the intangible metrics of the peace of mind that the smart environment will give to the residents. Law enforcement agencies could use data to deploy their resources more effectively, for example using real-time crime mapping and statistical analysis to anticipate incidents before they occur. Integrated systems can optimize call centers and field operatives, for example adjusting traffic signals to give emergency vehicles a clear path.
Smart lighting for public spaces
In many ways, smart public lighting is the foundation of smart cities and a system that many urban communities start with on their road to comprehensive connectivity. While the main benefit for city officials is the reduced energy consumption and lower maintenance costs, smart lights also have sensors that allow them to improve public safety, traffic management, and smart parking systems. Improving safety within the city limits is often the most cited reason for installing professional lighting for public spaces that helps pedestrians, cyclists, and traffic navigate securely after dark. On the other hand, smart lighting can also be used to lower crime rates, by installing it in areas that are highly prone to crime.
The basis for better public health
Recognizing the evolving role of technology in healthcare, digital applications could significantly impact the disability-adjusted life years (DALY) for citizens, which is the primary metric used by WHO (World Health Organization) to describe the global disease impact. If cities adopt integrated healthcare applications, the potential to reduce the years of life lost to early death as a result of disability or incapacity would increase by 8 to 15 percent. Among the most important are the applications that help prevent, treat, and monitor chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. Remote-patient-monitoring systems could use connected digital devices to take essential readings and transfer them securely to specialists in a remote location for prompt assessment.
Stronger social connectedness
While metrics related to community are hard to quantify, there’ve been efforts to survey urban residents to determine the impact of digital channels for communication with local officials and digital platforms that enable real-world interactions, such as Nextdoor and Meetup. An analysis shows that applications like these have the potential to double the number of residents who feel connected to the local community, as well as triple the number of those who feel connected to the local government. Now, by laying foundations for two-way communication between the public and local agencies, the city governments can be made even more responsive. While in many cities, public agencies maintain an active presence on social media, some have developed their interactive citizen apps. Apart from relaying information, these channels are used by citizens to address concerns, collect data, and help them with planning issues.
A more sustainable environment
Environmental pressures multiply with rapid urbanization, industrialization, and consumption, calling for smart solutions that will cut emissions and wastage of resources. For example, water-consumption tracking which combines advanced metering with digital feedback data can prompt people to conserve, reducing consumption up to 15 percent in cities with high water usage. In the developing world, a large source of water loss is the aging and leaking pipe grid. With sensors and analytics, maintenance efforts could be focused on critical areas with greater accuracy, cutting those losses by up to 25 percent. As electricity is concerned, building-automation systems paired with dynamic electricity pricing and mobile apps could work together to reduce emissions by 10 to 15 percent.
As we give our best to make our cities smarter, they are becoming more comfortable and more responsive to our needs. What technology exists today, gives us only a “sneak peek” of what future tech can do in the cities of tomorrow.