Advances in technology are quickly paving the way for smart cities. A smart city is an urban center that harnesses technologies, such as IT, to improve the quality of life of residents, manage available resources such as roads and water in economically sustainable manner, and reduce environmental pollution. According to figures published by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), smart city technologies will grow to an industry worth $27.5 billion by 2023. In addition, the world will be home to about 88 smart cities by 2025.To learn more about smart cities of the future and how big data will play a role in improving the efficiency and sustainability of urban living, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Masters in Computer Science program.
Challenges Facing Urban Centers
Although most cities in developed countries function well, changes in population distribution patterns will make provision of services, accommodation, and transport a nightmare. This is largely because of population increase estimated to reach eight billion by 2025. Out of these, two billion will be seniors living longer due to advances in medicine and better healthcare. Currently, the world is home to 841 million seniors.
People around the world are gradually moving from rural areas to work and live in cities. For instance, 82.3% of Americans today live in urban centers. As the number of commuters increases across major US cities, public transport systems will start to buckle. By 2030, the number of peak commuters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles will account for 29%, 28%, and 27% of all commuters using public transport systems.
Another major challenge is diminishing freshwater resources. Currently, a staggering 89% of global population relies on improved water supply systems that lose about 32 billion cubic meters of precious water via physical leakage. As a result, up to 50% of the world’s population (four billion) will reside in water stressed areas by 2025. A growing global population will increase energy demand by 56% by 2040. In this category, the US holds the unenviable position of second highest energy consumer worldwide.
How Smart City Technology can Improve Urban Sustainability
The challenges discussed above can be addressed effectively and efficiently through smart city technology. Nevertheless, this approach requires a multi-pronged approach because the problems are diverse. To start with, data scientists will have to use their skills to analyze the huge amounts of data generated by cities annually. Big data analytics will produce insights that city authorities could use to improve road and rail transport, reduce crime, improve healthcare, improve public service delivery, and reduce wastage of financial resources.
Another technology that will make smart cities more efficient is the Internet of Things (IoT). This computing term refers to appliances and devices connected to the Internet. Many household appliances including fridges, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, locks, lights, and HVAC units can be tweaked to become IoT compliant. In turn, they could be used to monitor and provide surrounding environment feedback or perform certain tasks.
In addition, cities can deploy this technology to improve service delivery. A good example would be water supply systems fitted with IoT sensors to measure water pressure, chemical composition, and flow. When undesirable changes occur, relevant authorities can take corrective measures immediately aided by real-time data.
Urban centers can also benefit greatly by installing and using energy-efficient IoT systems. The US alone would realize savings worth $1.2 trillion if it could deploy big data analysis for this purpose. Since urban transport systems are prone to bottlenecks such as traffic jams, technology would come in handy to improve efficiency. This would require GPS systems, cameras, and traffic light coordination systems connected via IoT to keep traffic moving.
Players in the food production sector would also benefit from technologies such as IoT and big data. Some farmers in the US use machinery that rely on data analysis and GPS guidance systems to manage fertilizer application, watering, weeding, and harvesting.
Smart City Success Stories
Several cities across the world have been quick to roll out smart city technologies. The City of Dubuque, IA has helped households realize water consumption savings of about 7% thanks to a smart water system running since 2010. In Spain, the city of Santander has cut energy and waste management costs by 25% and 20% respectively aided by 12,500 IEEE, GPRS, and RFID sensors installed throughout the city. Seattle has already initiated a High-Performance program to cut energy consumption via analysis of real-time data. San Francisco is on course to launch the I-80 Smart Corridor project featuring a network of cameras, sensors, and high-tech road signs.
Smart technologies generally have enormous benefits. For example, major cities that install smart transport systems will realize savings of about $800 billion annually from 2030 onwards. In addition, smart technologies will make it easier for emergency responders, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and traffic control workers to offer better services.