The concept of a “Smart City” is popular. However, there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a smart city. Under the banner of “smart solutions,” a variety of initiatives have been realised, ranging from the creation of green spaces to self-driving vehicles. The breadth and creativity of these initiatives demonstrate the enormous potential of smarter cities to save resources, share information seamlessly and fairly, and facilitate communication between machines and humans in order to create new, more efficient ways of operating in the city.
One article argues that “the concept of ‘smart city’ might become an icon of a new digitally facilitated form of living in urban space.” Smart is the concept of leveraging technology to understand and respond to the city’s situation on a granular and real-time basis.
So far, many “smart” initiatives lack an integrated approach. The opportunities for increased efficiency are multiplied if the vision of a smart city encompasses every aspect of city life – from traffic control to lighting, green spaces to medical care – and addresses these areas by leveraging technological solutions. In many ways, the smart city is a blank canvas on which to build and innovate, a process that necessitates collaboration between industry and government, as well as special insight and guidance from field experts.
A smart city’s operation requires four key components: I a strong dataset; ii) effective communications; iii) timely decision-making; and iv) effective action.
The vast amount of data captured from local conditions and a plethora of daily processes and activities is the lifeblood of a smart city. A large, accurate, and dependable dataset is required for a smart city. So-called city sensors collect data in real-time about available parking spaces, traffic levels, energy consumption, waste management, and a variety of other sources. This sea of data can provide granular insight into how a city operates and can be used as input for sophisticated decision-making algorithms.
However, leveraging the power of data is impossible without the digital backbone of an efficient communications network to transport it. A smart city’s communications network is in charge of getting the right information to the right place at the right time by utilising technologies such as IoT and wireless sensor networks (WSNs). In order for the response to be timely, data must be moved quickly and securely from a city sensor to a decision-maker, and then from the decision-maker to the responder.
This necessitates infrastructure that provides the required power supply, reliability, cyber security, and connectivity. With the speed and connectivity it provides to IoT, 5G is critical to the development of smart cities. It is powerful enough to support both massive machine type communication (MMTC) and critical machine type communication (CMTC), both of which are required for applications where data transfer is time-critical. As a result, 5G is expected to play a “critical role in allowing information gathered via sensors to be transmitted in real time to central monitoring locations.”
Once data has been collected and sent, the decision-maker component allows the city to respond to information. AI, cloud computing, and big data are three of the primary technologies that smart cities may use to evaluate massive volumes of data. Human decision-makers lack the speed and capacity necessary to process the large quantity of data created by cities in continual flux, hence these technologies are considered crucial to smart city projects. The decision-making process is governed by the optimization of one or more metrics. A smart city may decide: which route an autonomous vehicle should take to reduce the amount of time it and other vehicles spend stuck in traffic; the appropriate voltage level delivered by a transformer to maximise the efficiency of the entire electricity grid; or the number of authentications that may be required for a purchase to reduce the likelihood of unidentified fraud. The objective of enhancing or decreasing something valued by the city’s population is at the heart of every choice made by a smart city.
Once the right course of action has been determined, it must be carried out. That brings us to the final aspect of a smart city: effective action. Smart devices are instructed to respond in certain ways that maximise overall performance via the communications network. Coordination between a range of devices is frequently critical at this level. A smart city’s traffic lights are programmed to open and close in a certain pattern, reducing traffic and allowing an ambulance to get at an emergency site as quickly as feasible. The smart gadgets in the final component of a smart city are just executors of the plan produced by the decision-making body. After deploying the smart solution, the smart city must continue data collecting in order to analyse the impact of that solution on overall performance and maybe take further steps. Data is gathered and transmitted to a decision-making organisation via a communications network. There, a set of actions for all relevant smart devices is defined. These units are instructed on what to do and carry out those instructions, while sensing devices continue to gather data about the system’s new condition.
This loop may be used to a city’s many domains. We’ve divided smart city applications into five categories: security, healthcare, transportation, utilities, and finance. Other sources offer somewhat different categorizations. Each of these applications is built on well-known, well-established technology as well as new developments. Smart and adaptable sensors may be used to collect data from infrastructure, assets, people, and the environment, and block chain can assure data veracity. The information may be transferred to a decision-making entity using 5G, local-area networks, and other communication technologies, where artificial intelligence can plan the best course of action. Returning to the communications network, the directives reach smart devices that can carry out choices that benefit city people. Some of these technologies are covered in the following sections.
