What is a smart city?
A smart city is a framework, predominantly composed of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), to develop, deploy, and promote sustainable development practices to address growing urbanization challenges.
A big part of this ICT framework is essentially an intelligent network of connected objects and machines that transmit data using wireless technology and the cloud.
Cloud-based IoT applications receive, analyze, and manage data in real-time to help municipalities, enterprises, and citizens make better decisions that improve quality of life.
Citizens engage with smart city ecosystems in various ways using smartphones and mobile devices and connected cars and homes. Pairing devices and data with a city’s physical infrastructure and services can cut costs and improve sustainability.
Communities can improve energy distribution, streamline trash collection, decrease traffic congestion, and even improve air quality with help from the IoT.
- Connected traffic lights receive data from sensors and cars adjusting light cadence and timing to respond to real-time traffic, reducing road congestion.
- Connected cars can communicate with parking meters and electric vehicle (EV)charging docks and direct drivers to the nearest available spot.
- Smart garbage cans automatically send data to waste management companies and schedule pick-up as needed versus on a pre-planned schedule.
- And citizens’ smartphone becomes their mobile driver’s license and ID card with digital credentials, which speeds and simplifies access to the city and local government services.
Together, these smart city technologies are optimizing infrastructure, mobility, public services, and utilities.
Why do we need smart cities?
Urbanization is a non-ending phenomenon.
Today, 54% of people worldwide live in cities, a proportion that’s expected to reach 66% by 2050.
Combined with the overall population growth, urbanization will add another 2.5 billion people to cities over the next three decades.
Environmental, social, and economic sustainability is a must to keep pace with this rapid expansion that is taxing our cities’ resources.
One hundred ninety-three countries have agreed upon the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in September 2015 at the United Nations.
But we all know how centralized decisions and actions can take time, and the clock is ticking.
The good news?
Citizens and local authorities are certainly more agile to launch swift initiatives, and smart city technology is paramount to success and meeting these goals.
How is IoT technology making cities smarter and better?
Secure wireless connectivity and IoT technology are transforming traditional elements of city life - like streetlights - into next-generation intelligent lighting platforms with expanded capabilities.
The scope includes integrating solar power and connecting to a cloud-based central control system that connects to other ecosystem assets.
These solutions shine far beyond simple lighting needs.
- High-power embedded LEDs alert commuters about traffic issues, provide severe weather warnings, and provide heads up when environmental like fires arise.
- Streetlights can also detect free parking spaces and EV charging docks and alert drivers where to find an open spot via a mobile app. Charging might even be able from the lamppost itself in some locations!
But how does it all fit together?
What makes smart cities successful
In addition to people, dwellings, commerce, and traditional urban infrastructure, there are four essential elements necessary for thriving smart cities:
- Pervasive wireless connectivity
- Open data
- Security you can trust in
- Flexible monetization schemes
Let’s break it down.
What’s the best wireless technology for smart cities?
The first building block of any smart city application is reliable, pervasive wireless connectivity.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all, evolving Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies are well suited to most smart city applications for their cost efficiency and ubiquity.
These technologies include LTE Cat M, NB-IoT, LoRa, Bluetooth, and a few others that all contribute to the fabric of connected cities.
The advent of 5G technology is expected to be a watershed event that propels smart city technology into the mainstream and accelerates new deployments.
But only with a few more elements…
Opening the data vault
Historically, governments, enterprises, and individuals have held their data close to the pocket, sharing as little as possible with others.
Privacy concerns and fear of security breaches have far outweighed the perceived value of sharing information.
However, a key enabler of sustainable smart cities is that all participants in the complex ecosystem share information and combine it with contextual data that is analyzed in real-time. This is how informed decisions are made in real-time. Multiple sectors must cooperate to achieve better, sustainable outcomes by analyzing real-time contextual information, which is shared among sector-specific information and operational technology (OT) systems.