By Sani Nahuche
There are a number of urban areas across the globe that make use of many different types of electronic data collection. An area uses this information to efficiently and dynamically manage its assets and resources. These urban areas are smart cities and you will be hearing a lot more about them in the future.
The idea behind the smart city is the integration of communication technology and information. Then, throw into the mix the millions of physical devices that are all connected into this network and you have the Internet of Things (IOT).
The entire network is optimised to make services run with greater efficiency. Data is collected from citizens and devices living and working within the city. The data is collected, collated and analysed to improve many aspects that run the smart city.
It is used to manage traffic and transport systems, energy plants, and water supplies, managing waste and even keeping the peace. It helps run schools, libraries, hospitals, community centres and helps with crowd control.
A smart city saves money, improves quality and makes the general infrastructure more easily manageable. A modern city can evolve over the space of a few minutes – smart technology allows us to react to these sudden changes and improve on them.
Smart Home, Smart City
The future home is the Smart Home, the future city is the Smart City and HCI (Human Computer Interaction) will play a great role in this. Smart homes are intelligent enough to control themselves and the Smart City of the future will inevitably control its own destiny. However, HCI and that human touch will always play a key factor in how information is collected.
The way devices work is becoming incredibly more sensitive. We talk to our Google Assistant, Bixby or Alexa and it responds accordingly. It seems like only months ago we were typing every instruction in through our keyboards.
Devices are becoming smaller, cheaper and the advancing technology is making them more accurate. There is a huge amount of reliability in these devices – but HCI is still required and we are not at that stage where M2M (Machine to Machine) can run it all by itself.
Perhaps, almost certainly M2M will reduce the need for HCI but a smart city will operate and function perfectly well for the time being as everything becomes wireless. M2M will begin a revolutionary move in the cities of the near future when driverless vehicles begin transporting private and public passengers from one end of the city to the other.
The Use of Sensors
Sensors will play a huge role in the cities of the future. They monitor traffic flow, crowds, transport, and driverless vehicles and are intrinsically linked to the IOT (Internet of Things). As its usage increases and more and more are required, the demand will rise.
As demand rises, the cost of production will come down. Devices will become cheaper and consume more of our daily lives.
Smart On Crime in the City
Incredibly, smart technology has been used in one American digital city to combat crime. Boston has developed a system called Shot Spotter that detects the acoustic bang of someone letting off a firearm.
The sensors used are strategically placed in many areas of the city and will hear and subsequently pinpoint the location of where a firearm was heard. The same Massachusetts city also has more than 200 sensors specifically to detect biological warfare chemicals.
Boston is the ultimate smart city where it also gets tough when supporting the environment. Sensors located on many buildings can detect when greenhouse gas emissions are too high and software located in its vast sewer system help with maintenance in the tunnel areas of this vast network.
In Dublin, Ireland, the city is already commissioned by computer firm giant IBM to work with the local council to collate and collect information on traffic data. It can analyse traffic data in order to ease congestion.
Journey information is updated every minute so residents can plan to fastest route to their destination without hitting congested roads. Dublin traffic speeds are among the fastest in any western European capital.
It suggests the city will be quick and ready to jump on board with the smart driving technology that will soon grace all the world’s big cities. In London too, the transport system is the envy of much of the world. This city has introduced a congestion charge to vehicles entering certain central zones during busy periods.
The Oyster card is a smart way of getting about London via the public transport system. It is a credit card-sized pass to get you on the London Underground (the Tube), Rail links, Docklands Light Railway and its hundreds of buses.
The Power of Analytics and Business Intelligence
Analytics and business intelligence can create such an efficient and well managed city that some of these hubs will eventually become more powerful than nation states. Officials in Barcelona have created dynamic bus routes, trash collection with sensors, street lights that are super smart and payment on public transport is achieved by contactless cards.
Analytics and business intelligence is working dynamically in the African city of Johannesburg. It is the envy of all the African big cities with its broadband project and fibre optic wireless system that churns out data speeds of 1.2 Tb (terabytes). That would be impressive in any of the world’s biggest smart cities.
But Johannesburg has no plans to stop there. Smart meters that monitor all residents’ use of water and electricity are being rolled out to every household and to combat the city’s high crime rate, it plans on building an intelligence centre to monitor criminal activity at every level.
Masdar is a city that few will have heard of. It sits deep within the desert of Abu Dhabi in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). It is a thoroughly modern city with a claim to fame of being the world’s most sustainable place on earth.
There is a massive solar power station in its centre and plenty of wind farms to keep the entire city energised and environmentally friendly.
Driverless technology is king here. A series of pod cars take commuters around the city and there are no signs of any gas-powered vehicles in sight. They are not permitted in the city at all. Pedestrians walk the streets in total freedom and impunity.
The advanced technologies that run this city are so vast that the entire area was built on a raised platform. This allows technological and digital plumbing and repair to take place more efficiently and with greater accessibility. Smart driving is the only driving you can undertake in Masdar.
Singapore has always been a modern city that looks like something you might find on a distant planet. Its futuristic look and the innovative apps are keeping its citizens one step ahead of the rest.
Apps in Singapore are used to direct taxi drivers to areas where there might be rain in the next 10 minutes. It can highlight to the business and analytical community that using public transport is extremely busy at certain periods of the day. All of these apps are feeding information to commuters in real time so there will never be a time when one might say, “I hope the platform will not be too busy when I arrive at the train station”. Singaporeans will know in advance.
There are several concepts that make up a Smart city and all rely heavily on the use of modern and advancing technology. The arrival of 5G will undoubtedly propel the power of the Smart city in the realms never seen before.
Digital cities are ones which rely on a connected community that uses high-speed broadband to keep its industry standards at optimum levels. It is designed to meet the needs of its citizens, workers, employees and community members. It also helps businesses run with greater efficiency within the environment that surrounds them.
Information cities are ones that collect information and then deliver that data through a series of public portals. Many employees who work within information cities can access their entire working day from any space where there is a suitable Wi-Fi connection. In Smart cities this can be just about everywhere.
Smart cities can be predominantly Intelligent Cities. Technological innovations – like the ones we see in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona – set these places apart from the rest. It uses HCI, social media information, knowledge, experience and a learning process to collate data and turn our lives into a more efficient and productive state.
Digital Cities Springing Up All Over the World
You would not have to look very far to witness the magical aspect of digital cities. In Toronto there has been a part of the city that has been built up from the internet. The Eastern Water Front is used mainly as a pleasurable strolling district and a lunch spot for the thousands of Toronto’s high flying workforce.
It is a project owned by Google (or at least the parent company Alphabet). The once disused waterfront area is being built into a small metropolis. Although this city section of the future is still under construction, it promises to be a healthier and safer environment for all to live within.
There are going to be more sensors collecting data than you might imagine. Everything from traffic levels, air quality and waste collection services will be monitored by smart technologies. This could be a blueprint for how every city in the future will look. Urban life in the late 21st century will not look as it does now.