Five Technologies that any Smart City Needs to Cater

Multiple reports have stated that in the next 5-7 years the smart city industry will witness a tremendous boom and the market is expected to reach a valuation of over $400 billion.

Gone are the days when the term ‘Smart City’ was associated with the future. Smart cities are here and are gaining momentum and growth as we speak. The growth of smart cities is directly in correlation to the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT), which is profoundly impacting the services of public corporations all around the globe. The term became famous when it was coined by politicians, businesses, engineers, builders and even entrepreneurs all around the world. While there is a multitude of definitions making rounds, we try to help you understand the concept of smart cities in the simplest of ways.

A smart city is a city that makes use of connective digital technology, such as actuators, sensors and other equipment to create a connected network of devices all across the city. The system of components plays a vital role and impacts all level functioning in the city, right from the air the population breathes or the water they drink to the transport system and the room temperature. The data in a smart city may even be analysed to deduce trends and derive patterns, which can be used to make alterations for effective functioning.

But why do we require a smart city over a typical city? A smart city comes with a flurry of features which makes them better than the current infrastructure. The features that showcase the superiority of smart cities are:

  • A smart city provides sustainability to its inhabitants as it makes the maximum use of minimum resources while deducing a sustainable pattern.
  • A smart city makes the most of existing infrastructure and the components required to drive a smart city are installed without substantial modifications.
  • Another idea that exists around smart cities is the idea of shared ownership, as it may reduce the resource exploitation and promote assets sharing among the population.
  • The leading player of a smart city is its data, which can be leveraged to keep citizens informed of their activities and help make the most of the resources.

Multiple reports have stated that in the next 5-7 years the smart city industry will witness a tremendous boom and the market is expected to reach a valuation of over $400 billion. It is also likely that by 2020, there will be over 600 smart cities on the planet and would play a crucial role in generating a fair share of the world’s GDP. The idea of a smart city revolves around utilizing the already available assets more efficiently to meet the growing demand for space. A smart city incorporates the touch of technology to provide additional visibility and access to available services in the city. Below are five key technologies that any smart city needs to cater to enable efficient and sustainable living.

  1. Smart Energy

The essential need of any smart city may be considered its energy. Energy drives all technology and fuels the human life during every activity, be it work, shopping, dining, playing or even sleeping. Energy requirements are at all-time high now and are expected to grow even more. A smart city should cater smart energy to its buildings, which can be done through leveraging latest technologies, resulting in high energy efficiency. 

In an ideal smart city, all buildings should use energy-efficient lighting systems, which include digital communications enabled LED lighting.  The ability of LED lights to save vast amounts of energy and pay for itself in a few years is the primary reason to choose an LED lighting system. Moreover, the LED lights can be incorporated into the current infrastructure without any hassle. Apart from lighting, smart energy also includes electric vehicles, energy-efficient electrical appliances and much more.

To create sustainable energy usage, a smart city should heavily rely on renewable energy sources, which above all consists of solar power. Channelling solar power to generate electricity should be the primary source of energy generation in a smart city, as it leads to less burning of fossil fuels, which lowers the pollution levels. Fitting in solar power systems in both residential and commercial buildings can leave a highly positive impact on the carbon footprint of the city and help citizens create a fully renewable source energy system.

All the energy goes through grids, which are smart in case of a smart city. Smart grids can help implement some useful systems, some of which are prepaid energy applications, improved outage detections, advanced metering and disaster recovery. The smart grid uplifts the whole smart energy ecosystem of the city, making the energy department more competent and moving towards efficient energy use.

Altogether, a smart city should have a robust data system, which collects and analyses data on the energy consumption of the residents. This data can be used to gain new insights and create an improved grid management system, regulate power production and usage and create a competent energy distribution mechanism. Further, the residents who monitor their energy usage can excessively reduce their costs by implementing specific measures, which can lower the bills and increase the energy efficiency of their homes, which in turns helps the city and all its inhabitants. But a smart energy system is prone to hacks as it is a digital system, which makes it imperative for the concerned bodies to invest highly in security measures to protect the system from an attack.

