With the inception of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, smart city initiatives have become a reality in many parts of the world. To begin with, IoT is not dependent on geographical locations or complexity ratios like population and per unit area of a city. In fact, with increased migration towards developed landscapes, there is an ever-increasing need for cities to effectively accommodate the surging population. In many of the major metropolitan cities in the world, such as Los Angeles, Barcelona, and Singapore, smart cities have already become a norm.
For instance, Los Angeles smart city initiative includes the utilization of IoT, data science, and sustainable resources to track and analyze the challenges faced in urban civilization. This includes detection of traffic-congested areas in the city, tracking pollution and water wastage, and most importantly, prevention against natural calamities like earthquakes and storms.
Similarly, Barcelona, the capitol of Spain, has benefitted from its investment in IoT in an attempt to deploy urban systems. In fact, Barcelona is identified as one of the first metropolitan cities to fully capacitate its citizens to utilize the perks of urban systems. Smart street lights, city bikes, smart waste disposal systems, noise sensors, bus transit systems, digital fabrication labs, and irrigation systems are prominent areas where Barcelona has shown immense potential in making the city smarter for its citizens.
Singapore has lived up to its reputation as one of the smartest cities in the world. An advanced healthcare ecosystem, known as Healthcity Novena, is focused on improving the overall health of its citizens and promotes reliability on specialist care for vulnerable patients. Similarly, there are smart housing solutions that provide free of cost public housing to people. This is focused on promoting healthier living environments and sustainability in the long run. Last but not the least, the Walk Cycle Ride initiative is yet smart city solution that focuses on creating recreational living spaces, while also promoting sustainable energy consumption and lesser pollution.
What is a smart city?
Smart cities can be understood as urban establishments, which use modern-day technologies like Big Data and Internet of Things to elevate the efficiency and speed of urban lifestyle and its services. The concept of smart cities is made possible by sustainable communication and information collection technologies. These act as a framework for addressing the challenges posed by urban ecosystems in general.
In a typical smart city, all the machines are connected with each other as one single unit, along with sensors, meters, and next-gen devices that collect and analyze data in real-time. This collected data is then utilized to provide optimized services to the citizens, including better roads, improved sewage and water systems, traffic systems, and most importantly, improved home security and healthcare.
Why do we need smart cities?
Currently, with increased population and more footprints moving towards urban cities and establishments, resources are being exhausted at a much higher speed. Thus, urban ecosystems in developed countries are already looking at sustainable development options, in order to be able to cater to the increasing day to day demands of its citizens. Looking at the current state of affairs, it is quite understandable that smart cities are an inevitable part of the future world.
Fortunately, world leaders and researchers have realized over time that urbanization is a never-ending process and the fact that adapting to smart and sustainable living solutions is the only way to leading a long and healthy life.
Now, how is IoT technology making cities smarter and better?
Smart cities are known to not only improve the quality of life but rather they also help in utilizing the resources more effectively. IoT technology can capacitate homes, commercial buildings, cars, streets, water systems, and traffic systems to get connected to each other over a common intelligent network. This distinguished network of connectivity can exchange and process real-time data through the use of digital cloud and wireless technology.
The data collected by citizens and urban authorities can be used to improve the quality of life as well as to ensure better utilization of resources!
Imagine living in a world where wireless communication systems are capable of replacing traditional elements. Not only this, but it also increases efficiency and transforms everyday elements, such as home security, traffic signals, street lights, solar power, and water systems into easy, manageable elements that you can access and use right from your smart devices. It is, in fact, truly revolutionary to be part of an ecosystem where superior technologies like IoT and cloud-based computing can create a common central control system for real-time data collection and optimization of resources.
Smart solutions for smart cities
Although IoT has been around for sometime, cost estimation is a critical snag. Given the series of hardware, software, and firmware systems involved, IoT projects are difficult to budget and could affect the planned implementation.
As per a report from Smart City World, lack of sufficient funds is a major bottleneck in cost planning for smart cities. This is because making a city smart involves installing hundreds of smart devices and integrating them to produce accurate data. This gets highly complex especially in densely populated metro cities.
Moreover, deploying smarter solutions to impact the complete geographic population is a huge project that demands technical prowess. IoT is trustworthy but the resources driving it may not be adept enough. Such a lag in producing highly skilled hardware and software engineers has compelled governments to pull back committed capital.
Imagine thousands of devices around New York city transmitting data uninterruptedly and faultlessly. Achieving such an ecosystem requires consistent monitoring & maintenance. When IoT setups in a confined industrial facility tend to fail (because of poor development) and cause massive disruption, imagine what it could do to a whole city.
