More than half of the world’s population reside in cities and according to the United Nations, by 2030 urban areas will be home to one in every three people on the planet. With such a rapid growth of urbanization, many metropolitan challenges arise – limited resources, environmental issues, and mobility constraints.
Disruptive technologies were basically created to solve problems the cities face to make urban living better. For starters, cities generate tons of data, which when put to smart use can benefit their residents. Digital solutions that operate based on this data, can help make smart decisions in real-time, provide easier access to services, and allocate resources more wisely.
What is a smart city?
A smart city makes use of disruptive technologies to offer more efficient access to urban services and as a result, reimagine the way people live, work, commute, and entertain. An increasing number of cities and their municipalities adopt the smart city concept to provide a more sustainable, efficient, secure, and creative way of living.
Smart cities provide a more sustainable, efficient, secure, and creative way of living.
Cities empowered by smart connected technologies become more responsive, better suited to the demands of the present and future generations of inhabitants. Digital initiatives make critical infrastructure components and urban services as transportation, healthcare, public safety, education, etc.– more accessible and efficient. A study by McKinsey found that digital solutions can improve some key quality of life indicators, such as personal safety, daily commute, health problems, by 10-30%. And they can go even farther than that. They could also provide additional ways for citizens and the local government to communicate, and help connect consumers with the suppliers.
Smart city technology
What are those smart trends that connect humans with technologies and change our urban lives for the better? The Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud, artificial intelligence, 5G, robotics, etc., – are trends that integrate technology into society. Below, we’ll analyze in more detail how disruptive technologies make living in smart cities more comfortable and of a higher quality.
Internet of Things (IoT) for smart cities
The Internet of Things is the technical backbone of a smart city. It’s a network that consists of numerous sensors that collect vast amounts of data and wireless communications. The collected data is further analyzed to improve infrastructure, public services, and optimize resources. For instance, IoT technology gives us real-time information about the state of traffic or level of air pollution, and via connected devices lets us manage incidents remotely.
How IoT helps in smart cities?
Parking: to detect free parking spaces
Lighting: to detect motion in a street to adjust the lighting level
Health: to measure vital metrics of patients
Traffic: to detect traffic jams on public roads
Waste: to measure the fill levels of containers
IoT-enabled cities are not just about what is happening outside, it’s also about making buildings and homes more secure and comfortable. Smart buildings are packed with connected sensors that help monitor and adjust lighting levels, detect water leakage or gas emissions; smart homes are equipped with virtual assistants like Alexa and other connected devices accessible at just one tap on your smartphone.
According to a Statista Research Department study, the total number of installed IoT-connected devices is currently 30.73 billion and is expected to reach 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025. If this trend progresses, the cities of the future will be full of interconnected electronic devices that generate massive amounts of data and provide real-time information to the public and municipalities.
Lots of the data already collected is unstructured and not analyzed. Hence there is an ever-growing demand for advanced solutions that will process these masses of data to extract actionable information from them. These advanced solutions are using such technologies as big data and AI.
Big Data in smart cities
Smart solutions are fueled by big data that in its turn, is closely interconnected with IoT technologies. Big data is called so because it is too large to be processed with traditional tools. Thus it seems paradoxical that it is only useful when analyzed. Advanced analytics, statistical techniques, and programming models are used to find patterns and correlations in data to extract meaningful information for different users, people, or machines.
Big data is generated by different sources and can come in different formats. Typical examples of big data include data captured from social media, sensor data, surveillance camera data, location data from mobile devices, Internet search data. These masses of data are an indispensable part of IoT operations in smart cities.
Data is an indispensable part of IoT operations in smart cities.
Big data’s potential is still very much unexplored and unexploited. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte and CIO Magazine (NL), 86% of all respondents claim that big data and analytics have much more potential for their organizations than it is currently realized.
Cities are constantly accumulating masses of rich data that have high volume, are often collected in real-time, and come in different formats and from different sources. Despite these challenges, combined with AI and software technologies that help analyze it, big data is used more and more to improve city operations and provide a variety of economic and social benefits.
Cloud Technologies in Smart Cities
The development of smart cities means finding ways to store constantly generated volumes of data securely. This data also has to be accessible on-demand, structured and displayed in a way to be useful in making decisions. Here’s where cloud technology steps in.
