By the year 2050, the world’s population is projected to be 9.7 billion (with two-thirds living in urban environments. Consider just how saturated cities are already, then factor in their environmental impact. There’s no avoiding it; growing urban areas will only increase the burden on governments and residents alike.
Nevertheless, organizations including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are taking steps to create what are called “Smart Cities.” According to the IEEE’s site, smart cities aim to combine government, society, and technology (specifically, the Internet of Things) to address these issues. Today we’re going to examine the technology already transforming today’s cities into smart ones.
Driving and public transportation are the main modes of commuting today and one of the reasons why Americans are stuck in traffic an average of 34 hours a year. While increasing populations play a role, most Americans today commute by themselves in an otherwise empty car. In other words, carpooling (ride sharing) is an underutilized tool that could drastically reduce traffic.
While ride sharing can help in tomorrow’s cities, let’s not forget we’re also in the middle of a transportation revolution. On-demand companies like Lyft and Uber give residents access to vehicles without needing to own one. Self-driving cars are already a reality. Several cities have bike-sharing programs in place. Smart cities work to incorporate clean transportation methods, such as cycling, with vehicle transportation to help relieve traffic congestion.
Together cities can leverage each of these transportation methods to create a dynamic network that reacts to traffic patterns and needs in real-time.
Smart cities turn to technology to manage their impact on the environment and help with energy management and conservation. The key to power management is the development of smart grids where clean energy solutions like solar panels and wind turbines will play an important role. LED lighting can replace traditional street lamps and in Los Angeles has already shown to pay for itself within a few years. Technology including intelligent lighting and demand response can help manage energy use for residents.
Smart city technology can also be used for disaster preparation and management. The Environment Agency of the United Kingdom partnered with iDefigo Group and Vodafone’s Global M2M platform to address growing concerns about flooding . Together they developed a network of smart cameras, powered by solar panels, to provide updates in flood-prone areas such as river valleys. Engineers can regularly view images sent by these cameras along with other EA tools to provide a complete picture around flood-prone areas.
Improved life through smart city technology isn’t limited to obvious factors like traffic and pollution. Companies like Qualcomm are leveraging IoT for better building management. Similar to entire cities, buildings typically have power, security, and other systems operating independently from one another. Qualcomm’s solutions use Bluetooth, WiFi, and other protocols to pull data from these sources into one system that building managers can analyze.
Smart cities will improve quality of life, but residents need to be involved. This is the challenge in India, where citizen participation is cited as the hardest obstacle facing the nation’s 100 smart cities. While traditional resources like community meetings are available, governments can turn to India’s growing smartphone market for improved communication. Smartphones can allow citizens to report their location to help plan public transportation routes or report road condition issues (such as with the Waze Connection Citizens Program and FixMyStreet, respectively).
Today’s cities operate with several independent departments, like waste management and transportation. Smart city technologies give governments the ability to unite these departments under a shared information system.
Verizon’s smart city solutions, for example, can notify first dispatchers about traffic and road conditions to help then arrive on site faster. In the event of an emergency, different government agencies can use evacuation routes, hazardous material maps and other resources provided by dispatch services. The company’s smart lighting and security monitoring systems can help with public safety.
Smart city technology provides many benefits that can, ultimately, help local economies through increased efficiency and allocation of resources. Wireless payment processing systems can unite all government services, including toll roads and bus tickets, to better help manage finances. Ridesharing increases vehicle efficiency while real-time traffic updates can reroute public buses to where they’re needed.
Companies like Smart Living Projects have developed tools to monitor pedestrian tracking help public and private organizations understand traffic patterns. This information can help for organizing public events at parks or museums. Cities governments can take this information when deciding where to improve pedestrian walkways or planning new public transportation stops. Kansas City, Missouri has teamed with companies like Cisco and Sprint to develop mobile apps to better connect with its residents.. The city now has a WiFi network that runs along its streetcar line to support 25 digital kiosks that provide local business and event information.
Smart Cities Benefit All Parties
Never before has technology given us the power to combine everything about city life into manageable information for better decision-making. They key is to bring together businesses, citizens, and governments because each entity provides different resources. Businesses provide the know-how to create new smart city technology. Governments manage the infrastructure and departments that can use this technology. Citizens can provide constant feedback for continuous improvement.
Organizations like the IEEE are working to help cities pull these groups together to form strategies toward their smart city goals. Cities around the world have already made progress, and now it’s time more take the initiative to improve their citizens’ quality of life.
Spry Group & Smart Cities
At the Spry Group, we’re keen on smart cities. It’s not just that we love the fusion of technology into the public sector, it gives us the ideal framework to work within.
We’ve had several projects within the smart cities space. One of our most notable was spearheaded by Paolo Unger-Dvorchik for Help NYC in an effort to improve education. It breaks down each neighborhood by what percent of people
- Are living below the poverty line
- Are not fluent in English, and
- Do not have a high school diploma.
This interactive map was fueled by civic engagement and powered by public data.
Another of our top projects was TrashRadar, by Martin Freytes and Cherny Berbesi allows users to report trash build up on public streets, right from their phone. The request goes straight to the Department of Sanitation.
Do you have a project involving smart cities? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Our team of developers have the experience and know-how to take your project to the next level.
If you’re interested, send us an email and let’s get the conversation started.