Cities have always been the center of pollution and have been criticized for not taking into consideration the environmental impact of the actions. In recent times, this has been changing with the advent of smart cities. The idea behind a smart city is to provide a high-quality, sustainable living for the people by using the Internet of Things, data, sensors, etc. So, what are smart cities, and what are the things that make the city smart?
Smart cities use the data collected by the sensors, actuators, and other technologies to connect each component of the city. Today the pollution levels everywhere in the world are rising, this issue can be solved by better management of transportation, noise pollution, and waste. Smart cities can also help understand the demand of people in a much more precise way, help the businesses to cater to the needs of the customer in a more efficient way. These cities can also help create demand if the data is utilized and analyzed well.
Let us talk about Barcelona, one of the pioneers in the smart city race. The city has been one of the worst in the air quality index just a few years earlier and was well about European Union restricted norms for AQI. The plan was prepared to counter this, this plan includes real-time updating of the necessary details and this is done automatically by sensors, the necessary details include to check if the parking slot is occupied or not, if the road is clear or not, if it is safe for the pedestrians to travel on road at that specific point in time, it also indicates to the Municipal Corporation of the city if there is a need to clear the garbage in time. Activities like this will improve the response time and optimize the management to ensure a better quality of life for the citizens living. In smart city scenarios, there is also a need for information security and, smart cities are taking care of this by options like restricted access, making citizens aware, providing awareness on the initiatives to the citizens by providing learning platforms online, more on this will be explained in detail later in the information security sub-topic.
“Smart city is not a destination; it is a process.”
For a city to be considered smart, it should have a sustainable energy source, waste management, optimize transportation and parking, smart infrastructure, smarter irrigation techniques, clear air to breathe, good quality water to drink. Most smart cities today have an app of their own to update and also analyze the progress in real-time.
The building blocks of a smart city are smart buildings, which can optimize the energy needs of the building itself like switching off the lights, Air conditioners, and other appliances when there is no need and self-sustained energy sources like solar. Smart buildings work on the technology of motion sensors, IoT. Smart buildings can also be used to CFCs emitted by the appliances in the building to reduce Ozone depletion, in turn having a much higher impact on sustainability and reducing global warming. Smart buildings these days are also capable of notifying the wear and tear caused in the buildings to an extent of where exactly the issue is detected and can warn
the residents if there is any need. These sensors can also predict natural disasters like floods, rains, thunders, etc. if the city/building is close to such environments by using analytics.
Super Blocks are small areas in the city’s architecture, are designed to reduce vehicular traffic inside these blocks to increase pedestrian traffic, the safety of pedestrians (by reducing the number of accidents), increasing the street businesses, and reducing pollution in the neighborhood. This concept in the testing stage in the city of Barcelona to see its impact and scale the concept further.
In this concept, Cars and other heavy vehicles are only allowed into the inside of these superblocks if the speed of the vehicle is around 10kmph which will not harm pedestrians, there are roads around these superblocks for regular usage of vehicles. In this way by segregating the traffic, giving rise to many small size street businesses, the economy of the city rises, air and noise pollution inside these superblocks can be controlled. Barcelona’s city architecture helps in forming superblocks, but the concept cannot just be used in a block structure, can be expanded as per any city’s architecture and requirements.
Smart Energy Management:
Energy management can be done better when the information on the usage of the energy/fuel is available for the public and measures are published. For instance, if the electricity bill of any property is being generated, it would be beneficial for citizen's sake and the city as a whole to include how much energy is being utilized by each component in the house by measuring this data using sensors attached to each appliance. Analytics performed on this data can provide insights for the city’s management team to improve the efficiency and take further steps on educating the citizens on how to save energy by sharing the impacts of the same on the environment and life as a whole. The energy distribution can be further advanced with more efficient technologies like smart grid to localize the power generation and provide a continuous power supply.
Smart Transportation & Parking:
Smart transportation and parking management system implemented in smart cities use real-time tracking and analytics of the system in place in the city by providing accurate locations to find a vacant parking slot in the nearby area for parking issues and also, increase the supply of public transport routing in the areas that are seeing increasing demand by taking into consideration like, time and number of passengers to optimize the utility of the transport system of the city as a whole.
The other advantage of smart transportation is that it can detect accidents and can help in providing healthcare in time to save the victim’s life. This technology has been in place in some of the smart cities, however, full-scale implementation on a global landscape is expected to take time.
Smart Waste management:
This is already implemented in many cities, there are sensors attached to the garbage bins to send a signal to the municipal corporation when the garbage in the bin reaches a certain level, the disposal vehicle is routed per the optimized routing and time management to ensure timely collection of waste. Involving the citizens in such activities by rewarding the best street/area in terms of management of waste can create good competition and improve the city’s waste management. This kind of activity of rewarding can also work in receiving feedback from the citizens that can lead to innovative solutions or even direct innovations from the residents itself. Ownership and recognition are the keys to a successful implementation of any project.
Educating the citizens of the state/city:
The success of a smart city depends highly on the involvement of citizens. Whenever there is some new technology that is being implemented, not every citizen is well-versed with the happenings. Hence, there is always a need to create awareness among citizens. A few cities have offered free courses online to counter the issue, this learnings also make the people aware of how the feedback loop works, the progress of each small project, and also the holistic impacts of these projects in improving the city’s economy and environmental concerns. The involvement of citizens is one of the key success factors as they are the primary stakeholders. All the details can be updated in the city app to make the content available for everyone free of cost at just a click of a button.
Benefits & impacts of Smart city:
There are many benefits to smart cities than just environmental concerns and transportation management as though these are the most prominent ones. The other benefits are as follows:
• Improved economic situation of the city
• Increasing competitiveness of the city
• Increased literacy of the citizens
• Improved waste management systems
• Better education for the students
• Increased transparency of the issues and recognitions among the citizens
• Improved quality of life
• Increased employment opportunities, in turn improving the standard of living of the people, residing
These benefits may not be exhaustive but can provide an idea of how many ways smart cities can impact the living conditions of the people. Hence, smart city projects are being taken seriously by almost all governments in developed countries and developing countries.
Whenever there is data made available on the public forum, that too very minute details such as several vehicles/residents in a specific area at a specific point in time, there is always a high degree of security required to counter data breaches that could lead to terrorist threats. Hence, Information/data security is a vital part of a smart city and its future. Citizens and their safety are the key concerns for this project. A few smart cities in Europe have tried to fight these threats my data localization, increased security infrastructure such as restricted access to confidential data files to citizens. Although there are many tools today for data security, the needs of smart city data’s security are not different from any organization, the stakes are high in this case (the safety of citizens), hence, extra measures need to be taken, the public should be made aware of the possible ways of a data breach. The security guidelines have been issued with the utmost care and these should be updated regularly with all the newer patterns of threats.
Some Facts on Smart City investments & its Future:
• The smart industry market is projected to be over $ 400 billion constituting of over 600 cities according to McKinsey in the coming years
• According to WHO, 70% of the global population will be living in cities by 2050
• Around 1.3 million people are currently moving into cities every week as per smartcityhub.com
• Top 600 urban centers generate 60% of the global GDP today, use around 60-80% of the world’s annual energy needs according to the smart city hub
• The number of connected devices in the world is expected to cross 50 billion devices soon according to cisco
• Smart cities are expected to hit revenue of $1 trillion in the coming years according to Statista
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