Cloud acts as a storage for large amounts of data aggregated from various applications and sensors, and also as an analysis system. Apps can streamline the process of managing data. The term “cloud technologies” can also mean cloud computing that is the delivery of computing as a service.
Cloud adoption gives cities the opportunity to increase the efficiency of services and save costs because of its “pay per use” model. Clouds are low-maintenance for users and more secure than physical data storage. Cloud-based solutions are highly scalable and can dynamically react to changes. They provide smart cities with digital infrastructure and offer the cheapest way to introduce services to city residents.
Cloud-based solutions are highly scalable and provide smart cities with digital infrastructure.
Cloud-empowered cities are able to exploit IoT technologies to the fullest and enable innovative connected ecosystems. And they, in turn, are helping change the lives of people in cities for the better.
5G connectivity in smart cities
5G wireless technology plays a significant role in digital transformation. The introduction of 5G mobile networks will provide higher speeds and more connectivity. But what does it mean for smart cities?
The data transmission for 5G is 20 Gigabits per second, which is 100 to 1000 times faster than that of 4G. The response time (latency) for 5G will reach 1 millisecond, compared to 20-30 milliseconds for 4G. It means that uploading and downloading vast amounts of data via 5G will be much faster.
5G technology also offers more device density. With the ability to connect multiple devices simultaneously with no loss of connection, densely populated areas will have excellent network coverage and that includes network support for a massive number of IoT devices.
Furthermore, the new generation of wireless communication will have a 90% reduction in energy consumption per bit compared to 4G. Being more cost-effective and energy-efficient than previous generations, 5G is one more step towards sustainable cities of the future.
With the enhanced computing capacity 5G offers, it is safe to say that it is bound to unlock the full potential of IoT and fuel the development of smart cities.
AI and Robotics
Aggregation of masses of data goes hand in hand with technologies that analyze them and provide actionable insights. One of these technologies is artificial intelligence (AI). Using machine learning algorithms, AI performs advanced analytics and validates complex processes.
Essentially, AI is about simulating intelligent behavior in machines and processing routine tasks. AI-powered solutions give the ability to complete tasks that take humans weeks or months in mere minutes or seconds. According to Gartner, 20% of the population in the developed countries will use AI assistants to help them cope with operational tasks by 2022.
20% of the population in the developed countries will use AI assistants to help them cope with operational tasks by 2022.
AI excels at enabling real-time responses, detecting unusual behavior, post-event processing such as detecting patterns in data over time, and running predictive analytics. Paired with IoT solutions, it can be extremely beneficial for smart cities’ development.
Examples of smart city technology solutions
Connected cities will be a tremendous improvement for citizens and businesses as well. They are bound to cover all aspects of infrastructure needs and solve environmental problems.
Smart buildings and living
Commercial and residential buildings consume about 60% of the world’s electricity and about 25% of global water, and they emit approximately a third of all GHG emissions that cause the greenhouse effect on our planet (UNEP). One of the ways to address this problem is a more efficient energy and resource consumption approach that smart buildings adopt.
Smart buildings are non-residential buildings like offices, shopping malls, or hotels, equipped with connected sensors that give access to real-time data about consumption levels. IoT solutions for smart buildings can help with space management, automate operations, and better control the facilities.
Solution: efficient resources consumption
One of the great smart building solutions is ClevAir, which utilizes sensors to control temperature, monitor power, water consumption, and track sustainability performance in real-time. This solution was implemented in a building of a large Swedish furniture retailer IKEA and helped save 25% of electricity in the scope of six months.
Solution: customer-location tracking
Stores can also use IoT solutions to track customers and employees to define the most popular sections, check how many shoppers are at the checkout, how much time and where employees spend in the store, to better allocate resources and promote certain products. Euristiq developed such a solution for the world’s largest health and beauty retail group with over 15k stores worldwide and here you can read the full case study.
Solution: smart office meeting room booking
Smart buildings are also about solving problems their occupants have. For instance, large offices often have to deal with the problem of meeting room overbooking – employees book rooms and don’t show up, or book bigger rooms than are needed. We solved this problem with a smart office solution developed for a Canadian provider of IoT gateway sensors – an application connected to LoRaWANTM gateway and sensors. The app displays room analytics and provides an actual occupancy status in real-time. Users can view free slots and book an unoccupied room.
