Currently, 1.3 million people move into cities every week and by 2040, 65% of the world’s population will live in metropolises. With urbanization and the increasing number of people migrating to major cities, alternative smart measures are needed to alleviate the pressure of overpopulation. This is why the creation of smart policies are there to help with urban living and mobility. In order to keep up with the ever-growing population, smart technology and cities are solutions to maintaining and improving economic, environmental and social sustainability.  

So what exactly is a smart city? This involves the re-development of an existing city using information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the infrastructure and urban services like transportation, energy and connectivity. It is a network of connected objects and machines like low-power sensors, wireless networks, web and mobile applications, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, automation and robotics which all play a part in the growth of smart cities.

According to McKinsey, there are different elements that make up a smart city, this includes using technology like smartphones, sensors and applications connected by high-speed communication networks. The goal is to use technology, data and apply digital interfaces to traditional infrastructure to increase efficiencies and convenience, reduce costs and improve the overall quality of life for residents. Technology is thrust into each of our lives where we can use smartphones and apps to discover information about traffic, transit, safety, news and weather alerts.

Smart city applications can help to reduce costs, efficiently manage the use of resources and physical infrastructures and increase communication and information sharing between citizens and the government. For example, energy efficiency can be improved by 30% within 20 years for cities running on information. London, Los Angeles, New York, Seoul, Shenzhen, and Singapore are among the top cities in the world implementing and using the most mobile applications. Based on the number of sensors, devices and the quality of communication networks, Amsterdam, New York, Seoul, Singapore, and Stockholm are among the most advanced cities. For instance, New York City has deployed BigBelly garbage cans which are equipped with wireless sensors to monitor trash levels for better waste management and Amsterdam uses a virtual traffic manager to improve and optimize its flow and circulation.

How Do Smart Cities Have An Impact On Us?

As we briefly mentioned before, the emergence of smart cities exists for the purpose of improving the urban quality of life. There are different aspects that can influence this like safety, time and convenience, health, environmental quality, social connectedness, civic participation, jobs and the cost of living. Smart city applications and technology have a way of positively affecting some of these categories. Let’s take a look:

Security

According to Mckinsey, using smart technology in cities can reduce incidents of assault, robbery, burglary and auto theft by 30-40%. Smart apps like home security systems, gunshot detection and smart surveillance can increase and optimize response times for emergency services and police. Traffic signals can also be synchronized with smart technology to provide clear driving paths for emergency vehicles and in doing so it could reduce response times by 20-35%.

Thanks to smart cities, the methods for fire detection are more efficient. Sensors can be used to monitor the condition of parks and wooded areas that might be prone to forest fires. The sensors could also sense fires in buildings and send out immediate calls to emergency responders and the fire department.

Furthermore, surveillance cameras and drones can be used to help with law enforcement, firefighting, infrastructure inspections, monitoring the environment and they can ensure security and monitor areas that aren’t frequented often by security officers.  

Transportation

It has been predicted that by 2025, cities will be able to cut commuting times by 15-20% by using smart-mobility applications. Apps and smart transportation systems using sensors embedded in roads and street lights, can warn commuters about delays and send navigation alerts of heavy traffic congestion in real-time so they can adjust their commuting methods or change up their driving routes and pick a quicker path to their destination.

IoT sensors on physical structures can also predict when they need to be repaired before breaking down and causing traffic delays. This then helps to reduce the overall travel time and prevent the overuse of fuel. Instead of driving around in circles in the hopes of finding a parking space, applications can help coordinate where there is parking available in a city to save people time and offer more convenience.

Thanks to these smart transportation systems, they use cameras to capture speed and traffic infractions. For instance, in countries like France and England, there are cameras set up on the side of rural roads and highways to catch when people are driving too quickly.

Health

Smart applications could monitor and treat chronic conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Other smart and proactive healthcare treatment technology like remote-patient-monitoring systems, can use digital devices to take vital readings and then send the results to doctors for assessment. This allows the doctors to decide if intervention is needed so that unnecessary hospitalizations can be avoided.

There also exists the use of telemedicine which provides people with consultations through video conferences. This technology could be lifesaving if there are doctor shortages.

Sustainable Environment

The use of smart technology in cities is a helpful way to cut down on emissions, track water consumption and air quality levels. According to Mckinsey, says cities can save between 25-80 litres of water per person each day. Sensors can detect and monitor leaks, runoff, wildlife, changes in water pressure and they can identify major sources of air pollution. Sending out SMS alerts to residents on reducing their wastewater production and sharing real-time air quality levels through smartphone apps can help people to be more conscious of their habits and maybe even reward them when they use less energy.

Sensors can also be used for smart waste management. They can detect when waste containers are full around the city so sanitation workers are efficient with their routes and garbage pickup locations. Buildings are also using smart technology to remain energy efficient like by connecting their energy usage to a mobile device so that tasks, like controlling the thermostat, can be managed remotely.

Yes, it is true that smart cities will greatly influence and change the way we go about our everyday lives. But in order to keep up with the major growth in population and a large number of people migrating to live in cities, this change is for the better so that everyone can live comfortably thanks to smart technology.

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