We have just lately begun to comprehend the possibilities of drones in future cities. Drones, whether remotely operated or autonomous, have a wide range of applications, ranging from carrying items or hardware to inspecting difficult-to-reach areas. Parcel delivery is one such example. Some firms are supporting the establishment of a legislative framework that will allow drones to be used in parcel delivery in collaboration with authorities and industry. Autonomous drones can avoid ground traffic and arrive at their location faster than delivery trucks, implying that completely automated systems will work in the future from the point of purchase through the delivery of a product. Drones have the ability to completely transform the retail business.
Another intriguing application of drones in smart cities is mobile network optimization. There has been a considerable corpus of study in recent years on how drones may be utilised as base station carriers in cellular networks. Despite the fact that cities have a high density of base stations, drones are a potential solution for delivering additional coverage to huge crowds. They can be installed momentarily to offer connection during a concert, for example, and function as tiny cells for as long as needed. When not in use, the drones may be removed, reducing the time and expense involved with temporary infrastructure. As a result, the network can adjust to variations in user density without the need for new ground base stations to be deployed.
Innovative advances in financial technology also play a role in smart cities. Contactless payments are one of the foundations of future financial transactions. Contactless payment is already a reality in most parts of the world, allowing for easy and speedy transactions to take place in a matter of seconds. They have enormous purchasing power, especially when combined with smartphones and wearable technologies. Multi-factor authentication is also an important component of smart city fintech. PIN numbers, SMS messages, and even face recognition can be utilised and coordinated to limit the possibility of fraud. If this method of authentication is employed, a hacker would need to gather a wider collection of data on someone before being able to access that person’s bank account or credit card information.
This increases trust in the authenticity of the transactions. Furthermore, risk-based authentication goes a step farther. The likelihood of a transaction being fraudulent can be calculated based on IP address, the device conducting the transaction, location, and a variety of other criteria, and further authentications can be needed before it is accepted. Purchase trends can even be used by artificial intelligence to detect unusual activity.
Intelligent transportation and self-driving cars
Autonomous vehicles are already a reality, with companies such as Waymo, General Motors, Argo AI, and Tesla leading the way. These cars have the potential to substantially alter people’s relationships with traffic by eliminating the need to interact with other drivers, locate a parking place, and, eventually, earn a driver’s licence. Furthermore, they can eliminate the human error aspect in driving and save lives. Autonomous cars are certainly not perfect, but they don’t have to be flawless to save lives; they only have to be better than human drivers. Accident reduction and more independence for those with impairments are only two of the numerous benefits that self-driving cars may provide to society.
When autonomous cars link, the next level of automation is accomplished. To offer vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, both cellular and local area network technologies have been developed. 5G and dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), for example, are realistic solutions for unlocking the promise of cooperative driving in our cities. They may also be used to convey real-time traffic data, which may subsequently be incorporated into emergency response optimization systems. The University of Toronto, for example, has “created a comprehensive ambulance placement and network flow model that accounts for traffic uncertainty.” It can estimate journey time throughout a city using GPS technology in a variety of conditions. This allows for the creation of an ideal path that takes into consideration other cars on the road.
Using smart solutions
Many cities throughout the globe are still in the early phases of embracing smart solutions. The majority of existing efforts have a restricted focus and an isolated approach. In Columbus, Ohio, for example, considerable emphasis is being focused on smart mobility, with a number of stand-alone solutions being used. Connected car technology, for example, is used to harness data and offer drivers with real-time safety alerts. This has offered a remedy to the recurrence of automobile accidents in city hotspots.
Similarly, in Seoul, intelligent transportation system (ITS) technology, as well as a Bus Management System (BMS), allow for real-time monitoring of bus position and movement. Control centres can act quickly and alleviate interruptions, such as by altering the number of buses on each route. This information is also swiftly made available to drivers and passengers, who are notified of any modifications to services in the case of a disruption. This reform has resulted in a large decrease in the number of automobile users in South Korea’s capital and an increase in the number of persons utilising public transportation, both of which have a favorable influence on traffic and pollution levels.
Several communities are attempting to capitalise on chances for increased sustainability by using smart solutions. In 2017, Zurich unveiled “Smart City Towers.” The towers, often known as smart streetlights, provide a variety of smart solutions. They conserve electricity by adjusting the degree of lighting dependent on the ambient light conditions. They also provide electricity to electric vehicles and serve as public Wi-Fi access points to enhance connection around the city. New York has also invested in smart streetlights, which save energy by reacting to data and effectively lighting.
