The Smart City Transformation Has Already Begun
Recent projections predict that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban metropolis areas. This makes it imperative that the cities of the future are smart, urban localities that are healthy, enjoyable places to live, work and play.
Smart urban centers of the future will be places where roads, automobile dashboards and lamp posts communicate with one another, making life in cities safer and easier. The smart city transformation has already begun in many cities across the U.S. A smart city connects key things in the environment using advanced technology, such as 5G wireless and the Internet of Things (IoT). The types of things that will be connected include streets, traffic signals, vehicles, personal devices, power grids and buildings, all rapidly communicating in real-time.
Imagine public buses that trigger sensors in the roads, providing a real-time estimated time of arrival (ETA), street lights that dim or brighten depending on foot traffic and stop lights that warn of an accident ahead.
At its core, a smart city needs to leverage two technologies:
- Sensors to collect data
- Connectivity to send and receive the data.
Some cities have been early adopters of connectivity, such as:
- New York City
- San Francisco
- Charlotte, NC
- Washington D.C.
- Columbus, OH
- Los Angeles
- Kansas City, MI
- Tampa Bay.
These cities have already begun implementing secure, adaptable, inclusive, high-performing smart initiatives and projects.
The sensors that are needed to build smart cities have become smaller, cheaper and more powerful, giving rise to the IoT. The number of connected devices in 2017 jumped to 8.4 billion; 20.4 billion devices are expected to be deployed by 2020. The increase in use of smart sensors and devices has produced large-scale smart city projects.
The types of connected infrastructures that are being developed include:
- Sensor-embedded parking lots with an app that directs drivers to available spaces
- Integrated data exchanges (IDE) that will collect data from sensors on traffic lights and other sources to alert drivers and connected vehicles automatically
- Dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) that use a special frequency to allow vehicles, such as public transit buses, trains, automobiles and other devices, to communicate directly with one another
- Radars and cameras installed to prevent accidents
- Enhanced LED streetlights in residential areas to make streets safer at night
- Camera-oriented collision avoidance systems to alert public transit drivers of pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and pets
- Real-time scheduling of downtown deliveries in order to minimize congestion
- Street lamps that brighten automatically
- Free 5G internet access across the city
- Platforms that connect long-haul truckers with parking and drive patterns that reduce fuel emissions
- Electric vehicles that use automated shuttles and systems that adjust speeds depending on conditions such as inclement weather
The technology that is needed to build smart cities is available. However, smart cities need systems that communicate with each other, which is a major challenge in moving forward with a smart city vision. Many companies are working on languages to build systems that can better communicate. Meanwhile, industry experts are already pointing to ethical concerns. A smart city necessarily requires that large amounts of data are collected and stored, which comes at a high cost, both financially and in terms of privacy concerns for citizens.
The promise of smart cities is one of greater efficiencies, reduced costs and overall long-term sustainability. City planners and leaders are only the beginning to envision smart cities that embrace education, thought leadership and public policy that will increase job opportunities, innovative services and products that lead to business development and prosperity. While smart cities are still in their infancy stages and security issues are being examined, it is clear that they offer a platform on which to build cities that are safer, healthier and smarter places to live.
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