The concept of smart cities came out of science fiction movies a long time ago and has now become a part of our reality. If in recent months you’ve heard about Akon City, an urban development project funded by Akon, the American singer who intends to create a “real-life Wakanda” in Senegal, Africa, and which has gone viral on the Internet, you’re already more or less in the know.
Innovative solutions applied to urban spaces and grounded in the Internet of Things (IoT) are gaining momentum. As a result, smart cities are finding ways to expand quickly.
This expansion goes hand in hand with the growth of cities around the world. By way of comparison, in 2008 more than half the population was already living in cities. With 70 million more people moving into urban areas each year, it is expected that by 2050 seven out of ten people will live in cities (a ratio of almost 70%).
An increase in the rate of urbanization is nothing new – in Brazil, for example, since the 1950s the number of inhabitants living in cities has skyrocketed. This means that in a short time many countries in the world will have serious difficulty in meeting their population’s demands without overwhelming their existing resources.
Indeed, it is a fact that cities in densely populated and ever-growing countries have been facing and will continue to encounter challenges in housing, urban mobility, energy systems, water distribution, and other types of basic services essential to city living.
On the other hand, job generation and continued access to basic rights, such as health and education, will also be impacted, greatly compromising the population’s quality of life.
Which is why smart cities are great examples of where communities develop new sustainable practices that bring people and the environment together harmoniously.
The technology in these cities facilitates the creation of new solutions that increase people’s quality of life without neglecting nature, and curbing the negative effects of urbanization.
So, what are smart cities?
Smart cities: more technological, sustainable and secure
Have you ever imagined living in a place where everything is connected?
Smart cities (also known as digital cities) are cities that use smart technologies to improve people’s daily lives. In these places Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) play a fundamental role.
Everything is interconnected by a network of systems, machines, devices, and smart objects. The broad connectivity enables simultaneous large-scale data collection, which is then processed by systems and transformed into valuable data that can identify patterns of consumption, travel, and overall behavior within urban areas.
When used properly, the data generated can assist in the supply and provision of services, seeking to improve, for example, the supply of public transportation or public security services.
This process aids decision making by public agents seeking to improve urban management. The advantages are many: the city develops, positively impacting the population’s quality of life through appropriately managing the resources allocated to the population.
Since the concept of smart cities is broad, there are six pillars that characterize smart cities:
1. Smart Economy (competitiveness)
Innovation, productivity, flexibility and fewer international barriers.
2. Smart People (social and human capital)
Participation in public life, plurality, creativity and fighting inequality.
3. Smart Government (participation)
Participation in decision making, public and social services, transparency, strategies and political perspectives.
4. Smart Mobility (transportation)
Accessibility, technological infrastructure and innovative, sustainable and safe transportation systems.
5. Smart Environment (natural resources)
Attention to natural conditions, pollution, environmental protection and sustainable resource management.
6. Smart Living (quality of life)
Health, security, housing, education, attractive tourism, and social integration.
Why are smart cities necessary?
When we think about the total number of people who inhabit the Earth, and the impact we have on the environment, the conclusions can be frightening. As pointed out earlier, the growth of the global population has brought more people to cities.
Therefore, reaching a balance, or rather, developing policies that encourage sustainable urban growth, is urgent. Sustainability, whether environmental, social, or economic, is necessary so that urbanization does not overburden natural resources and services available in cities, since several places in the world already suffer from overpopulation and resource management crises. Smart city technologies are now helping in these efforts.
With new technologies in IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart cities are solving problems related to quality of life faster and faster. Central to these technologies is planning for the optimal use of space and resources that benefits everyone equally, as opposed to how our systems operate currently.
In addition, connectivity between people and government is made easier. In smart city models, communication between the public authority and the population is continuous.
In summary, the greatest advantage of smart cities is the provision of services to citizens at a lower cost and delivering an infrastructure that is planned according to their needs and is constantly being improved upon.
Discover 10 benefits of smart cities
Technology changes everything. Wireless connectivity and IoT solutions have transformed everyday aspects of our lives into more functional and intelligent platforms. Take a closer look at some of the benefits that can be achieved by developing smart cities:
1. Assertive, data-driven decision making
Well-designed Smart Cities with effective data analysis strategies can agilely access and process a large amount of information.
This information can be very useful when made available to municipal authorities, who can analyze metrics and make decisions that significantly increase the levels of services offered to the population.
Having more information means less time for public policy development and reduced costs with solutions that offer a better return for the population.
2. Greater involvement of both people and government
Technology changes the way people relate to the city and its governance.
Cities with modern digital infrastructures, smarter mobile apps, intuitive websites, and collaboration tools connect people, government, and services.
With greater data transparency, digital participation, and social media presence, the government is able to broaden its relationship with its citizens.
This fosters civic engagement and makes more people trust their city authorities.
3. Safer communities
Many cities are already investing in smart technology to optimize safety in their communities.
License plate recognition technologies, firearms detectors, interconnected data centers, and smart cameras are all part of new security strategies.
Cities like Detroid, in the United States, have invested in new technologies and partnerships with private institutions, creating solutions such as a cloud video system, allowing police officers to access security camera footage in real time.
4. Reducing environmental impacts
Smart cities are all part of the global race to save the planet. And new technology solutions such as renewable energy sources and air quality sensors are already making a difference.
These sensors, for example, are responsible for providing information about air quality and identifying sources of pollution. Then, with the data in hand, people can create action plans that counteract these threats.
5. Greater mobility
Investments in urban mobility do not stop, and neither does urban growth. With every passing day, it becomes more difficult to find ways to optimize transportation in large cities.
