What makes up a Smart City? The term is still a little fast and loose but as of 2019 we’re seeing a clearer vision of the practical applications of this technology. From big picture concepts to real world devices, here’s a break down of the question “What is Smart City Technology?”.
Smart Transportation, Mobility, And Congestion Solutions
Traffic is one of the main concerns in any metropolitan area, whether it’s the general speed or the environmental impact created by millions of cars on the road at the same time. What is Smart City Technology able to do about this?
Congestion sensors in the city of London have reduced the use of 70,000 cars daily by blocking off certain downtown areas and using traffic cameras to fine motorists who continue to use them. These sensors use open source technology such as Google Maps to support traffic patterns and build the most efficient routes for the flow of traffic.
Copenhagen is renowned as a cyclist friendly city and one of their successful Smart City initiatives centres around that. Copenhagen has decreased average commuter travel time by 17% by using GPS powered traffic lights that favour cyclists, helping reduce C02 emissions by 57%.
Some smart parking meter technology eliminates traditional parking meter systems. Using Mesh Networking, parking meters can let an end user know where an available spot is and automatically charge an occupant after they park. This will eliminate dependency on wifi or cellular networks and will not require a user to input a transaction.
Private companies such as Google and Uber have been mapping out cities and their most efficient routes for years. Finally it seems that municipalities are on their way to catch up and use this technology to enhance the experience of its citizens.
Smart Buildings and Energy Optimization
Buildings house the highest volume of human activity per day, and they are a key spot for data collection.
What is Smart City Technology going to be able to find with this information? Cities like Seattle can now measure and guide energy use in buildings, and since launching its smart analytics system the city has reduced 45% of all emissions within their downtown.
Buildings which use technologies such as smart thermostats and smart emergency systems can uncover a breadth of information to help reduce energy waste. Smart thermostats monitor and control the environment within individual rooms to optimize energy use; smart emergency response systems, such as fire detectors, can target the specific areas they’re needed, saving water and potentially reducing water damage to the building and facilities.
Being able to connect multiple buildings within a single network and centralize their information can be a game changer in understanding how to efficiency manage energy use in building management.
Water and electricity are central to life in developed nations, and they can be poorly managed and ineffectively used. However, numerous cities have recognized this problem and found solutions to tackle the issue. When building Smart City solutions, the most effective technology is dynamic and tailored for each individual city.
The city of Barcelona saves over €400,000 annually on water costs in public parks due to smart irrigation systems. This technology relays sensor information to enable precise irrigation an area. This is an example of Precision Agriculture, a field where IoT technology has made substantial strides.
San Diego saves $250,000 in electricity costs per year with lights that only brighten as vehicles or pedestrians approach. Smart lighting technology is something that can be adaptive to traffic patterns, weather conditions and pedestrian behaviours. This technology can be replicated in services such as school crosswalks or residential traffic lights.
Since 2011, New York City has saved more than $73 million in water costs by allowing citizens to monitor their water use through automated meter readings. On average 60% of all water is wasted in municipalities, whether for city irrigation or residential service. More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean water and with that comes a need to better manage water use and allocate clean water responsibly.
Factors that can hang up these projects are installation costs and connection fees. The Barcelona project took 30 years to complete and it was very expensive due to the kilometres of cabling used for the system. Technology like Mesh Networking can replicate these projects but remove the dependency on cabling or cellular connection, significantly reducing the cost of the project.
In Adelaide, the project Ten Gigabit Adelaide enables businesses and organizations to share and receive high volumes of data at 10Gbps data speeds with a fibre optic data network built into the downtown commercial buildings. This allows for small businesses in the city to have access to a fast, cheap and reliable network without restrictions and congestion often experienced with traditional internet services. This is an example of how cities are changing their infrastructure to be more prepared for the technological challenges businesses face in 2019.
Seoul built a sensor-based system directly into garbage bins to tackle their out of control residential waste. This real-time monitoring cut Seoul’s waste collection costs by 83% and increased the recycling diversion rate to 46%. This is a massive application of how IoT systems can completely revolutionize existing city infrastructure and make significant changes in a short period of time.
This technology is valuable not just for developed nations, but for the developing ones that need support in resource management. Making infrastructure smarter could be the key to the growth of nations around the world.
A Focus on Climate Change Reduction
A major touchpoint of Smart City Technology is to battle climate change and pollution. Cities have recognized that they require technology which can keep pace with the growing industries causing ecological damage.
From the creation of green buildings (quite literally buildings filled with plants to reduce CO2) to improving weather response planning, cities can monitor their pollution and CO2 levels. This has been a success in one of the most polluted cities in the world: Beijing. The city has reduced 20% of all deadly air pollution by tracing it to its source and redirecting it.
As stated previously, these technologies can have a major contribution to CO2 reduction in major metropolitan areas.
Increased Public Health and Safety
The backbone of any smart city initiative is to improve the quality of life for its citizens.
In Vancouver, over 500 free WiFi hot spots have been installed as part of the #VanWiFi initiative to allow citizens to have unlimited internet access.
Chicago uses a smart predictive crime map that has reduced violent crime by 14% every year since its implementation. It combines crime data with factors including the location of local businesses, the weather and socioeconomic information to forecast where crime might occur. The results help officers decide how to deploy resources.
The Cincinnati Fire Department has started using a new predictive analytics system to surface recommendations to dispatchers on appropriate responses to emergency calls based on a number of different variables including location, weather, and inputs from similar types of calls. The AI software helps the department prioritize and respond more effectively to the 80,000 requests they receive annually, reportedly improving emergency response times for the department.
In understanding the question “What is Smart City Technology?” the answer is multifaceted and always growing.
Where does Orbis Mesh and Mesh Networking Fit in?
Orbis Mesh Networks can be the backbone of almost all of this technology. Virtually all smart city solutions require sensors as its means of collecting data. These sensors need a way to stay connected and continuously transmit information. Mesh Networks can connect these sensors to each other, creating a vast, self-sustaining and self-configuring stream of information where a minimal number of sensors are needed to directly connect with the cloud for information to be shared.
Unlike a normal cellular or WiFi connection, the more sensors that are within the network, the stronger the network actually becomes. Because Orbis Mesh uses an RF Mesh to connect devices together, connection is completely independent of the presence or failure of a cellular or WiFi network, as well as being free of usage or cellular charges.
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