Connected digital spaces can not only cut energy consumption and improve occupants’ comfort but also mitigate security risks. Investments in smart building technologies usually pay off within one or two years by reducing costs.
Big cities often struggle with the problem of traffic congestion, lack of free parking spaces, and as a result, higher levels of GHG emissions. Smart mobility solutions aim to solve this issue and transform public transport systems into more efficient, comfortable, and greener ones.
Tens of millions of people living in large metropolitan cities begin and end their every workday commuting on overcrowded public transport or crawling in traffic jams in their cars. Studies have revealed that longer daily commutes increase anxiety levels, influence obesity, and high blood pressure. That’s why improving the daily commute is one of the priorities in smart cities.
Smart mobility applications can save an average commuter from 15 to 30 minutes per day, according to a McKinsey report. This can be achieved with smart traffic control solutions like real-time road navigation, smart parking, development of smart intersections, autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, car-, and bike-sharing, etc.
Solution: smart bike rental
Fostering a greener means of transport such as bike-sharing with a touch of IoT is also a big part of a smart city. Take Denmark, one of the most bicycle-friendly countries. Their city bike-sharing company turned to Euristiq for a smart bike rental solution GoBike that provides easy management of e-bikes. The system now has more than 130 electric bike stations across the country, helps reduce congestion, and promotes green mobility.
Solution: smart traffic monitoring system
A rise in the number of vehicles on the streets leads to traffic congestion and increased incident risk. Smart cities have a way to eliminate both by utilizing street camera sensors. They can monitor vehicles, their speed and form different kinds of alerts to warn drivers of the obstacles ahead. We have built such an IoT traffic monitoring system for a transportation company in the UK. It collects data about the traffic to detect incidents and/or traffic jams, send alerts, and form reports.
Despite taking up only 2% of the Earth’s surface, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy. And this number is expected to grow with each year. No wonder people started looking for more efficient ways of consuming energy and lowering our impact upon the environment.
Cities consume 78% of the world’s energy.
Smart street lighting represents one of the most excellent solutions to reduce energy usage. Street lights can be equipped with sensors to detect movement. They automatically become brighter in bad weather conditions or when citizens or traffic are approaching and are set to dimming to save energy when no motion is detected. These sensors could also distinguish the type of vehicle approaching and in case an ambulance or a fire truck needs to drive through, lights could change to a different color or start blinking.
Solution: smart street lighting
Euristiq has partnered with an international electronics manufacturer to develop one such street lighting control system. In an easy-to-operate app users can adjust light levels, set schedules, change light colors, and create lighting patterns for different events.
Many smart cities all over the world have already implemented smart street lighting systems. They consist of sensors and connected street lights units that not only communicate with each other but also collect data in real-time. One of such IoT lighting solution that we developed monitors street lights in real-time and provides operation reports. City municipalities can evaluate the electricity consumption levels and manage the lamps via an app. This solution was implemented in cities all over the world and controls 2M street lamps combined.
Smart City Healthcare
Smart healthcare applications play a crucial role in smart cities, improving residents’ health, and wellbeing. They can lower the disease burden by 8–15% as mentioned in this McKinsey report. Numerous wearables can help prevent diseases before they occur, or treat and monitor conditions remotely; IoT sensors located in the city monitor air pollution level in real-time; telemedicine provides simplified access to medical treatment and lowers consultation costs which are very helpful in times of COVID-19 pandemic.
Smart hospitals combine complex connected systems that work together to achieve a better experience for patients, more patient-centric. Leveraging the potential AI and machine learning have to offer, interaction with patients could be more seamless and operational processes more automated. Smart hospital applications can help with equipment localization and their efficient management.
But smart healthcare goes even deeper than that. Smart cities can conduct infectious disease surveillance to prevent their spread, promote awareness, and hold vaccine campaigns. Big data collected in citied can also be used to fight preventable diseases and data analytics of clinical records can help people get preventive treatment which all can lead to lowering the costs of care and increase the quality of life.
