Smart cities and smarter projects have been among the most actively discussed realizations made possible by IoT, data, connectivity and by leveraging a mix of varied technologies. The interest in smart cities continues to grow, driven by a range of socioeconomic and technological developments across the globe.
A smart city responds to the challenges of our time and quality of life. It also ensures that the city meets the needs of future generations — In terms of economic, social and environmental issues. In short, it is a good place to live with the best possible quality of life and most efficient use of resources. Worldwide smart cities market will grow from its current $622 Billion to $1 Trillion in 2019 and $3.48 Trillion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 21.28%.
Mankind has recognized the benefits of urban life. As of 2018, we have 4.2 Billion people in urban cities. And by 2050, the urban population is projected to increase to 6.8 Billion. For the next decade, these urban consumers will be the primary driving factor of global consumption growth adding about USD $20 Trillion per annum to the global goods spend. Urbanization will contribute to sustainable growth thereby increasing productivity, allowing innovation and improving lifestyle.
However, such rapid urbanization is not without a cost. The more significant opportunities for social and economic development are created, the more pressure is exerted on the infrastructure and resources, escalating social inequality.
The Smart City Era
The main reason for the smart city development is the ever-growing urbanization in city spaces. Additionally, there is an increase in global life expectancy. 617.1 Million of the world’s population is above the age of 65 and is expected increase to 1.6 Billion from 2035 to 2050.
Keeping the increasing population age in mind, Smart Cities are aiming to create a more sustainable environment and some of the propelling factors are,
- Climate Changeover
Global warming is accelerating faster than humans can handle. It’s just not the industries emitting green-house gases, 39% of the carbon emissions comes from residential and commercial buildings. And 33%of the emissions result from transportation. Its predicted that, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has the potential to curb global greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030. ICT is the only transitional tool that can help us grow into low energy/renewable energy users.
For Example — Mexico, ranked as the most polluted city on the planet has recorded a huge cut down in CO2 emissions through its ProAire’ program. China’s sponge city initiative is working to absorb and reuse 70% of rainwater.
With city transportation being an important pillar for quality of life of citizens, there are new pressures on cities to augment their infrastructure and facilities. In today’s date, most of the cities face several challenges with respect to traffic congestion, inadequate parking spaces, inequitable access for all residents, lack of last mile connectivity, and pollution. These can be easily addressed by Smart transportation solutions by offering an integrated mechanism like,
Connected Rides — $4.3 Billion dollars are saved annually from ride-sharing services. In turn, there will be less cars on the road, leading to less emissions.
Smart Parking — One of the most common problems with transportation in urban areas is to park vehicles. Smart apps like JustPark are being developed to reinvent parking for the smart city era. Tesla’s will be able to park by themselves.
Traffic Management — Congestion is a big menace for all of us. Traffic management is getting smarter and efficient with the integration of big data and IOT. Example — Pittsburgh cuts down traffic jams by 40 percent using radar sensors and cameras to recognize traffic activity.
- Smart Analytics
Cities need reliable data for water management, traffic management, transportation, pollution control and many more. By inserting sensors across city infrastructures, new data sources are created which can apply Big Data analytics to monitor and anticipate urban phenomena in new ways.
Example — A city in China has installed sensors into 10,000 taxis, 7,000 buses and 1 million private cars. This data is transferred to an Information Centre, where experts centralize, analyse traffic data and send updates to commuters.
- Citizens are the New Service Providers
Citizens are empowering themselves to be service providers by themselves in the smart city. They are adopting smarter ways of living. Example — By adding solar panels, citizens generate their own energy than relying on the grid services from the city.
By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants. With the rise of smart cities, there is no shortage of the benefits of connectivity. Moreover, as IoT continues to advance, it has the potential to enable cities to become smart using data collected by smart technologies like sensors which are attached to virtually every vehicle, device, or piece of equipment which is used daily in a city.
The leading players in this market are delivering smart infrastructure, IT and communications solutions to cities, supporting the cities across multiple operational and infrastructure issues.
- Alcatel-Lucent is providing networking/communication products and technologies.