In Shenzhen, AI has been used to monitor and check electrical systems, both inside and outside via drones. This is believed to have boosted the process’s efficiency by an order of magnitude when compared to labor-intensive human monitoring.
Some businesses are developing solutions that use drones to check difficult-to-reach areas. Drone-assisted building inspections make danger detection and disaster assistance safer and easier. Furthermore, experiments have demonstrated that drones can be used to examine cell towers and reduce the danger that field engineers experience on a regular basis. Samsung has successfully tested a drone and artificial intelligence solution to improve the performance of 5G networks. They were able to acquire photographs of 4G and 5G towers using drones, allowing artificial intelligence systems to detect antenna tilt and rotation. Engineers can use this data to assess the effect of antenna placement on cell coverage.
Smart city vision
These stand-alone efforts are a first step in making the urban environment smarter. More sophisticated programmes, on the other hand, have built a more integrated, unified approach. The Smart Dubai Department in Dubai, formed in 2015 with the idea of a smarter future, is a great example. The multi-pronged strategy of this effort distinguishes it. Many of its projects have the same core aims as other smart cities: enhancing sustainability, increasing connection, and providing opportunities for its residents to live better lives.
The Smart Dubai effort includes plans for the emirate to be paperless in 2021, saving substantial resources, as well as plans for Dubai to become the world’s first block chain-powered government. Not only is block chain considered as an appropriate platform for the seamless flow of information for a variety of different operations, but it is also a method of sharing technology and data with other cities across the world, advancing a global drive to become smarter across all continents.
The UAE is also “ahead of the curve” by utilising financial technologies to achieve its smart city aims. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), for example, is encouraging the growth of the state’s fintech industry through The FinTech Hive, an “annual accelerator programme that gives mentoring, investment possibilities, and marketing exposure” to budding startups. This future investment encourages the emergence of innovations such as rapid pay choices and allows finance to flourish within the smart city landscape.
Another important feature of Dubai’s and other locales’ smart city strategy is transparency and accessibility. This has also been a significant emphasis of Singapore’s ambition to become one of the world’s smartest cities. The country employs smartphone apps to link residents directly with decision-makers and to offer them a more active role in moulding their everyday life. Furthermore, Singapore has taken the lead on a number of other technology efforts, including the extension of an autonomous vehicle pilot region that is supposed to include the majority of western Singapore. Autonomous shuttles are also being investigated, with the advancement of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications expanding the possibilities for automated forms of transportation. This is part of a city-wide, coordinated strategy to become smarter.
Integration of domains
After cities have evaluated and deployed smart solutions in several areas, integration across domains is the natural next step. So far, we’ve seen isolated parts, but little to no holistic approach to a smart city in which decision-making takes into account data from a broader variety of sources and optimises seemingly unrelated aspects. A city may determine the path of an autonomous electric car by taking not just traffic but also energy usage into account. Questions that a decision-making entity may have to answer include: which route reduces the duration of the journey and the amount of energy consumed by the vehicle; the condition of wireless charging stations along potential routes; and the impact of charging this and other vehicles on the entire electricity grid. Answering these concerns necessitates inter-system communication and integrated decision-making procedures. As a result, the smart city loop grows broader and more complicated, with decisions based on data from many sources.
However, integrating a city’s numerous domains creates several challenging unsolved concerns.
A major aspect of the solution is strong data privacy rules that protect personal information while also ensuring security. Elected authorities and regulators will need to establish regulatory frameworks that create confidence while not impeding innovation and progress. Clarity and openness are also essential so that people of a smart city understand what data is being collected, who has access to it, and how it is being utilised.
Another significant problem is determining how to prioritize the many aims of a smart city. In the case of self-driving electric vehicles, if the shortest route does not decrease energy usage, should the smart city still take the car along that path? What is more vital to a smart city: saving time in traffic or conserving energy and, as a result, decreasing environmental impact? Decisions on how smart cities will cope with such trade-offs cannot and should not be decided by computers, but by lawmakers, policymakers, and society.
Nonetheless, smart cities and related regulations must be implemented with the purpose of enhancing citizens’ lives while lowering the environmental effect. Smart solutions are known to cut crime rates, enhance people’s health, reduce time spent in traffic, save lives, minimize water and energy consumption, optimize garbage collection, and lessen a city’s environmental effect. With so much promise, it is critical that the correct policies are put in place as quickly as possible to deliver us the cities of the future.