This article first appeared in Smart Cities World.
Data is the new fuel running the world’s leading economies. In this new paradigm, the collection and analysis of data through information and communications technology not only allows unimagined possibilities to flourish but also makes it possible to optimise existing infrastructure.
And, when technology imbues traditionally inert urban elements – such as waste bins, drainage systems, buildings and street lighting – with savvy data capabilities and sophisticated digital intelligence, the enormous appeal and potential of a smart city becomes clear.
For decades, technology has laid the foundation for further economic growth, and every era since the Industrial Revolution has focused on a unique piece of technology that helped advance the age. We find ourselves today in what is commonly acknowledged as the information technology epoch, where the collection, utilisation and interpretation of information and data play a key role in leveraging growth, energy efficiency and cost savings.
The notion of a smart city — and the benefits that they can provide — is especially pressing given the world’s rapidly growing urban population. According to the United Nations, more than 55 percent of the earth’s population live in cities today, with that percentage is expected to expand by a factor of 1.2 during the next 30 years.
Such fast, often-unprepared-for growth leads to related economic and social issues. Smart city technology can help address urban challenges, especially in the areas of resource allocation and management.
In some cities, for instance, internet-connected waste bins are modernising a core city service. With sensors monitoring the amount of trash accumulating in bins, waste-management authorities can optimise refuse collection, scheduling pick-up at a time least disruptive to city residents — while working maximally with other city services — to produce the greatest efficiencies.
In a similar way, smart drainage systems can communicate blockages to city operators, allowing maintenance and cleaning to be carried out in advance of heavy rainfall to prevent flooding — at the same time, saving the city from potentially incurring millions of dollars in repair and replacement costs.
Meanwhile, smart homes and smart street lighting allow the tracking of energy use, and smart sensors in street intersections and smart ticketing pave the way for smoother road traffic and more effective public transportation.
Smart city verticals
IHS Markit segments smart city projects into six different verticals, with physical infrastructure, mobility and transport, and energy and resource efficiency as the top three vertical categories.
The most common smart city projects within these categories, in turn, are smart lighting, intelligent transport systems and smart-utility metering. Safety and security, governance and healthcare are the three other verticals, as shown in the diagram below.
Together with physical, hardwired projects, software plays an important role in the wide promotion of smart city projects. Multiple software-based services act as a platform and emphasise the benefits of the full adoption of a smart city.
Such services, which use advanced cloud computing facilities, include Mobility as a Service (MaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Information as a Service (IaaS) and Enterprise as a Service (EaaS).
Through consolidated apps, these services incorporate software, infrastructure and platform offerings, alongside additional process-management and enterprise-governing service layers, to help both citizens and businesses carry out everyday tasks like commuting, shopping and paying for goods and services.
Placing people at the centre
The term ‘smart cities’ is not simply a destination or state of mind. In fact, it is an eminently pragmatic endeavour that puts a city’s inhabitants at the centre, aiming to solve the needs of citizens through the intelligent use of information infrastructure.
Smart city initiatives facilitate effective resource use while also helping to preserve the environment, create jobs and boost quality of life.
Although a broad term of reference, smart cities at their core have the tremendous potential to adopt and absorb many other concepts, including state-of-the-art research now being carried out across various urban disciplines and settings, such as transportation, healthcare, real estate, retail and energy.
Additional areas of interest and import include mobile and on-demand shopping, autonomous public transportation, connected cars, ride-hailing services, air transport, blockchain technology and machine-learning in the energy sector – practically any, and all, aspects relating to modern-day urban living.
The time is now
As smart cities continue to proliferate in the all-connected internet-of-things (IoT) universe, the time is now for companies both new and old to take advantage of the promise of the IoT to grow and create unique business ventures. Participating in the IoT revolution, however, requires the deft navigation of multiple challenges crisscrossing the IoT ecosystem.
IHS Markit expects to see a surge in the number of smart cities across the globe – a 26 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected between 2018 and 2022. This is mainly due to rising adoption of devices smart devices such as smart appliances, smart devices for healthcare, and smart automotive equipment – all of which aim to improve overall quality of life.