Connected transportation systems are alternatives for radically improving the efficiency of mobility in cities.
Smart traffic signals optimize the flow of vehicles, and mobile applications allow people to access the location of public transportation vehicles in real time.
Other solutions such as autonomous car systems and smart parking facilities reduces the number of vehicles on the road and addresses space limitations in urban areas.
6. Equal digital participation
Technology has the ability to develop more inclusive environments.
And this is possible with high-speed internet access, public Wi-Fi spots available in strategic locations, and other measures that encourage people to participate in the city’s ecosystem.
For instance, the city of Seattle, USA, has an action plan that aims to offer training, ensure that devices are readily available, and make it easy for everyone to connect to the Internet at a low cost.
7. New pathways for economic development
Public investment in technology within smart cities causes economic growth to soar – and many people have already realized this.
Numerous private companies have seized the opportunity and partnered with governments for major investments in smart city innovation and technology.
In addition to the availability of data that helps many organizations grow in a conscientious way, these companies have also seen the opportunity to monetize solutions that make a difference to people’s lives.
These investments are raising global competitiveness and attracting more companies and people to smart cities.
8. More efficient public services
In addition to creating new forms of monetization, technology is also an outlet for efficiently reducing the waste of valuable resources such as water and energy.
New smart electricity systems identify peak times for energy use and any potential interruptions in service. The same thing goes for water supply.
Smart sensors quickly identify leaks anywhere, directing a repair team that can act quickly, significantly reducing waste water.
9. Infrastructure on another level
Highways, historic buildings, bridges, and other structures in constant use often require large investments to be maintained.
Technology in smart cities enables preliminary analyses to be performed on these structures. The government can then carry out inspections and improvements before a structural failure appears.
One such example is the deployment of sensors that can identify problems in physical structures and send signals to the responsible teams to act in advance.
This saves a large amount of resources and helps prevent failures and accidents.
10. More engagement and work force
For a smart city to be efficient it needs a large workload. New technologies help in the distribution of these services, simplifying the manual tasks that people must face on a daily basis.
With the help of autonomous devices, bots, and other tools, people can direct their efforts and time towards more strategic actions.
Smart cities have the technological potential to transform work by simplifying manual processes and unleashing peoples’ potential.
Can smart cities also be monetized?
Currently, as a result of great advancement in communication technology, the information produced that travels through the network has a lot of value. When we think of city systems, they must be allied to IoT solutions that will benefit all subjects involved in the chain of data generation and processing.
Based on the principles of the recurrence economy, subscription software features help all contributors to the system get value for their participation. Examples of this would be smart cities that offer affordable subscriptions for shared vehicle fleets, which would dramatically decrease traffic and encourage ride sharing.
By aligning all the advantages of smart cities with software monetization, all participants in the ecosystem can have an improved experience.
3 Smart global trends for the years ahead
1. Voice Technology in Healthcare
According to the US Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report 2019, the number of voice assistants in operation – such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa – could reach 500 million by 2023.
These devices and other IoT technologies, previously most commonly deployed in the home, are now also a part of offices and other workplaces. In these new places, the purpose is to increase productivity and ensure access to information with the help of a single device.
One example of the implementation of voice-based assistants was the movement identified in 2020, when Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbots and virtual assistants participated in the fight against COVID-19. Chatbots assisted in screening and testing patients while voice assistants educated people about the disease and referred them to certain health apps.
These technologies made health services more accessible to people who needed to maintain social isolation during the pandemic.
A study by Voicebot.ai indicated that 51.9% of voice assistant consumers are interested in using the technology for healthcare research. Of those, 19.1 million consumers have already done so.
Many healthcare companies in the United States have benefited from this movement by adding voice assistant functionality to their services, such as the Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, and many others.
2. Patient Safety and Smart Hospitals
The safety of patients who take medication is a topic that is much discussed and debated. With medication traceability, healthcare professionals around the world ensure the safety of people.
Healthcare professionals can digitize data in a cloud-based registry and have access to important information such as instructions and dosages specific to a given patient’s medication.
With serialization and traceability solutions such as those developed by TrackTraceRX, mobile devices such as smartphones help traceability, prove the authenticity of products, and query their regulatory compliance with the help of Vision Systems and Augmented Reality (AR).
By pairing the device with a scanning application such as RapidRX, a healthcare professional can quickly identify a patient’s identity, reducing human error.
This same technology enables healthcare companies to verify the identification of people and processes through barcodes and text. This prevents fraud and ensures regulatory compliance.
3. Incentivizing tourism and culture
The touristic and cultural possibilities have been transformed by the use of new technologies. When visiting a place, for example, a tourist can use augmented reality tools that allow him to visualize details of the city that would never be possible to experience in person.
An example of this application can be found in the French city of Cluny, which already has Augmented Reality screens in its historical and cultural areas. The purpose is to illustrate the environments with historical images, which allow access to a past that is no longer present, that is, to see the city how it was even though it has been transformed over the years.
In addition, by using a smartphone and a public Wi-Fi point, tourists can access information about hotels, rent cars, search for restaurants, and tourist attractions.
Smart cities don’t change by themselves. Use your voice.
Once technology and software have been installed in cities, their growth becomes organic. Nevertheless, a city can only be recognized as a city if it is inhabited, if people use the services and occupy the spaces. Therefore, it is fundamental that citizens know the possibilities created from the implementation of tools such as those offered by TrackTraceRX.
Use your voice! Ask, discuss, or leave a comment!
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