Smart Cities Will Save the World

Perhaps there’s no need of running off to Mars. There’s still a lot to do with the cities we already have on this planet. Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, create economic development, and enhance quality of life factors for people who work or live there. Basically, they aim to ease the present and future challenges of urbanization. Let’s examine some projects that are already saving the world.

For much of the 20th century, the idea that anything apart from humans and maybe animals could be smart was science fiction that was pictured in movies, TV shows, novels and comics. Quite suddenly, in the late 90s, with the massive proliferation of Internet across many scales, intelligence became embedded into many devices. Since then, the prospect that a city might become smart is fast becoming a new tangible and possible reality.

Singapur, London and Barcelona have already become the top 3 smart cities according to a report by Philips Lighting and SmartCitiesWorld. Cities are becoming smart not only in terms of the way we can automate routine functions serving individual persons, buildings, traffic systems but in ways that enable us to monitor, understand, analyse and plan the city to improve the efficiency, equity and quality of life for its citizens in real time.

More than 55 per cent of the world’s estimated 7.4 billion people live in cities. In the context of climate change and resource scarcity, more efficient and healthier urban environments are urgent if we want to keep living comfortable lives. Smart cities are often pictured as constellations of techie gadgets that are connected through multiple networks to provide continuous data about stuff that goes somewhere and does something. Well, I’ll try to put some examples that portray ways in which we can make cities smarter.

Transport

Urbiotica

Urbiotica is a tech company from Barcelona that has made the Internet of Things a reality through the design and development of latest generation wireless monitoring systems that capture and distribute real-time information on what is happening in areas of parking and noise pollution.

Their smart parking solutions enhance the experience for parking managers and users. They look forward to guide users quickly and easily to the free spots. Facilitating and speeding up parking means less congestion, less pollution and greater satisfaction for drivers and citizens.

Urbiotica’s noise monitoring network enables the autonomous and continuous monitoring of noise levels in the city 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Based on sensor measurement, real-time information is provided and alerts generated when the established noise limits are exceeded.

Bridj

Bridj is an intelligent public transport app powered by a demand responsive technology platform. It uses big data to identify where and how you want to move, responding with dynamic pop-up bus services to meet the needs of the city. Using real-time traffic data and passenger inputs, Bridj’s optimisation software dynamically routes the bus to take the quickest path. This means you only stop at locations chosen by customers on board.

Culture

Mobile Age

Mobile Age ensures the inclusion of seniors in digital public services thanks to the development of user-friendly mobile applications based on open government data. Thus, it supports their access to civic participation, their involvement in their communities, and helps them benefit from open government data and mobile technologies.

Waste

Enevo

Enevo started is a provider of waste and recycling services. Enevo works with restaurant, retail, multifamily and commercial property clients in North America and the U.K. They manage client’s billing and invoicing, haulers and recycling programs across multiple sites. By collecting waste data using wireless sensors, Enevo can measure and forecast fill-levels in waste containers in order find where waste management operations can be further streamlined and costs reduced.

Additional benefits include reduction of missed collections, overflowing container prevention, reduction in waste generation and increase in recycling.

The Circular Lab

TheCircularLab is an innovation center located in Logroño (La Rioja) that focuses its activity on the study, testing and development of best practices in the field of packaging and its subsequent recycling.

They study, conceive, test and apply in a real environment, and in collaboration with companies, public administrations and citizens, the best practices in all phases of the life cycle of the containers, from its conception until its reintroduction in the consumption cycle through new products. And it is precisely the Rioja municipalities that act as a test field in the investigation of concepts such as the packaging of the future; smart waste management in smart cities; responsible consumption or the development of new techniques and processes capable of improving recycling for the citizen.

Energy

Telensa

Telensa is working to make wireless smart city applications, help cities around the world save energy, work smarter and deliver more joined-up services for their citizens. Telensa solutions are designed and developed in Cambridge UK, with hardware manufactured with Sony UK Tech. Their smart streetlight solution is the most deployed in the world, with a global footprint of more than one million lights.

Adding wireless remote control to street lighting makes financial sense, whether switching to LED or retro-fitting to existing fixtures. They let cities save energy by controlling the amount of light they use and by accurately measuring every watt. Cities can cut maintenance costs with automatic fault monitoring and by using detailed operational intelligence to improve day-to-day effectiveness and planning.

Image taken from Telensa’s website.Water

Flood Network

Flood network in the UK is producing low-cost wireless sensors that harness the power of the Internet of Things to give citizens updates about waterways, culverts, rivers, ditches and even groundwater. They’re battery powered and connect wirelessly to a gateway which sends the data back to their system using the Internet. A web map visualises waterways and their levels at https://map.flood.network

If you own sensors you can view and analyse your data in detail, export data and manage your devices. The information helps people make better decisions during floods and quickly shares knowledge of a changing situation. They combine Environment Agency data with users and other sensors to give a near real-time picture of levels.

The development of modern technologies and the Internet expansion can be seen as generating a paradigm shift. It is quite clear that many of our traditional approaches to cities are no longer relevant, the planning systems that we currently work with are not fit-for-purpose, and thus the shifts that we will initiate here are paradigm changes of a kind that are unprecedented.

The concept of the smart city emerged during the last decade as a fusion of ideas about how information and communications technologies might improve the functioning of cities, enhancing their efficiency, improving their competitiveness, and providing new ways in which problems of poverty, social deprivation, and poor environment might be addressed.

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