The top 10 reasons Smart Cities are a good idea [Part 1]

by Andrew Bell

internet-of-things-2Smart Cities use information and communication technologies to go further in meeting the needs of their residents, improving the efficiency of service provision and urban operations, quality of life and economic success. With the smart city technology market predicted to balloon to a value of $27.5 billion by 2023, and a total of 88 smart cities expected to be in existence by 2025, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding this approach to urban planning. But what are the actual benefits to this model, and how will it actually improve citizens’ day-to-day lives?

In truth, the term “smart city” has been interpreted and applied in different ways across the world. Indian smart cities primarily aim to establish and maintain functioning and modern infrastructure with consistent electricity and water supplies, while New York has become smarter by augmenting its landscape with sensor technology to intelligently monitor urban infrastructure. On the list below, we have ranked the top 10 best features of smart cities from around the world.

10. Smart Parking (Amsterdam)

Applications such as Mobypark and Fastprk are enabling drivers to view, reserve and navigate towards their parking space of choice in cities such as Amsterdam. Operating with private parking lots, public parking garages, hotels and hospitals, this elegant solution will allow drivers to survey the parking spots available in their area from their smart devices, saving time, fuel and CO2 emissions. Smart parking is also flexible, allowing users to rent parking spaces anywhere from a few minutes to a few days without the use of a parking metre.

The impact of smart parking is predicted to be huge, with retail parks and the high street both projected to benefit significantly from this. Indeed, the inconvenience and expense of parking at a shopping centre are notable disincentives for consumers, and smart parking will address these concerns, making parking in an urban area a faster and cheaper process.

9. Total Wi-Fi accessibility (Barcelona)

Barcelona has been in the process of rolling out comprehensive free wi-fi across the city, with the total number of hotspots projected to be 1,500 within the next few years. This is good news for citizens, who no longer have to rely solely on their sometimes costly mobile data packages to access the internet. Moreover, making internet access freely available has encouraged students and professionals to collaborate in public places more frequently.

There are also big benefits for the local government, who is able to track the movement of large groups of people to better understand the demand being placed on urban infrastructure.

8. Pollution & Noise Pollution Monitoring (Chicago)

A number of cities in the USA have unveiled city-wide pollution and noise pollution monitoring, with Chicago being the best example of this. Chicago has continuously dealt with high levels of pollution in certain areas, and from the summer of 2014 has connected thousands of sensors to city lamp posts in high density areas to closely monitor urban pollution by area.

This big data approach will be used to measure levels of pollution and noise pollution over time, meaning that these patterns can be intelligently analysed and acted upon by the local government. The government will also treat this information transparently, making the collected data available for use by both citizens and organisations alike.

7. Property crime monitoring & prediction (Santa Cruz)

The police force in Santa Cruz, California has been innovatively monitoring the occurrence of property break ins in order to track the occurrence of property break ins and take preventative action to protect what have been deemed at-risk areas. By carefully collating data on these occurrences, the SCPD has developed a mathematical method for predicting the occurrence of property break-ins. George Mohler of the SCPD comments that “criminals want to replicate their successes, they go back to similar locations, they repeat their crimes—it’s almost identical to how aftershocks roll out after earthquakes, following predictable fault lines and timetables.”

Drawing on eight years of crime data, the SCPD has intelligently mapped out high-crime areas, as well as areas that are calculated to be at imminent risk. In the light of these calculations, the police department is better equipped to both raise awareness throughout these at-risk areas, and dispatch their officers when these crimes do ultimately occur.

6. Efficient energy buildings (London)

Smart Buildings are already in use throughout cities like London, and excel in streamlining energy usage and delivering a more comfortable environment for residents and workers. Smart buildings monitor local weather conditions whilst drawing upon environmental data in order to accurately monitor the temperature outside. The building’s heating and lighting is adjusted to compliment these outside conditions, so that less power is wasted in the cooling or heating of the building and inhabitants are able to benefit more from natural light and a consistently temperate interior.

Corporate smart buildings may also have an integrated Building Management System which track room usage so that areas can be easily reserved and empty rooms can be located more simply. Data is also collated at all times, monitoring movement both inside and outside the building to help owners better understand how their property is being utilised.

Continued in: The top 10 reasons Smart Cities are a good idea [Part 2]