A Smart City may sound like science fiction, but they are quickly becoming a reality in our modern world. Making our cities smarter is about giving our cities a voice. It’s about the development and implementation of internet-based systems that will allow our cities to communicate with us in much the same way that lifestyle apps on our smartphones and tablets already do.
The coming technological makeover will allow our cities to join the Internet of Things, providing them with new capabilities for optimization that will make cities smarter, safer, more energy efficient, and ultimately, a better place to live.
Smart City Technology
Smart City technology is all about connectivity. Currently, there are hundreds, if not thousands of products that can be labeled as component pieces making up the grand Internet of Things (“IOT”). The simplest examples of IOT devices can be found in many of our own homes.
Right now, we have internet-based systems like smart thermostats that not only relay information about the temperature of our home to our smartphone or computer, but also allow us to remotely control the heating and air conditioning systems of our home while we are away. Another example of IOT devices are video cameras that can be controlled and monitored in real time over the internet as a form of security while we are away on vacation or out of town on a business trip.
These IOT devices and their connectivity grant us more control over our homes, allowing us to better manage our power saving efforts as we work to reduce energy bills, protect our valuables, and accomplish other tasks more effectively than ever before.
The implementation of Smart City technology is occurring in the same fashion, but applied to cities rather than individual homes. By connecting streetlights, traffic signals, street cars, the power grid, water supply and even our own unused driveways to the internet, we can better control and monitor a city’s resources, ensuring that there is less waste and greater efficiency.
Smart City Development
There are many cities around the world that are beginning to implement Smart City solutions in order to better the lives of their citizens, one of which is Kansas City.
On May 5, Kansas City launched a series of Smart City initiatives aimed at providing better connectivity and interactivity. The initiatives include new Smart City networks provided by Sprint, which offers free Wi-Fi for residents residing in a 50 square block area of the downtown district, 125 smart streetlights along a two-mile stretch where the new Kansas City smart streetcar now runs, and 25 hi-tech kiosks citizens can interact with in order to discover information about their city. The kiosks host electronic ads for local businesses and events, producing a revenue stream for investors that provided the capital for the kiosks installation. The kiosks also serve as information centers during an emergency.
Because of this new connectivity, Kansas City can now behave and operate in a manner that is more dynamic. For example, the new smart streetlights can monitor traffic (both foot and automobile) in less traveled areas and adjust their brightness levels automatically in order to conserve energy. Additionally, the amount of light can be increased in areas with heavier traffic or in areas where there have been reports of criminal activity, and much of this happens automatically, rather than due to a person pushing a button!
As another example, the new data-connected kiosks provide real-time information about the smart streetcar’s precise location, schedule, and other information that has been aggregated from the different interconnected internet-based systems installed around the city, making it far easier for people to navigate the city.
Smart Cities Around The World
In other cities around the world, such as Amsterdam, smart traffic signals are actively monitoring and controlling the rate at which traffic travels throughout the city, enabling better optimization of the city’s streets to help keep traffic and congestion to a minimum.
Interconnected devices placed throughout Amsterdam have also made it possible for people to rent their home’s unused parking spaces through a Smart City app on their mobile devices. Via sensors that monitor the availability of unused parking spaces, users of the smartphone application can view parking space availability in real-time. If the parking space is available for rent, they can simply use their phone to pay a fee to reserve the spot for a specific interval of time. The system then automatically updates the listing so that those using the mobile application can see that the parking space is no longer available.
New Opportunities For Property Owners
While the development of Smart Cities has benefited new Smart City startups and major technology companies like Cisco and Google, property owners have also benefited from the expansion of completely new Smart City services. In other Smart Cities, electronic monitors on street lamps track parking time on the streets below and bill car owners directly for their parking time – no more coins and parking meters!
Smart City design relies heavily on the availability of voice and data bandwidth in the area, which is one of the major limiting factors to the adaptation of Smart City tech. In major urban areas, like Kansas City, it is extremely difficult for cellular providers to place new antennas and cellular towers within an environment already overflowing with buildings and structures of all shapes and sizes.
Because of this lack of space, cellular companies looking to expand their networks have no choice but to lease property from either the city itself, or from private property owners of apartment buildings, businesses, and even schools so they can deploy new microcells (smaller cell towers than were traditionally used).
The main target in these acquisitions are the rooftops of large buildings, as they tend to provide the best location for small cells, microcells, and all other sorts of distributed antenna systems that help blanket a targeted area with usable and reliable internet connectivity.
Smart Cities Are The Future
As internet speeds increase and bandwidth continue to grow, the development and implementation of Smart City technologies will become even more widespread.
Smart Cities aim to make our lives easier, safer, and more fun. The internet-based systems powering our future cities will help mitigate congestion, conserve energy, and provide us with easy access to everything our cities have to offer.
These changes are likely to uncover a wealth of new opportunities for people from all walks of life, especially as our cities cease to serve as the inanimate backdrop to our daily live and emerge as fully-connected and optimized Smart Cities, operating just like our smartphones as an invaluable asset that we will one day wonder how we ever managed without.