The Future Smart Cities is directly proportional to Digital Innovation, empowering citizens

In an IEEE survey of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) regarding the most important technologies for 2021 overall, AI and ML (32%), and IoT (14%) were noted as the most important technologies in 2021.

We are in an era where the need and demand for emerging technologies have experienced exponential growth - where many new technologies are directly useful in real life. Credit goes to the last five years that have seen rapid innovation and adoption of AI applications and IoT solutions. In an IEEE survey of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) regarding the most important technologies for 2021 overall, AI and ML (32%), and IoT (14%) were noted as the most important technologies in 2021. Presently, we have reached a certain level of maturity with these technologies and we are now working with the amalgamation of both termed as AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) where intelligence is derived effectively from the data collected by sensors. 5G is another such emerging technology that is crucial for bringing IoT applications to life within a smart city network – it has currently reached a stage where its deployment has begun slowly. 

While there has been a steady adoption of these emerging technologies, the pandemic has only accelerated digital adoption and smart cities that use intelligent technologies for sustainable growth and development of its citizens is no different. The purpose of a smart city is to improve efficiency, reduce waste and inconvenience, improve social and economic quality, maximize social inclusion, and promote sustainability by keeping the citizens at the core. The ability to use intelligent emerging technologies such as AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things), 5G, etc. to fulfil these goals is what makes a city ‘smart’. The accelerated development of these technologies is crucial to driving the evolution of Smart Cities. 

We are in the early stages of an edge computing revolution, 5G adoption, Digital Twin implementations as well as extended reality adoptions. Most of these technologies are in the prototyping phase. Being deployed as a mature solution requires extensive research and innovation as well as continuous prototyping and testing. Most of these technologies including AI, IoT, Robotics require extensive computing infrastructure and specialized expertise. To make innovation happen in these areas, these technologies require substantial investment for prototyping, deploying new solutions as well as upgrading legacy solutions. Some of the most prominent applications for Smart Cities include air pollution monitoring, smart waste management, potable water monitoring, Smart grids, photovoltaic installations, electromagnetic field levels monitoring, chemical leakage detection in rivers, intelligent shopping applications, supply chain monitoring, crop yield monitoring, and ultraviolet radiation measurement. Even though AI and IoT have progressed in making smart city solutions possible, it still has a long way to go towards making more effective solutions. Challenges such as data consistency, hardware interoperability, and security of the sensor networks are prevalent. Network bandwidth availability in most areas is also a challenge currently. The need for heavy computing and network power is a prerequisite. Other concerns such as data standardizations, IoT protocol standardizations, IoT hardware standardizations, and smart city framework standardization do exist although some of these standardization works are pursued by various renowned organizations. 

Smart city applications have significant potential in improving the quality of urban life. Let’s take a look at how this technology is powering Smart Cities: 

  • Smart applications can help cities fight crime and aid in improving other aspects of public safety. Real-time crime mapping from data collected by sensors deployed in the nearby areas could help in speeding up crime detection. Applications such as smart surveillance and home security systems can accelerate law-enforcement response by alerting them to an event. 
  • Smart solutions can aid in reducing commute time - cities that deploy smart-mobility applications could cut off the overall commute time for many. Cities with extensive, well-used transit systems benefit from applications that streamline the experience for riders. Using digital signage or mobile apps to deliver real-time information about delays enables riders to adjust their routes on the fly.

Installing IoT sensors on existing physical infrastructure can help crews fix problems before they turn into breakdowns and cause delays. Intelligent syncing of traffic signals has the potential to reduce average commutes by more than 5% in developing cities where most people travel by bus. Real-time navigation alerts drivers to delays and helps them choose the fastest route. Smart-parking apps point them directly to available spots, eliminating time spent fruitlessly circling city blocks.

  • Smart healthcare solutions are a catalyst for improved health - remote patient monitoring can use digital devices to take vital readings from patients and transmit that data securely to doctors in other locations. After assessment and upon reaching some threshold an alarm can be raised for both patients and doctors for intervention if needed. This is one such solution that could reduce the health burden in urban areas. Data collected from patients could potentially be clustered into various demographic groups with different risk profiles to target medical monitoring and intervention. Telemedicine, a solution that provides clinical consultations through videoconference, would be of huge benefit especially for small towns and villages with a shortage of doctors.
  • Smart solutions cater to more sustainable environments - with urbanization, industrial and consumption growth, pressure on the environment has multiplied. Solutions such as building automation systems, dynamic electricity pricing and other mobility applications could be combined to reduce carbon emissions. Tracking water consumption coupled with advanced metering with digital feedback messages can help people understand their usage and nudge them towards controlling their consumption and hence conservation. Deploying sensors and analytics to water pipes can help prevent leakage consistently. Detecting harmful pollutants with the help of air quality sensors could help in better decision-making by identifying the root cause deviating road traffic and construction accordingly. Sharing real-time air quality information with the public could enable individuals to take protective measures that can further reduce negative health effects. 

 Smart cities are no longer a thing of the future. They are emerging with the help of vision, excellent management, innovation, and commitment to meeting residents’ needs. Ultimately, it is individuals across the globe who should be empowered to shape the future of the cities - they call home.

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