The Smart City Story in the 21st Century
October 02, 2018
In terms of the number of smart cities around the world, the overall count is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years and by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in smart cities.
The question arises - So what will a “smart city” look like?
This is the point where a little informed imagination may help us wrap our minds around the subject. The future smart city will employ a number of purpose-built AI programs and machine-learning algorithms to process the vast amounts of incoming “sensory” data that is made available to a person for processing using their own senses and judgement data. These programs will utilize rapid improvements in computing and neural networks and interconnected group of nodes/networks , akin to the vast network of neurons in a brain. in the coming decades. Furthermore, smart cities may even witness the birth of the first truly “human-scale” AI, capable of reactive and independent cognition.
The technical development of smart cities, services and applications is proceeding fairly quickly due to developments in big, cloud and IoT (Internet of things). However, in many respects, we lack a cohesive understanding of the true sesne of a smart city world. For a city, with its myriad of complex units and operations, creating good opportunities for interoperability among applications and technologies, is a major challenge for governments.
Sufficient energy to power our smart city will be generated from clean, renewable sources -wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, perhaps even fusion further down the road -with each power system compartmentalized for quick isolation and outfitted with robust backup systems in case of failure. Urban “stack farms” will be a unique feature, and food produce will be a feature, which will bring some level of agriucutltural self-sufficiency.
Smart city future
Meanwhile, Integrated transportation systems will reduce traffic congestion and strongly limit pollution. Cities will need to be upgraded with the embracing of new technolgies. These are a handful of some of the notable features of the future smart city.
Some model cities
Some cities are starting their transformations with inherent advantages such as wealth, density, and existing high-tech industries. But even places that lack these ingredients can set themselves apart with vision, good management, a willingness to break from conventional practices, and a relentless commitment to meeting the needs of residents. There are many blank canvases for the private sector, non-profits, and technologists to fill—and above all, individuals should be empowered to shape the future of the cities they call home.
- With gleaming buildings and green spaces, South Korea’s Songdo development is highly energy efficient and highly digital. Unfortunately, it is also surveillance heavy.
- In Arizona, an investment group including Bill Gates is backing Belmont, a planned smart city outside Phoenix that will consist of some 80,000 homes plus commercial and open space.
- In the UAE, Masdar City is a master-planned live-work community with an emphasis on sustainability.
- Along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Dholera is being billed as India’s first and largest smart, sustainable greenfield city. As it takes shape, digital fibre is being embedded into roads, and tens of thousands of sensors are being installed and connected with a central operations centre.
- Toronto has entered a public-private partnership with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs subsidiary to turn a large parcel on the city’s waterfront into a futuristic community.
Smart cities open up new business opportunities—and not only for technology firms. They will also reshape value chains and force companies to adapt. Smart city initiatives are crucial here; they transform the problems provoked by rapid urbanization into opportunities and, through this, help everyone save money. Intel even suggested in March 2018 that smart city technologies could give back 125 hours to citizens every year. If time is money, then that amounts to a significant sum: US$5 trillion annually, to be exact. From transport, to healthcare, to urban security, smart city initiatives and technologies render public services more efficient. This improves citizens’ quality of life, strengthens a city’s resilience and saves everyone time and money.
With so many areas where smart city innovation can cut a city’s costs, we will take a brief look at just at a couple:
Urban Mobility: Instead of building additional road capacity, there will be an increasing usage of technologies to optimise the performance of existing infrastructure, ‘sweating the assets’, and focusing on positive operational outcomes and customer experience. Support for these technologies across all modes of transport (including active and public transport) is expected to increase in future years.
Resource usage: Smart city technology can give a new lease of life to aging physical infrastructure through IoT-enabled monitoring and management systems. These will allow city leaders to maintain all of the infrastructure in their city via one remote, centralized system, using sensors to identify issues such as leaks in water pipes, or the capacity of the city’s bins.
This wireless technology can’t operate on its own, and the advent of smarter cities could revolutionize the IT world—if we’re ready for it. Smarter cities will present countless questions, concerns, and exciting possibilities that haven’t even been considered yet. The scale of a city, compared with that of a single business, will require resource management on an entirely new level. All the individual pieces of a smart city system will need to be integrated and accessible.
Smart cities will also open up more opportunities for the cloud, and capacity management concerns will increase along with them. With so many crucial systems sending data, the failure of even one of them could be catastrophic. Consider systems of public transit that rely on IoT sensors, for example. Downtime is no longer an acceptable consequence of data overload when lives hang in the balance. Dependence on networks will also raise the spectre of Cyber security. 
The evolution of smarter cities presents many opportunities and challenges for both local governments and IT professionals. As cities become more reliant on technology than ever before, IT professionals will be exponentially more important. Potentially some traditional jobs will be under threat, but conversely new technology introduction will have to be reinforced with development of new skills.
Privacy is sacrosanct and, once lost, hard, if not impossible, to reclaim. As individuals, as organizations, as government bodies, we all need to understand and appreciate what data privacy means. We can make smarter cities, but, in doing so, we must also build in both technical and legislative structures that defend our privacy.
Smart Cities have immense potential, but to realize their potential, governmental framework and economic models have to be developed first. Although the media, economists, and some governments present smart cities as a technological problem to which a technical solution can be devised, it will be from strategic, forward thinking, economic policy where the solution emerges. As the Brookings Institution notes, “developing a focused, forward-looking economic vision that targets long-term productivity, inclusivity, and resiliency is the first step in making cities smarter.”
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