Are smart cities the future of sustainability?

The Internet of Things has transformed the world with ease. It allows data to be readily harvested and insights brilliantly translated into intelligently managed resources. This feature, once limited to many of today’s home utilities – Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s smart fridges, security home applications - has broken the boundaries to create opportunities for a better, smarter urban living.

IoT is now the heartbeat of smart cities – a grand network of urban infrastructure that enables various entities to coexist with each other through real-time interaction and innovation. In it, a blueprint laden with smart sensors, monitoring foot traffic, gauging energy use, promoting safer streets for the residents while gathering data where information is needed the most.

Why make a city smart?

In 2050, more than half of the world’s population will be thriving in urban areas, says the United Nations. There’s a growing need for development, and in many of the world’s top cities, live analytics and dynamic technology are essential to making these municipalities more livable. It is more than just listening to movement. It is understanding the way locals utilize the resources and maximizing those features - traffic, lighting, security, public transportation and more - according to the present trend.

What puts the smart in a smart city?

Technology opens many doors – doors filled with data necessary to improve various aspects of modern-day living. By identifying both challenges and opportunities, cities can easily solve issues as they emerge, while cutting back costs at the same time. This allows leaders to invest in more impactful resources and making better decisions based on live movement.

The world’s smart cities

In Barcelona, lamp posts recognize when one is walking down the street, immediately lighting up the pathway – or parking lot – to make it more navigable. Smart sensors are installed within these mundane street objects, dimming whenever there is less foot traffic to conserve energy. This small tweak has saved the city $37 million per year, also helping the country cut back on unnecessary energy use.

While people fear technology is taking over human jobs, Barcelona proves that new opportunities are paved by the smart technology sector, creating more than 45,000 new jobs for this feature.

Singapore pays attention to the holistic health of its city, building green spaces that coexist with its highly urban backdrop. The city enlists robotic police – bots on the ground, drones in the air – to impose a stronger sense of security. All homes are integrated with smart utility management that assists in lowering the utility bills, as well as monitoring the elderly in the house, especially when they are alone.

In the west of the region, the land transit department created a transport system where daily commuters can engage in various mobility modes – from walking, cycling, and public transportation – all done with the goal of reducing pollution and capitalizing on sustainable energy.

Paris celebrates green, clean energy with its Climate Energy Plan, aiming to significantly cut down its carbon footprint by 2050. The City of Light’s vintage infrastructure is integrated with the IoT, infusing the soul of hyper-modernism into the Art Deco boulevards. Urban furniture is equipped with low-energy beacons activated via Bluetooth, helping city designers gauge whether objects are placed conveniently or not.

These beacons can run in decades without charge and can also signal the authorities when the city property gets stolen or broken.

Thanks to its high-ranking economy, New York has made itself fit to be one of the world’s top smartest cities. Wi-Fi is accessed all across the city, enabling quick data gauging to the locals’ most basic needs, including water. In 2009, the city developed a smart meter-reading system that sends information to the department’s HQ, allowing real-time data to water usage and billing. Eliminating the need for manual metering led the city to shave off $3 million per year.

London is recognized as the smartest city in the world, according to 2019’s IESE Cities in Motion. Its league of smart buildings, high-speed internet connectivity, and monitoring devices are all run by 5G, supporting large use of data sent within seconds. Home to most of the world’s start-ups, London also hosts an open data platform accessed by more than 50,000 users each month – the London Datastore – where data is optimized for local use.

Intuitive, sustainable, smart. Today’s cities cease to be more than just places to live in but has morphed into dynamic spaces that provide and sustain the needs of the modern generation.