- CISCO is optimizing the city network across and is computing the data from the connected devices.
- Hygiea has been the world’s first waste management for indoor and outdoor applications.
- Smart WAVE Technologies is developing wireless networks and IoT configurations.
- CIMCON Lightning helps cities run smarter by optimizing energy usage and maintaining costs.
- Siemens latest break-through solution for a smart city is the City Performance Tool. offers city planners a holistic approach for prioritizing infrastructure investments based on quantifiable contributions to growth and sustainability.
The smart cities initiatives are to reach US$95.8 Billion in 2019. The Asia Pacific region represents almost 40% of the total global expenditure. Following are some cities which are leading the way in urban sustainability and smart initiatives,
- Singapore is taking the ‘Smart City’ to a whole new level. The city calls for an unspecified number of sensors deployed across the island to track everything from cleanliness to traffic. Singapore has aggressively implemented congestion charging with the help of road sensors, phased traffic lights, and smart parking. They also have an open data platform making their data available to the public. Its Smart Nation program acknowledges privacy and security as chief concerns and ensures that data is anonymized when possible.
- Barcelona, the first city to introduce Fab Lab, has achieved a wide range of benefits through investment in IoT. Their LED lighting system is not only energy efficient but the sensors they carry give information on pollution, humidity, temperature, the presence of people, and noise. Their smart bins optimize the collection of waste and uses it produce energy afterwards. Their smart bike and bus systems represent sustainable mobility and decrease emissions. They also have intelligent irrigation systems and noise sensors.
- San Francisco, the cradle of innovation has been a leading light in changing the quality of its environmental space. Its connected city initiative enables residents to access data designed for an informative and sustainable living. It has achieved a phenomenal 80% waste diversion rate by disposing zero waste to landfills and treating no waste with high-temperature destruction.
Somebody’s Always Watching!
Though connectivity brings about a slew of benefits, it also creates a new attack surface for adversaries like data privacy and data theft.
Every feature in a smart city involves data collection. With data collection comes data privacy issues. And such issues will only increase as the amount of data gathered continues to grow.
However, only with real analytics data, we can get the real advantages. Example — Smart water meter technology helped Barcelona save $58 Million annually. With smart sensors, operating costs were cut by 30% in South Korea.
Ann Cavoukian, a pioneer in data privacy and security cautioned that there is a current lack of trust when it comes to the privacy of our data and how it’s used and expressed concern for privacy in smart cities.
These examples testify on how an entire smart city can become vulnerable and how the tons of gathered data raise the question of ownership, anonymity and quality
- There was a security lapse in the surveillance system which exposed a smart city in China. The exposed data contained all the necessary personal information about the residents.
- State-sponsored Russian hackers probed US grid and election infrastructure and caused two blackouts in Ukraine compromising on payment systems along with the malware campaigns.
- Iran’s nuclear program was caused substantial damage by a malicious computer worm.
- Last year, the entire Atlanta was held as hostage by attacking the city’s data which crippled all its connected systems.
Technology has been advancing swiftly, and it has been difficult for legislation to keep up with the privacy policies and data hacks. Just as GDPR was passed in Europe there is an immediate need of some policies surrounding data regulations in smart cities around the world.
In my opinion, other than the smart technologies for smart cities and data regulation policies, governments and the leading companies making a mark in this domain, should seriously ponder over the below thoughts
- Safety and Trust: Technology is giving us a smart and sustainable life but what about privacy and trust? In the wake of data hacks around the globe, the uncertainties that come with rapidly changing times, distrust is high and hope for improvement is low. Data regulations and policy should get strict on what is collected, why and how securely they are stored.
- Inclusion: Cities gearing up to become smart are failing to include their citizens for participation. Even when the smart city is initiative is more about the citizen experience, attention for basic human rights and participation is low.
- Willingness: Citizens need to have the will to change. Example — When the city of Madrid wanted to implement measures to fight pollution the initiative turned into a political battle and protests emerged.
- Social Cohesion: Where has it gone and how do you bring it back, especially in the mega-cities of the future? Social cohesion is all the above and it’s the fabric of a city where people want to live, love, grow, learn and care.