By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is predicted to be living in cities.1 As the world continues to urbanise, sustainable development challenges rapidly increase, from traffic congestion to housing and energy consumption problems. Integrated, innovative actions are urgently needed to overcome these challenges.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city technology has great potential to help manage and reduce urban strain. Real-time data from IoT sensors embedded throughout a city can be collected and analysed to gain new insights into city infrastructure, population, and local services. This, in turn, can be used to optimise efficiencies, improve sustainability and enhance people’s daily lives.
We believe Smart Cities have key attributes incorporating engaged citizens resilience as a key component of their strategic plans and strong engagement with the innovation community.
Smart cities are often measured by their adoption of IoT related technology such as traffic sensors, intelligent lighting and waste management, smart grid technologies, Wi-Fi access points, smartphone penetration, and app innovation. Most cities are still in the early stages of implementation, but looking at different examples from around the world can provide valuable lessons in what is currently working well, and what can be improved in the future.
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Market research firm Juniper Research ranked Singapore as the smartest city in the world last year, largely for the city’s innovation in mobility and data technology, as well as its fixed and cellular broadband services, city apps and strong open data policy.
A vast number of sensors and cameras are gradually being installed across the city to provide real-time data updates on everything from the exact movements of registered vehicles to the density of crowds. Major investments in road sensors, smart traffic lights, and smart parking contribute to the city’s impressive traffic management.
Smart applications connected to sensors even help citizens measure and improve their use of water and electricity, dramatically reducing household costs.
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Barcelona is known as the tech hub of Spain for good reason. The city has 19,500 smart energy meters and more than 1,100 LED streetlights, which only switch on when movement is detected. It has sensors embedded into roads to monitor parking and traffic flow, plus has Wi-Fi on buses. Local smart bins monitor waste levels and send alerts to be emptied once full, significantly improving waste collection processes.
Sensors have also been installed to monitor the city’s noise, rain, humidity and air quality. A smart irrigation system has even been effectively used to address drought conditions and improve water conservation.
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London has long been a leading early adopter of smart city technology, focusing its initial efforts on improving congestion and parking with smart traffic technology – for example, traffic lights that respond in favour of public transport vehicles.
More recently, the city has made impressive strides with open data initiatives as part of its London Datastore program, which has been credited with increasing accountability in government and transforming how the city is organised.
London is also deploying more than 28,000 smart streetlights, which will help achieve energy savings goals and reduce operational costs.
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Amsterdam has started to offer home energy solar panels and storage units for houses connected to the city's smart grid. These batteries help reduce strain on the grid at peak times by allowing citizens to stockpile energy during off-peak hours. Residents can also sell their spare energy from solar panels back to the grid.
With water making up 50% of the surface area in Amsterdam, autonomous boats or ‘roboats’ are being used in many creative ways, from river taxis to delivery boats.
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Songdo was built in just 10 years on the outskirts of Seoul, South Korea, with smart city technology embedded within the infrastructure from the outset. The city has an electric-vehicle infrastructure, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, homes with connected video screens, and emergency-service drones. It also boasts one of the world’s most environmentally friendly waste disposal systems – there are no garbage trucks, just a vast network of underground pipes that suck rubbish from homes directly to processing centres.
Despite this, many believe Songdo’s technology is already outdated or obsolete, with the city often referred to as an artificial ghost town. Only a small percentage of the available space is currently occupied by people, meaning many of Songdo’s sensors have nothing to measure.
Songdo provides an interesting example of the importance of the end user in contributing to the development of a smart city. IoT technology may not be as successful when used as a tool for rapid development with a heavy top-down implementation. Instead, taking a socio-cultural approach as seen in Barcelona or Amsterdam can help ensure solutions will meet the real needs of people now and in the future.
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Located near to Songdo, but home to over 10 million people, Seoul has been successfully incorporating IoT technology into practically every aspect of daily life. Of particular note is its online electric vehicle technology which allows electric public buses to be charged as they travel along road surfaces.
The city also has a Ubiquitous Healthcare (U-healthcare) service that provides telehealth check-ups and consultations through medical smart devices.
Where does your organisation fit in?
Smart city technology is providing countless ways to overcome the challenges of urbanisation, and opening up a world of opportunities, from improving the livability of our cities to uncovering exciting new commercial gains.
As government and the private sector engage with smart city technology, it’s vital for your organisation to consider how it can benefit from smart city development, where it stands on fundamental issues, and incorporate IoT into long term business strategy.
To find out more about the future of smart cities visit our government solutions page.
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1 United Nations, 2014, https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/publications/files/wup2014-highlights.Pdf
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