Smart City Safety
A feeling of physical safety is one of the most important factors that determine the quality of life. New disruptive technologies can enhance security and fight crime. Smart city sensors can accurately detect gunshots and their exact locations. According to McKinsey’s analysis, real-time crime mapping, predictive policing, and smart home security systems can combat crime, prevent deaths, and lower the number of incidents.
Surveillance cameras located in the city streets empowered with facial recognition technologies can decrease the number of street crimes. Sensors can monitor activity in unauthorized areas and be better at it than human security guards. Safety officers can be equipped with body-worn cameras to collect footage of interactions with citizens to protect both sides. Drones can save the lives of police officers or firefighters by exploring dangerous zones.
Example: Emergency app
Emergency apps can help people who are in danger send alerts to police officers (or other people who can help) about their whereabouts. One such emergency app “Women Emergency Assistance Notification System” (KADES) is being used by Turkish women to help them in cases of domestic violence. At the click of the button, the app connects victims to emergency services, sharing their exact location without alerting the assailant about this cry for help.
Smarter city initiative
Global spending on smart city initiatives that include projects from cities, companies, and private persons amounted to more than 608 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. This market is forecasted to grow rapidly, reaching more than a trillion U.S. dollars by 2024 worldwide, according to Statista. One of the major factors contributing to the growth of the smart cities market is government initiatives to adopt advanced, connected technologies.
Smart city projects in Stockholm
Stockholm leads the way for cities that would like to become smarter. By 2013 Stockholmers had access to more than 70 e-government services and by 2017 the city generated more than 90 successful digitization initiatives and projects. Stockholm implemented a fiber network by Stokab that ensures the city has 100% broadband coverage. In 2019 the city’s officials have set an ambitious aim to become fossil fuel-free and be carbon neutral by 2040.
The city’s innovative solutions about the environment, digitalization, and social sustainability have earned the right to call Stockholm the smartest city in the world. And indeed, in 2019 the city has won the World Smart City award for their GrowSmarter project. It comprises 12 smart solutions that fall into three categories – low energy district, integrated infrastructure, and sustainable urban mobility.
Stockholm’s smart waste management system
One district of the Swedish capital has a new kind of waste management system called Envac. It consists of special smart bins where each type of rubbish is marked with a different color. Then these bags of rubbish are transported underground via high-pressure tubes to a single collection center. There it is sorted according to color. This allows not only using less waste collection trucks and getting less overfull bins but also turning waste into electricity, heat, and biogas for vehicles. Upon such garbage disposal, city residents get instant feedback on their smartphones about how much waste they are producing and how much biogas.
Smart city projects in Seoul
The South Korean capital is one of the world’s most technologically advanced cities. Seoul utilizes vast amounts of data to improve the lives of its citizens and provide services more intelligently. Thousands of sensors in the form of CCTV cameras and detectors are already monitoring traffic flow, speed, and air quality. By 2022 Seoul aims to deploy 50,000 more IoT sensors in the city to track fine dust, wind direction, noise, vibration, and floating population.
Seoul’s Smart City Platform for Mayor
Seoul’s city mayor’s office is equipped with a huge touchscreen, can be voice-activated, and shows the current state of the city at a glance. This innovative system is called a Smart City Platform and can be also accessed with a smartwatch, tablet PC, mobile device, and smart TV.
Every 10 seconds it provides visualized real-time information about air quality, traffic state and disasters, and other situations from almost any field, like the current price of apples. The system launched in 2017 and was publicly released in 2019 to provide citizens with the same access to real-time information as the mayor. The Seoul administration believes that open data enables people to generate smarter solutions.
The Seoul Night Bus
Seoul’s administration solved the problem of no public transportation between 1 am and 5 am with the help of urban data. Three billion late-night mobile calls to taxi companies were analyzed to design nine routes of a new “Owl Bus”. Now it serves the needs of the city’s late-night commuters.
Seoul has 1.4 million (14.4%) of the population over 65 years old and by 2016 it is predicted to grow up to 20%. As a part of their healthcare strategy, the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to install IoT devices in homes of senior citizens with poor health living alone. These sensors detect motion, temperature, humidity, and lighting in real-time. If no movement or unusual activity is detected, the caretakers are notified to visit the house. With the help of such monitoring, high-risk emergencies can be detected early and a lot of lives of elderly citizens can be saved.