Smart cities are hubs that route IoT-produced data through public-private partnerships to solve real problems. From cutting down energy use to improving traffic conditions, building smarter cities can improve the long-term health and the lives of urban residents worldwide.
The world is quickly becoming urbanized. According to the United Nations, 68 percent of the global population will live in cities by 2050. While cities hold most of the world’s wealth, they also produce 70 percent of CO2 emissions and consume two-thirds of energy worldwide. As more people move into cities, their sustainability comes into question.
To improve urban living and to optimize their resources, cities are folding internet-connected devices into streetlights, municipal infrastructure, parking meters, and more, composing what could be called the “technological” portion of a smart city. Working with big-name developers and up-and-coming startups, smart cities are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the quality of life for their citizens.
What Makes a City “Smart”?
Smart cities use intelligent solutions to optimize infrastructure and smart and responsive governance to engage citizens in the management of their city. A system of sensors, networks, and applications collect useful data, like traffic congestion, energy use, and CO2 levels. This data is used by the municipality to improve a city, including its transportation, buildings, utilities, environment, infrastructure, and public services.
Anatomy of a Smart City
These IoT-driven cities monitor their urban landscape and communicate that data to both the government and the citizens in order to create a more efficient and sustainable space. Here are some of the most prevalent and innovative IoT features.
London has improved its CO2 input through transportation. The city reduces 70,000 cars on the road daily by blocking off central business areas to cars and by using cameras to charge drivers who drive in these areas. Copenhagen is another smart city that encourages alternative forms of transportation—they implement GPS-powered traffic lights that favor cyclists, decreasing overall travel time by 17 percent.
Cities are also using sensors to detect any leaks outside tanks and pipes, and they’re handing water management over to their citizens. New York City saved more than $73 million in water costs by allowing citizens to monitor their water use through automated meter readings.
Chicago is a strong example. The city has reduced violent crime by 14 percent every year using predictive crime heat maps to aid police efforts. Rio de Janeiro has improved the response time of emergency services by 30 percent using a system of connected video feeds.