The world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and two-thirds of these people will live in cities. What this means is in the next 34 years the world’s cities will add another 2.5 billion people.
Such growth will have an impact on the environment, on the city’s infrastructure and very much on the lives of the people who live within them. So, the question, then, is how will cities prepare for such growth? The answer, while not simple begins with the Internet of Things. The rapid development of connected technologies is allowing urban centers around the world to transform into smart cities. And, as they do so, they are changing how cities work and the way people live within them.
Here are four ways smart cities are already changing the landscape:
1. Going green and saving money
Named Global Smart City – 2015 by Juniper Research, Barcelona has improved its use of water, energy and other resources with IoT technologies. Barcelona’s Lighting Masterplan program, for example, converted 1,100 lampposts to LED and outfitted them with sensors. With this, street lights turn on when pedestrians are in close proximity and dim when the streets are empty. The sensors also collect data about air quality. Through this program, the city has achieved 30 percent increase energy conversation as well as a savings of $37 million, reducing costs by one-third.
2. Maximizing citizen’s time
With significantly greater urban populations, cities need to determine how they can keep pedestrian traffic flowing at all times. Hong Kong upgraded its commuter card to be a contactless payment card not only for transit fares but in retail stores, parking machines, vending machines and kiosks and public services locations. It also syncs up with rewards and loyalty programs. With this wearable, riders can travel on multiple forms of public transport and directs the flow of traffic inside stations, reducing congestion and making commuting more efficient.
It’s not just people that have to be directed, it’s cars, buses, and bikes, too. With 15 percent of driving time spent in congestion and 20 percent of time used to find a parking spot, the use of GPS and smart parking bays, as was recently installed in London’s Greenwich borough, is reducing wasted time and improving the flow of traffic.
The Copenhagen Connecting plan uses wireless data from cell phones and GPS systems in buses to make the system more efficient and reduce travel time for cyclists and bus passengers by 10 percent.
3. Improving public services
Adding sensors to garbage bins and sewers as done in Copenhagen and installing smart parking bays as has been done in London’s Greenwich borough are improving the efficiency of public infrastructure for the city and its citizens.
IoT also offers the opportunity to make other public services more convenient. In Buenos Aires, for example, it has launched the Ministry of Modernization to engage citizens in government agencies. The city’s free public wireless networks bring WiFi access to the masses in parks, libraries, museums, and subway and bus stations. It has also digitized its registry for birth certificates and makes tax filing easy using a smartphone app.
4. Engaging citizens in creating the city’s future
One of the key benefits resulting from a city of connected things is the data it provides. City officials and businesses, alike, can measure crowd density at all times of the day and determine areas that capture more foot traffic, which can be used to determine where new restaurants or shops could profitably set up.
IoT, however, can do more than passively accumulate data. Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative is a case in point. It has a series of citizen apps that allow citizens to communicate with public service providers, industry experts, and research institutions to offer solutions that will improve city living and build stronger communities. Feedback submitted using the city’s Beeline app is being used to create new transport routes to meet public needs.
The future of smart cities will only grow, incorporating more IoT elements across its urban landscape. That’s why IoT device security is essential to the smart city, ensuring its devices remain updated with the latest software and hardware as well as protected to ensure data continues to transmit between connection points.