There can be no doubt: smart cities are our future. These digitally-connected ecosystems will ultimately span all our metropolises, crawling invisibly through them and growing smarter each time they’re called upon.
But best of all, the benefits they deliver extend far beyond “free Wi-Fi”. In the future, sensors — cameras, acoustic networks and other systems — will communicate real-time information about the health and status of the city and its infrastructure, which at a human level, could be felt as simply as a stress-free commute to work.
When we get there, we’ll be working in connected, smart buildings. In fact, Huawei and Honeywell recently announced a collaboration to bring these to life, taking advantage of the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to help make buildings more sustainable, secure and energy efficient. This industry-first smart building solution can reduce power consumption by 50%, connects build-ings to one another for optimal management across one platform, and powered by EC-IoT solution based on edge computing, offers fast response times and unparalleled system reliability.
Above all of this, in space, geostationary satellites and orbital platforms will monitor the city’s at-mosphere, pollution levels, weather systems, and local environment, keeping us healthier and saf-er. Energy will be metered efficiently, in the background, generated from clean, renewable sources - affordable for all, and friendly to our environment. Ultimately, the Smart City enriches our lives and environment for the better.
Ultimately, the Smart City enriches our lives and environment for the better.
In running any one of these smart initiatives, there are petabytes of data captured. In an interview last year, MIT professor Carlo Ratti, engineer, designer and director of the school’s Senseable City Lab revealed the knock-on value of such smart data being openly available.
“Cities have already opened up APIs for public transportation, and with that data, citizens have created apps and programs that help organize and even improve local transportation,” he explained. “One project we did in New York City analyzed taxi data to see how ride-sharing might affect transportation, and led to a collaboration with Uber and an examination of how shared rides might work with programs such as UberPool. That’s the kind of experimentation that can come from open, shared data.”
Even something as seemingly low-tech as an elevator can be made smart and improved through data. A staggering 70% of the global population will live and work in cities by 2050. Increasingly, business, leisure and residential properties have to build upwards to accommodate this, and as of 2015, there were 15 million elevators worldwide. In September 2016, Huawei signed an agreement with global elevator giant Schindler to realise the Internet of Elevators & Escalators (IoEE).
The resulting Elevators Connection Solution is open, flexible and scalable. Using IoT, the Cloud and Big Data, it enables remote management and predictive maintenance, lowers O&M costs and failure rates and ultimately, ensures safety of passengers. Schindler is able to accurately monitor, analyze and leverage data across its one million elevators around the world. Given that more than one billion users rely on Schindler’s mobility solutions each day, the insights are invaluable.
But smart city data can even save lives. In the US, New Orleans worked with data scientists to develop a tool for predicting the city blocks with homes at the highest risk of fire, that were also most likely to be missing smoke detectors. Other cities are using predictive analytics and algorithms to augment their fire risk inspection strategies.
Smart is already making city life better. Sensors are placating frustrated drivers in San Francisco by dynamically adjusting parking tariffs, guiding them to less congested locations; in Barcelona, among a vast number of smart projects, sensors track rainfall and weather forecasts in order to more efficiently meter city sprinklers and improve water conservation, while new energy-efficient LED lighting senses when pedestrians are near and brightens automatically. When streets are empty, the lights dim again.
The island of Ameland, in the Netherlands, takes lighting to another level, recently announcing a smart initiative that will help residents and visitors, human or animal. New smart LED streetlights will emit a subtle blue-green light that improves the ability of humans to judge perception at night and is also friendly to nocturnal animals and migrating birds disorientated by regular white light.
The frameworks to run such connected streetlights might at first bewilder local government. Fortu-nately, help is at hand through partnership. In 2016, Huawei launched the Connected City Lighting Solution, offering 80% energy savings, dynamic light calculations based on local longitude and lati-tude and dynamic light duration adjustment according to season, month and even day, but still in a package that affords rapid integration with third-party sensors and applications.
In San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the US, smart initiatives are reducing traffic congestion, improving pedestrian safety and providing access to Wi-Fi, enabling anyone to take part in the digital conversation - whether that's with family and friends through social media, or with public services. It’s also improving emergency response with the use of drones in fire operations, and enhancing customer service through the use of 311 and Parks mobile apps.
Japan, meanwhile, has its very own purpose-built smart cities. Shioashiya near Osaka Bay is a residential project of 400 smart homes and an 83-unit smart condominium where owners benefit from connected technologies including a lithiumion battery for solar power, a fuel cell in the yard generating electricity and heat, and an energy management system that displays real-time energy stats on the TV. Japan is so far ahead on smart city knowledge, it’s helping India develop three of its own.
We’re only now at the inception of the Smart City, but already, we’re creating cleaner, safer, health-ier and more efficient environments to work, rest and play in. Through data insights extracted from these projects, we’re enriching city life in ways we previously hadn’t even imagined, potentially sav-ing lives, and learning for the future. The benefits of the Smart City are undeniable. The question is not whether we can afford to go smart, but rather, for the good of everyone and everything in the city, can we honestly afford not to be?