Smart cities are popping up everywhere, with the top three ranked in the 2021 Smart City Indexi as Singapore, Zurich, Oslo, respectively. What do these three have in common? There are smart technologies aimed at boosting productivity in each city’s advanced economy, such as Singapore’s digital healthcare systemii, which introduced wearable devices to monitor patients remotely. Or there are Oslo’s 650,000 LED lightsiii, which are all connected to processing stations that intelligently adjust their intensity based on current needs.
By definition, a smart city uses data-gathering technologies to help it operate in more efficient and environmentally friendly ways – eliminating silos, identifying integration opportunities and using the data to mobilize change. A smart city might also integrate intelligent building automations, waste management sensors to help track and manage solid waste, or fully autonomous public shuttles. All of these solutions utilize the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) to gather data and use it to create a safer, more resilient and sustainable environment that improves residents’ and workers’ quality of life.
As they plan strategically for a smarter future, city officials will need to give ample time to evaluating the vast array of available technologies. Whatever the size of their city, they can find, with adequate research, the right set of solutions to help realize their transformational initiatives cost-effectively.
The technologies most sought after by local governments fall into three interconnected buckets – sustainability and resilience, urban mobility and public safety – each of which aims to improve a different aspect of quality of life.
Sustainability and Resilience
Reducing water and energy consumption should be top of mind for city-county officials looking to make their communities more sustainable. A city of any size typically contains a fair number of commercial buildings, which all contribute to the 38 percent of the world’s energy-sector emissionsiv. By implementing technologies such as LED lighting, building management systems that track energy consumption and smart metering that detects leaks in water pipes, a city can begin to chart its way toward a more sustainable future.
As cities recover from the pandemic, they are better able to invest in technology that increases their overall resilience – say, with respect to potential climate events or natural disasters. For example, officials are making sure citizens have access to services in the wake of a disaster – such as alternative energy sources and community-based Wi-Fi programs. Cities are also developing municipal microgrids that provide greater resilience in the face of an outage event, ensuring that citizens have access to essential city services like clean drinking water and climate-controlled facilities.
While programs such as a microgrid can require intensive design and substantial funding, they act as a major driver for building resilience. A microgrid not only helps sustain electrical power during a natural disaster, it incorporates renewable energy sourcesv that can also help lower peak demand for traditional power sources, thereby creating a more sustainable community.
Implementing urban mobility technologies first requires a thorough understanding of
a city’s road infrastructure and what it takes to transport people more efficiently and sustainably. Some cities, for example, are using data analytics to optimize traffic flow so that citizens can move more efficiently from point A to point B at any given time.
More cities are investing in electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, with some communities building their own EV fleets. Installing charging stations for residents’ use also ranks high among some cities’ priorities, now that more and more EVs are hitting the road. Smart cities are investing in electric school buses too, which can bolster resilience as well as serve sustainable transit needs.
Before researching public safety solutions, city-county officials first need 360-degree situational awareness. With an AI-enabled IoT platform, cities can integrate data from critical infrastructure systems such as traffic, streetlights, environment, emergency services, public safety, security and utilities into a unified, holistic view. This will enable better decision-making, improved allocation of resources and faster response times, especially when it comes to emergency services such as 911 dispatch. It will also help city planners and managers connect systems and capabilities, bridge departmental silos and create safer communities.
All of these innovations help improve the quality of life for citizens, while also advancing sustainability efforts, establishing equity, digitizing systems and improving safety. More and more cities are looking to technology to help grow community wealth and increase economic security as they advance their mission to create change from the ground up.