Smart cities in the world – An Inevitable Reality

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  • Nov 3, 2021
  • 8 min read

“The 19th century was a century of empires, the 20th century was a century of nation states and the 21st century will be a century of cities.” -Former Denver Mayor Webb.

There’s a small correction to the above quote though, the 21st century will be about smart cities.

Here are two statistics that is a telling statement about the need to build Smart Cities:

  • Tokyo, which has more than 36 million people, would be the world’s 35th biggest in terms of population if it were a country. It is also the largest urban economy in the world by GDP.
  • The top 600 urban centers generate more than 60% of global GDP.Many of these big cities have glaring issues that make them unlivable with each passing day.

This is where smart cities come into play.

Many of our day-to-day activities are governed by technology aka the Internet. Smart cities should be the inevitable solution to embrace and we should not treat it as a concept that came out of Isaac Asimov’s mind.

What makes a city a smart city?

A Smart City is a future-focused framework which brings solutions to us in every aspect of urban life with the help of connected infrastructure. It uses data, digital tools and human-centered design to create a great experience for its residents as well as help in the city’s decision making.

The simple handheld device called smartphone has given us a peek into what a smart city could entail. Right from booking a cab, getting instant information, accessing health services, everything is digital these days. Who would have thought during the beginning of the 21st century that we could book a taxi with a mobile phone? The use cases are endless. Imagine if we could extrapolate all of this technology and more into building a city. That’s how you get a smart city.

A myriad of technologies is used to build a smart city that thrives with the least resources. Every device will be connected to the Internet to come up with a variety of solutions. Innovations like smart waste management systems, smart traffic solutions, public safety, smart metering, smart water conservation system, environmental monitoring sensors, smart lighting systems, smart parking solutions, etc., will enhance the quality of our lives in ways that would have been unimaginable earlier.

Why do we need smart cities?

#1 Data-driven decision making:

Thanks to interconnected IoT, we will be able to tap into the collective intelligence of the city by capturing localized bits of knowledge, ideas, data and opinions which will allow us to make data-based decisions. We will get access to information that might have been impossible to gather earlier. From knowing when a streetlamp requires replacement to self-healing grids, you will be able to make intelligent decisions.

By being in the know about such data, the city will function more efficiently and it will result in an improvement on most quality of life parameters. The ability to forecast will also help in cutting costs dramatically while providing better services to people.

The city of New York has created a tool called the NYC Business Atlas, it provides access to high quality data to its citizens and even the government uses it to make decisions. The entrepreneurs and small business owners are given free access to market research data and analytics. It also helps in the creation of new jobs for NYC’s residents. Not only does it provide access to data, but offers sophisticated analytics and visualization tools which helps an entrepreneur to understand the potential in starting a business in a particular locality in the city.

#2 Reduced carbon footprint:

Smart cities will enable air quality sensors, energy-efficient buildings, and use renewable energy resources that will reduce our environmental footprint. A report from Juniper Research says that traffic and parking management in smart cities will reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 164 million metric tonnes (MMT) in the next five years. 165 MMT is equal to the emissions of 35 million vehicles annually. While this is a dated report, we can safely assume that the effects to the environment will still hold value.

#3 Urbanisation:

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The anticipated complexities such as negative effects on the environment, question mark over physical safety and security of residents due to overcrowded living conditions, more pressure on food supply systems, and the expenses associated with urbanisation is greatly reduced when there is a structure for developing smart cities. The United Nations says that by 2030, the world is expected to have 43 megacities with at least a 10 million population, most of these in developing countries.

A smart city successfully covers the following areas: sustainable urban development, sustainable building and equipment, smart network infrastructures, provision of urban services, collective efforts of collecting data by the citizens and government.

A report by IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) says that more than half the world’s population will be at risk due to water stress by 2050 if we maintain the status quo in terms of water consumption. The state of California in the United States used smart water solutions to reduce home water consumption by 5 percent. This reduction is expected to have helped a long way in meeting the 20 percent state wide water reduction per capita goal. For an oft-drought hit state like California, these are encouraging numbers.

#4 Better transportation:

The Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for smart cities has unique approaches when it comes to transportation modes, traffic management solutions, advanced infrastructure, and uses a mixed bag of wireless and communication technologies. All of this ensures that the citizens have a much advanced and safer way of travelling.

Singapore’s ITS system has the ability to deliver real-time traffic alerts to the public, making it one of the least congested cities in the world. The city of New York has invested in cameras and sensors at more than 10,000 city intersections. It has deployed a Connected Vehicle Pilot Program which collects and analyzes data of connected vehicles which improves safety and traffic management in real-time. According to a report by KPMG titled ‘2020 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index’, the United Arab Emirates scores the highest in change readiness for technology infrastructure. The UAE is also taking steps to make 25 percent of its transport autonomous by 2030, a strategy that was put forward in 2016.

#5 Better economic opportunities:

A report by Chordant titled ‘Role of Smart Cities for Economic Development’ says that smart cities could increase cities’ economic development by more than 5% and drive at least $20 trillion in more economic benefits by 2026. Successfully implementing a smart city brings many economic benefits to its citizens.

Urban centers are the engines of economic growth and prosperity. By building Smart Cities, you will attract the brightest minds, and it shall give rise to more channels of economic prosperity. It will lead to continued growth which can tackle competition from the rest of the world. A smart city should be able to balance the increasing need for better infrastructure and also keep its citizens safe and secure.

Thanks to technologies like IoT and AI, automation of a city’s resources is possible. Every connected device results in the city’s performance getting improved, not to mention the fact that all of this directly affects the citizens positively.

Smart buildings can even generate their own electricity and heating, thus saving resources, increasing sustainability, and boosting the economy. Thanks to a sustainable ecosystem that a smart city creates, people will lead more happier, healthier and satisfying lives.

Conclusion:

Smart cities will have a transformative effect on every aspect of our lives, from better and improved healthcare to effective provisioning of public services. They address the real needs of the city’s residents and create solutions that are durable, easy to implement, and scalable from a small pilot to a city-wide experiment. The combination of technologies like IoT, AI, ML, Big Data, Robotics, Drones, 3D printing, Blockchain, SMAC, etc., are extremely powerful and create the perfect ingredients for disruptive innovation.

The global smart cities market size is expected to grow from 410.8 billion USD to 820.7 billion USD by 2025. Building a city, using a radical concept like that of a smart city is more a responsibility than something that should be driven by pure numbers. But with the right intention and resources, building sustainable smart cities is a possibility. Singapore, Dubai, Oslo, Copenhagen, Boston, Amsterdam, New York, London, Hong Kong and Barcelona are considered as some of the smart cities in the world. If you are looking for smart city solutions, we have the wherewithal and expertise to get things started. Get on a call with us to understand how we can help you.

 

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