2. Smart Transportation

The transportation system in a city is critical to maintaining mobility. The current state of transportation in many parts of the world is riddled with congestion, jams, and inefficiency. However, a smart city moves past all that. A smart city supports a multi-modal transportation system, which involves electric cars, smart traffic lights, and even smart parking. By implementing a smart system for parking, the productivity of the population increases, as they don’t have to wander off in search of parking spaces and lose precious time. 

One other critical area that a smart transportation system affects is the congestion. As smart parking is implemented, people know where and when to park their cars, which helps reduce congestion on the road. Furthermore, smart traffic lights come with cameras, which monitor the flow of the traffic on the road which can then reflect in the traffic signals. So a road which has relatively low traffic might see a longer wait time over a road which is congested, to help clear the congestion, after which the traffic lights can return to their regular rate of change. These smart traffic lights also enable law enforcement to stay alert and identify lawbreakers easily, resulting in a proficient fine-collection system.

The smart transportation system also connects the public transport, which provides real-time information to citizens on arrival of buses and other transportations. As the transport system flourishes, it collects data about the movement of the people, vehicles and traffic rates through numerous sensors, which helps in reducing vehicle traffic and helps the city travel smoothly and safely.

3. Smart data

Data is what constitutes a smart city, as it is collected through every sensor, small or big to be used further. The massive amount of data collected is worthless without analysis, and it must be analysed quickly in order to prove fruitful. Once the data is analysed, the results can be used to offer some modifications to the systems of the city to create a more efficient system. Even the smallest amounts of data, be it the temperature inside your room or how many cars are standing at a traffic light can be used in one way or the other to benefit the citizens. As the smart city is one giant hub of data-sets, smart data is one technology it needs to cater.

To analyse the data, certain resources and infrastructure are required, which is why many agencies search for new options to analyse the data. Open data portals have emerged as a new trend where the data (highly scrutinized) on a city is published online by the relevant authorities so that any company or individual can gain access to it and use their own algorithm to assess future trends. This data then can be suggested to the relevant authorities who can take actions based on it. Therefore it is really essential to get an insight of data and how data is analysed to extract relevance out of it. People contributing towards this dream of creating smart cities tend to learn data science in order to draft their vision into numbers. Smart data holds the key to development.

4. Smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices

The devices are the key components which tie everything up together in a smart city. A smart city should come with an assortment of actuators and sensors, which collect relevant data for the betterment of the city’s different systems. Data from multiple devices such as visibility devices, speed sensors, pollution sensors and many more is what indeed runs a smart city. 

In a smart city, data or information may be obtained directly from tactically deployed sensors or even from sensors sited for other purposes but which congregate secondary and useful information as well. As this information is freely exchanged, multiple multifaceted systems in the city can be managed with 0 delay-time and minimize unintended results. As more and more sensors are deployed, and the dependency on these sensors increase, the need for them to be accurate and reliable as low-quality will gravely impact the systems they are connected with.

But the uncountable sensors that will be deployed in a smart city come with their set of challenges as well. As the number of sensors increase from thousands to millions and then billions in a city, the bandwidth availability will be seriously challenged, unless novel technologies are brought in which keep bandwidth usage to a minimum even when the number of devices increases. But then again, the multitude of devices also poses a malware or hack threat, and considering the gravity of the requirement of these devices, the relevant authorities need to keep data security in check. These devices and systems together make a smart city even smarter, and they are required to continue the uplifting process as we go along.

5. Smart infrastructure

A smart city’s infrastructure is the abode of growth and sustainability at the same time. A smart city should have a smart infrastructure, while helps the city analyse data better and allow proactive maintenance and plan for the future. For example, a system which can check the lead content in the city’s water supply in real-time could prevent a serious and large-scale health issue. The smart infrastructure also helps implement new technologies to move ahead.

A smart infrastructure should respond in real-time to the needs of the users. The needs may be big or small, but the infrastructure should be ready to handle them. Also, a self-aware infrastructure takes care of its own maintenance, which reduces the downtime and promotes better operational efficiency. 

The crucial need of a smart infrastructure arises due to the need for better information. Better information shows the way to an enhanced understanding of how the infrastructure behaves in different situations. This, in turn, helps the authorities make the infrastructure better, where data generated from the infrastructure acts as a feedback loop. The data can help transform the construction, health, productivity and other systems of the city, which increase productivity, and cut down on the carbon footprint while promoting a sustainable living system.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house