Large scale deployments attract large scale cyber attacks and Smart Cities will always tempt data breachers. For example, in 2015, a cyber attack on Ukraine disrupted the power of more than 2,30,000 citizens. To combat such risks, high grade security solutions are required and the current budgets are not prepared for it. This further complicates the cost planning.
IoT is meant to fasten critical processes and simplify the lives of the citizens. A small snag anywhere in the network could have adverse results. Besides the overarching solution development itself, the stakeholders must foresee the aftermaths, foresee installations and delegate appropriate budgets. And that can only happen if effective cost planning is strategized.
Before initiating any smart city project, the concerned authorities could use an IoT project cost estimator to evaluate the approximate time, effort, and cost involved in the project. Using an IoT calculator, businesses can come to concise standpoints and generate editable reports representing each stage of the development process.
Based upon the inputs, the calculator reverts with the closest possible timeline of the project including the project scoping phase, engineering prototypes and production prototypes.
An IoT calculator enables cost and time estimation based on the type of smart initiatives, such as smart office/retail building, healthcare, smart homes, industrial IoT, smart agriculture, transport, and a smart city as a whole! This estimation also takes into consideration the components that will be part of a particular smart IoT solution. This includes components like custom hardware, web application, mobile application, and cloud connectivity to name a few.
Such a tool could abbreviate the hassles in cost planning to a greater extent while empowering the decision makers to undergo a massive city makeover with hyper care.
Smart Cities are possibly the largest deployment ever and should be budgeted after comprehensive understanding of the risks discussed earlier. With detailed scoping of the resources (whether device or human) required, stakeholders could benefit from better visibility of impact. This will enable them to formulate the capital in phases, clearly understand the areas of high priority and those that can wait. Therefore, with adequate budgeting, the overall implementation of the IOT landscape will lessen the probability of run time faults and save millions.
If the budget accommodates qualitative engineers and devices, a longer future of the deployment with an opportunity to make it better at the run time becomes actionable.
Furthermore, more services could be added to the suite ensuring secure adoption.
Solutions for smart cities continued
Smart traffic solutions
Intelligent systems and tracking algorithms that can collect real-time pollution levels and traffic proportions in the city throughout the day.
Open data solutions
Connected vehicles and computing systems that individuals living in a smart city can utilize to maintain transparency and to steer clear of congested roads, polluted areas, and other aspects of an urban ecosystem.
Probably one of the most revolutionary benefits of the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing is improved healthcare. In smart cities, where all data is collected across citizens and devices, it becomes easier for hospitals and healthcare professionals to track an individual’s health. Not only this, the seamless collection and interpretation of data can also lead to the prevention of chronic illnesses.
As is the primary goal of coming up with innovative technologies and ideas, smart cities are turning out to be a great initiative for saving the environment as well. Less water consumption, decreased levels of pollution due to lesser emission of harmful gases, solar energy solutions, and intelligent electricity/energy utilization will all contribute towards a healthier environment.
Benefits and Examples of Smart Cities
Amsterdam Smart City Solution
Amsterdam is one of the top contenders when it comes to smart city development. With more than 170 smart city initiatives that began as early as in the year 2009, Amsterdam is the perfect example of a well-connected city, with optimized transportation and traffic data utilizations. Applications that track and analyze data about the city’s core transportation and traffic systems have proven to be a breakthrough and first of its kind initiative in Europe.
London’s Smart Parking Project
London has already begun testing its smart parking projects, where drivers can use real-time data to identify parking spots in the city without the need to drive around for lengthy stretches. The subsequent test runs and smart solutions are still under observation. Once deployed along with the much-awaited bike-sharing and electric car programs, it would largely solve traffic congestion grievances in the UK’s capital city.
New York’s Smart City Initiatives
Given the number of weapon crimes in the United States, the city of New York has begun testing the gunshot detection technology across Bronx and Brooklyn police precincts. When completely implemented, it would help neutralize the crime rates in the city.
Back in 2015, New York witnessed the inception of the popular connected cars program. With real-time data collected and analyzed over connected cloud networks, authorities were able to identify the locations where drivers made sharp turns or applied abrupt brakes because of traffic or other elements. This data was later utilized to improve the traffic system and condition of roads in the city.
Digital solutions for sustainable future
With more and more metropolitan ecosystems adopting the smart city approach, IoT technology and digital solutions are proving to be the backbone of this sustainable development. Digital solutions, such as cloud computing, digital twin technology, and communication technologies can help in developing, deploying, and tracking modern-day smart city solutions around the world.