Imagine your city has technology designed specifically to better your quality of life. The technology is so efficient and seamless that you rarely realize it’s there. But, you notice your commute is faster, crime in your neighborhood is down, and the air is clear of smog. This is a reality a growing number of cities across the world are experiencing. Smart city technology makes it possible.
What is a smart city?
A smart city uses data and technology to increase efficiencies and improve citizens’ daily lives. Why are a rising number of cities across the world investing in smart city technology? The United Nations predicts that the majority of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. This naturally brings an increase in environmental, societal, and economic challenges. Smart city technology can help overcome some of these challenges and make cities better places to live.
So, what types of technology help make a smart city “smart”? Here are some examples smart cities rely on:
- Internet of things (IoT) – The IoT is a network of physical connected devices that “talk” to each other by exchanging data. The IoT connects the technology in a smart city. IoT devices include sensors, lights, and meters that collect and analyze data.
- Sensors – Electronic, infrared, thermal, and proximity sensors collect electronic signals that are then interpreted by humans or AI. In a smart city, sensors may be installed to monitor power consumption, lighting, traffic, weather, etc.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) – AI is the simulation of machines designed to mimic human decision making. For example, AI can count vehicles, pedestrians, or any other movements and keep track of their speeds. AI can detect faces, read license plates, and process all satellite data in order to establish patterns necessary for city planning.
- Augmented reality (AR) – AR allows you to see your real-life environment with a digital augmentation over it. AR technology can enhance smart cities in a number of ways including emergency management and disaster preparedness. For example, AR can provide tips on where to find nearby events, restaurants, retailers, hotels, parking, or transport hubs. AR can also direct people where to find exits and evacuation points during an emergency.
- Geospatial technology – This is a collection of tools that help with geographic mapping. These tools include:
- WiFi – WiFi is a basic building block of a smart city. It links everything from smartphones and other devices to wireless sensors. Signals from common WiFi enabled devices like smartphones and wearables can be used to plot a person’s location.
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – BLE is used in many devices like smartphones, smart watches, and BLE beacons. These beacons are wireless transmitters that make their location known by broadcasting a signal at regular intervals.
- Global Positioning System (GPS) – GPS is a satellite based navigation system that provides positioning, navigation, and timing services.
- Ultra-wideband (UWB) – UWB is a radio technology for short-range, wireless communications. It can continuously scan radar, find an object and its location, and communicate with it.
- Geospatial technology can help in emergency response situations to improve commute and transportation. It can also play an important role in supporting public health. Geospatial technology can map a disease outbreak, like COVID-19, and track its spread.
These technologies are the base of a smart city. Skyfii’s IO Connect tool, part of the IO Platform, harnesses data from these sources as well as people counters, drones, and WiFi location data. This data is then analyzed by Skyfii’s IO Insight tool resulting in specific alerts, insights, or actions that can be used by the public, companies, and cities.
Smart city benefits
The McKinsey Global Institute found smart city technology can improve key quality of life indicators— cost of living, safety, time, jobs, connectedness, environment, and health— by 10 to 30 percent. Let’s dive into a few of these benefits smart city technology provides:
Better traffic flow
Traffic is one of the main annoyances for many city residents, but smart city technology offers some solutions. For example, public transport routes can adjust in real-time according to demand and intelligent traffic lights can improve congestion and traffic flow. Smart technology can also alert residents to use public transit during off-hours. In many cities, public transit riders can track their bus or train locations and change routes if needed.
Improved energy efficiency and health
Given that city populations are growing, a limited supply of natural resources will increasingly be an issue. Smart technologies give cities the tools to effectively conserve and reduce unnecessary waste of water and electricity. Smart sensors now allow cities to quickly identify leaks in pipes and fix damaged areas in a shorter amount of time. Street lights with LED technology adjust or dim based on real-time data. Homes equipped with smart energy meters reward residents’ reduced energy consumption.
In terms of health, air-quality sensors can identify pollution sources and provide action steps to reduce emissions. Residents’ ability to consult with their doctor via video conference and life-saving, timely messages regarding vaccinations or sanitation can also help community health.
Air quality tester
Smart city technology like Wi-Fi, IoT, and surveillance cameras can improve resident safety and increase incident response times. Law enforcement can benefit from detailed and fast information provided by license plate recognition, connected crime centers, and body cameras. New surveillance camera features like facial recognition, fire, and smoke alarm capabilities, and even locking and unlocking of doors all help lower the risk of crime. These technologies work together to make communities safer.
Infrastructure components including roads, bridges, and buildings require huge investments to maintain and repair as they age. Smart city technology, like predictive analytics, can identify areas that need to be fixed before there is a failure. Smart sensors identify structural changes, tilts, or cracks in buildings and bridges. The sensors then send messages that indicate the need for inspections or maintenance. As you can imagine, this helps cities save tax dollars and lives on preventable infrastructure failures.
Better citizen collaboration and feedback
Does your neighborhood have an online community or app that allows you to report local issues, connect with your neighbors, or even share resources? Smart city technology encourages residents to get more involved and provides services that save time and add an element of ease. In many smart cities, residents are easily connected to their city’s governing body where they can give feedback on how they want their city to be. Some smart cities allow residents to use a low-cost environmental testing kit to collect data on air pollution and noise. The data is streamed to an online platform and creates a crowdsourced map of data from all over the world.