With more job opportunities, better public infrastructure, and easier access to essential resources available in urban centers across the globe, it’s no surprise that the population of our major cities continues to measurably outpace most rural environments. This can be seen in data suggesting 80% of global GDP is generated in cities, with 89% of US citizens expected to live in urban areas by 2050.
Though modern urbanization can bring numerous financial and quality-of-life benefits to most people choosing to take advantage of such developments, challenges can quickly arise for authorities and officials as the demand for housing, transport, security, and infrastructure rises at an accelerated rate.
One way to combat these potential issues before they can impact residents and negatively affect large population centers is to look towards modern technology. With the advent of advanced AI, reliable data analytics, and intelligent computer systems, modern city planners can develop proactive solutions to common problems, this idea forms the basis for the rise of smart cities and the IoT.
What are smart cities?
Smart cities can be defined as any largely populated urban center that uses collected digital data, advanced computer systems, and integrated smart technology to improve public infrastructure, utilities, and essential services, typically using data analysis to make more efficient use of available resources.
The primary intention of any smart city is to optimize all vital processes, such as transport, security, and waste management, to promote economic growth and ensure the sustainable use of finite resources. To suitably perform these functions, authorities will often rely on an array of smart devices connected to the Internet of Things, each able to analyze how residents use public infrastructure.
The Use of IoT in smart cities
Physical devices connected to the Internet of Things can communicate with each other and share collected data to be analyzed as a whole, helping city officials to better plan public infrastructure in direct response to the needs of residents. Below are some common examples of smart city IoT technology.
1.3 billion tonnes of waste are produced by urban residents every year, representing the potential for an incredible strain on outdated waste management systems. Legacy collection services typically rely on simple timetables when planning waste removal routes, which are often inefficient, and costly and can contribute significantly to additional infrastructure issues such as traffic build-up and pollution.
Smart waste management systems solve these problems by utilizing IoT sensors installed in every city-owned trash can, these devices inform users of which items can be recycled and can alert officials when receptacles are filled to aid in the planning of more efficient waste collection services.
IoT smart meters installed in commercial and residential properties are designed to track energy consumption to aid utility companies in managing available resources more efficiently. Teams are provided with reliable data detailing how much energy each property typically uses, with this information then used to cut down on waste, identify faults and ensure that all residents’ needs are met.
Many urban centers are investing heavily in public transportation infrastructure to reduce the pollution and congestion caused by cars, informed by data suggesting that public transport reduces carbon emissions by 45%. IoT sensors installed in transport depots help officials plan efficient transport services by providing real-time data to ensure that sufficient services are always available.
Proactive Security Systems
Larger population centers experience higher levels of physical crime, though by utilizing integrated networks of IoT security devices, authorities can better protect residents and improve incident response times. Commercial grade surveillance cameras can be informed by AI analysis tools and facial recognition software to automatically alert authorities of criminal activity, track potential suspects, and collect real-time data regarding active crime hotpots that should be closely monitored.
Examples of Smart Cities
Many aspects of smart cities may seem like a futuristic implausibility to residents of rural communities or smaller urban areas, but a number of cities across the globe are currently utilizing intelligent networks of IoT devices to develop more sustainable, efficient, and convenient environments for their citizens.
Residents of Westminster, London, currently benefit from an IoT-assisted smart parking scheme in which installed surveillance cameras use license plate recognition and AI analysis software to inform drivers of available parking spaces, reducing wait times and alleviating levels of traffic congestion.
Authorities in Copenhagen intend for the city to become carbon-neutral by 2025, to prepare for this, select districts currently operate IoT smart meters to better understand energy usage across commercial and residential properties, ultimately allowing for more energy-efficient building methodologies.
San Francisco, USA
San Francisco city officials are implementing smart technology to help improve road safety and reduce traffic issues experienced by residents. The Smart Traffic Signals Pilot scheme used AI-informed IoT cameras and sensors to control installed signaling devices in response to real-time traffic data.
The rise of smart cities and the IoT looks set to provide city planners and local authorities with the tools to ensure that rising population densities don’t contribute too heavily to resource scarcity. By developing intelligent systems informed by reliable data, teams can plan more efficient public infrastructure and essential services to provide citizens with unmatched convenience, safety, and security.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.