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The Smart City Story in the 21st Century

October 02, 2018
In the 18th Century, only about 14% percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Today, however, more than half the planet’s population resides in cities. With the continuing economic migration from semi urban and rural areas, cities are bursting at the seams with the growing demand for services and basic civic amenities. New technologies like AI, IoT, Cloud, Robotics, and Big Data Analytics may be a solution for cities by offering offering them an opportunity to become ‘smarter’, more cost effective and efficient.

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.[1]

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.

Image: Smart Home, Source: PixabayImage: Smart Home, Source: Pixabay

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.[2] Urban “stack farms” will be a unique feature, and food produce will be a feature, which will bring some level of agriucutltural self-sufficiency.

Image: Future Connected City; Source: FlickrImage: Future Connected City; Source: Flickr

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.[3]

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.

Recent projects

  • 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.[4]

Image: Smart Integration; Source: Schneider ElectricImage: Smart Integration; Source: Schneider Electric

Economic Pros

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.

Economic Cons

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. [7][8]

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.[9]

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.

Conclusion

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.”[10]

Student Blog Disclaimer
  • The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.

References

  [1]http://smartcities.gov.in/content/innerpage/what-is-smart-city.php

  [2]https://dailyplanet.climate-kic.org/will-smart-city-future-look-like/

  [3]https://futurism.com/heres-a-look-at-the-smart-cities-of-the-future/

  [4]https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/industries/capital%20projects%20and%20infrastructure/our%20insights/smart%20cities%20digital%20solutions%20for%20a%20more%20livable%20future/mgi-smart-cities-full-report.ashx

  [5]https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/smart-cities-save-125-hours-per-year/

  [6]https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/sustainablecitiescollective/smart-future-urban-mobility/1049321/

  [7]https://www.wsj.com/articles/smarter-cities-and-safer-self-driving-cars-imagining-life-in-5g-1524234605

  [8]https://www.teamquest.com/en/news/blog/2015/11/smart-cities/

  [9]http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/896971468194972881/310436360_201602630200228/additional/102725-PUB-Replacement-PUBLIC.pdf

  [10]https://www.brookings.edu/series/smart-cities/

PENN WHARTON PPI
RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>