A number of major cities have begun leveraging the latest technology to meet modern challenges. These are generally referred to as ‘smart city’ initiatives. There are many definitions of a ‘smart city’. On the most basic level it is a city that connects the physical infrastructure, the IT infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and the business infrastructure, to leverage the collective intelligence of the city.
A smart city combines the latest ICT and web 2.0 technology with core organisational, planning and design elements to improve bureaucratic processes and develop new solutions to city management challenges. It can assist with the monitoring of critical infrastructure and optimise its resource planning and preventative maintenance capabilities. In short, it makes use of smart computing technologies to make the city more intelligent, interconnected and efficient.
While most places are still a long way off from having a completely interconnected city, that manages all aspects urban life, there are many examples of smart city implementations that are being developed around the world.
Some examples of smart city initiatives in action around the world include:
Smart Street lights – Los Angeles is currently replacing 4,500 miles of street lights with smart LEDs. These will not only provide a better quality of light, but will be interconnected into a central system that can monitor and report on each bulb’s status. Any malfunctions can therefore be identified, reported, and fixed in real time.
Resource sharing – Seoul has created the ‘Sharing City Seoul’ initiative that has certified 50 different sharing projects throughout the city. These initiatives range from car-sharing services, to websites that help people share household tools with their neighbours, to schemes that match students struggling to find affordable housing with older residents who have a spare room. They are also making more efficient use of city assets, such as opening public buildings for events and meetings when they are not in use.
Environmental monitoring – the ‘Smart Citizen Kit’ is an inexpensive data collecting device that can be placed in outdoor locations such as balconies, windowsills or on top of buildings. Once it is set up, it gathers and streams data over a Wi-Fi connection to an open platform where the data is shared to create a crowdsourced map of environmental data from cities around the world.
Smart cities have the potential to improve the life in cities for all residents, but with predictions that billions of devices will be connecting smart city infrastructure soon, there will be a flood of data at volumes that will be difficult to manage or utilise. The next challenge for smart cities will be to develop the capability to effectively share and analyse all the available data.