A simple definition of a smart city will go like this: a city that uses IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to gather information and then acts upon that information to manage city assets and resources more efficiently. This simple and straight-forward concept came to fruition as modern technology advanced in the past couple of decades. The dream of a modern city where crucial decisions concerning everyday life are taken after careful examination of a data stream is no longer something from the field of sci-fi. Cities all over the globe are implementing different intelligent technologies in a bid to overcome problems like outdated public transit structure, climate change challenges, waste disposal issues, sustainability, and many more. It is therefore important to understand how all these systems can work together to create a more livable city.
The key pillars of smart cities
1. Open communication
For a city to begin following the smart model, there needs to be an open communication channel between city management and citizens. This ongoing communication can be carried away by special platforms for digital citizenship – an easy and intuitive way to share ideas, pain points, information and updates on different topics. Citizens can express their opinions and give suggestions on how to improve city life, while city management can communicate back achievements, share important information and monitor actively public opinion.
Digital citizenship platforms offer amazing opportunities to build trust between citizens and city management, too – by creating a meaningful dialogue, providing updates and responding to signals in a timely manner, and offering access to different incentives. The result is happier and more involved citizens, who are more willing to collaborate with local authorities and businesses on a host of initiatives.
2. Infrastructure that works for everybody (public transit, parking, traffic lights)
One of the biggest challenges in urban areas is how to accommodate the growing number of people into an old-fashioned infrastructure. Scaling public transportation, creating new parking spots and managing effectively the existing ones, maintaining a smooth traffic flow with optimised traffic lights control – all of these tasks can be delegated to a smart system that creates a seamless ecosystem with minimal supervision.
Imagine a city where public transit is managed by an integrated multi-modal system, giving each citizen the opportunity to create the best itinerary on their smartphone, select freely the modes of transportation they need, and get their journey at an unbeatable price. This will save time and money, and will ultimately lead to people choosing public transit more often over their own vehicles. As a result, traffic in the city will be eased and fewer parking spots will be needed in critical areas like the central part of the city.
3. Maintaining a healthy environment for citizens (waste disposal, air monitoring)
With the majority of people already living in urban areas, health problems become a pressing matter. From basic hygiene to air pollution, megapolises around the globe are struggling to create and maintain a healthy environment for their citizens. Problems like irregular waste disposal, overflowing bins, particulate pollution and local air issues can escalate quickly if city management doesn’t have the right tools.
How can these problems be avoided? By real-time monitoring and taking action whenever and wherever it is needed. Having the required information at any given moment can make taking informed decisions easier when time matters.
Integrating the elements of smart cities into a working network: smart poles
But how can city management have information about and control over so many aspects of city life? The answer lies in an integrated technology system powered by IoT sensors and maintained by connectivity throughout the city. One such solution is using lighting poles as a hub for sensors, video surveillance and connectivity.
Smart poles are a growing market that offers flexible solutions depending on the areas of smart tech a city would like to invest in. A smart pole can incorporate a Wi-Fi transmitter, air monitoring sensors, temperature sensors, video surveillance gear, information screens, charging station and of course – a smart lighting module. Using each one of these components only when it’s needed provides a cost-efficient way to integrate all aspects of the smart ecosystem into one.
By integrating all these elements, city management can effectively achieve many goals:
- Improve safety on the streets by way of better traffic planning, CCTV monitoring
- Improve sanitation and hygiene by using smart waste management tools and air monitoring
- Improve citizens’ health status as a consequence of improved air quality and sanitation
- Promote sustainable choices with the help of a better public transit system
- Create a better informed and more engaged society
Can every city become smart?
When we speak about smart cities, we generally look at examples such as Singapore or Shanghai. Larger urban areas were the first to ever need out-of-the-box solutions so it’s completely understandable why they were the pioneers in smart technology. But this technology and know-how are now readily available to be used by smaller cities, too. There is no reason why a city with a population of 100 000 shouldn’t benefit from intelligent solutions. What’s more, integrating them at a smaller scale will be easier and cheaper, thus facilitating further scaling when the urban area needs to be expanded.
Every city has the potential to benefit from smart solutions. It’s a matter of time for smaller cities to become aware of the enormous advantages these new technologies can bring into everyday life. And as they grow smarter, people will start choosing them over big, overpopulated urban areas. If your city is on the lookout for smart solutions, here’s a guide where to begin!