How Smart Cities & Technology Are Evolving

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Over the centuries, each urban expansion was followed by a period of catching up to face a new, more complex reality. We still experience it today when we know that more than half a million people sleep on the streets in the United States every night and that rents are rising faster than incomes.

In London, between 1997 and 2016, the number of jobs and the population increased by 40% and 25% respectively, while accommodation capacity only increased by 15%. The average American employee's commuting time has reached new records: an average of 225 hours per year (or more than nine days in total) is spent on the road or in transport.

As in the past, the current reality and the future of a physical place requires a good understanding of the place in question. This is why the meaning of place in a city stems both from its logistical environment and from the social and emotional context that unites its inhabitants.

What smart city technonoly does in percentage

The explosion of integrated sensors, mobile devices, high-speed wireless connections, combined with exponential growth in data and sophisticated analysis tools, offers geospatial perspectives that go beyond the theoretical framework. This led to the birth of “smart cities”. McKinsey estimates that the technologies deployed by smart cities can reduce mortality by 8 to 10%, improve rescue response times by 20 to 35%, decrease travel times by 15 to 20%, decrease by 8 to 15% disease burden and 10-15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

A new generation of smart cities

Despite some setbacks here and there, on a global or national scale, metropolises, communities and neighborhoods have followed the path of progress, with more concrete results. According to many futurists, we are in the midst of a new generation of smart cities with a more pragmatic sense of city management. Cities that not only apply intelligence to their macro-systems, but seek to optimize micro-sites for global transformations.

A true smart city uses dynamic 3D digital basemaps to obtain real-time information on the condition of neighborhoods, residential areas or buildings down to the lowest level (floor, corridor and housing) or highest (above existing structures such as the roof).

By making all this information accessible to managers; police officers, firefighters and first aid personnel, public transport employees, care providers, grocers and traders, distributors, teachers, social workers, and especially to the inhabitants, each individual will be able to know where the bus is and at what time it will arrive, where a leak has occurred on the water distribution network, in which car parks there are still free spaces,

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the value of a collective city-wide solution, which involves knowing where people in difficulty are and how to help them. For Alison Brooks, a pioneer on innovative ideas:

As we have seen, a smart city must respond to four major challenges:

  • Operational Efficiency: Streamline business processes and workflows to improve decision making and locate resources for maximum benefit. The digital dashboard is the ideal tool for this. 
  • Data-driven performance: take advantage of data flows from the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices, but also sensors that are part of the city's infrastructure, vehicles and buildings, then analyze the whole this data thanks to artificial intelligence. This has made it possible to achieve concrete results such as the adaptive regulation of traffic lights, or real-time (and no longer static) decision-making at the scale of the city and professional services. 
  • Citizen involvement: Some smart cities of the first wave encountered cultural and societal obstacles in deploying the technology without asking the opinion of the inhabitants. True smart cities involve communities from the start, identifying the priorities of the inhabitants, responding to the specific concerns and needs of different groups and working for greater social equity. 
  • Planning and engineering: 3D modeling, profoundly transformed by the digital revolution and human-centered design, makes it possible to anticipate and mitigate economic, environmental or social upheavals and the resulting tensions. These cards, also known under the name of “digital twins”, take into account a multitude of elements (buildings, infrastructure, vegetation, transit, etc.) down to the smallest level (floor or room, for example). They are the underlying platform of the true smart city.

The history of our species, that is to say of human civilization, in fact merges with the history of the city ; both have the same Latin origin. The city and its systems have allowed a real concentration of resources and the emergence of an entrepreneurial spirit and collective creativity that have won over the entire planet. Thanks to powerful leaders who think outside the box and the cutting-edge tools available to us today and the lessons we have learned from this experience, we have the possibility of reinventing these systems to promote a fairer, more sustainable and more harmonious development model.

Note from ASC: Have a question? Let’s hear it in the comments.


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