The concept of Smart City has become a key factor in sustainable urban development. It is a compilation of urban planning strategies with many far-reaching benefits, including efficient distribution of resources, speed of policy implementation, transparent communication, and a range of environmental benefits. Today, smart cities are popping up all over the world, with Singapore, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Oslo being clear leaders in this new trend. Here are four major smart city technologies that are gaining popularity and universal adoption in the modern evolution of smart cities.
4 smart city technologies
1. Smart IoT devices
The new application of Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled smart city practices on a global scale. This modern technology gives the city the ability to remotely monitor, control and manage urban facilities and devices, as well as create new insights and actionable insights from quantitative streams of real time data. IoT has its underlying importance in the overall development of smart cities, especially in improving urban interconnectivity. These IoT devices contain smart sensors, actuators, monitoring devices and AI programs by which a city can significantly improve its urban accessibility and mobilitypromote social inclusiveness, increase energy efficiency and eventually achieve the goal of practicing sustainability.
A typical example of IoT in smart cities is the smart sensors on the streetlights of Oslo. The Oslo Smart Street Lighting project is a city-wide program that aims to improve the efficiency of the street lighting system. Oslo has integrated the city’s public lighting into a single, remotely accessible network that allows lighting level management and monitoring using web-based applications. The E-Street system can adjust the light intensity according to the time of year and the needs in specific situations, resulting in further optimization of the city’s energy consumption. Oslo’s 20,000 smart streetlights have contributed to a total energy saving of almost 70%.
Citizens are more encouraged to get involved in urban ecology with the widespread use of smartphones and mobile devices. As IoT technologies gradually advance and expand, citizens and governments are bound to be connected in ways no one has ever seen before.
However, with the challenges and controversies come enormous benefits and opportunities, highlighting the debate between public space and the privacy of individuals. Aggressive collection of public data in smart cities can pose a threat to citizens’ privacy, leading to an increased risk of cyber attacks but also high cost and data discrimination. It is estimated that over the next 20 years, cities will invest a total of approximately US$41 trillion in infrastructure upgrades. Future city planners and policy makers would have no choice but to assure the public that these dark sides of IoT technologies do not affect the ethical and normal functioning of the city.
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2. Smart Energy
Urban sustainability is an essential component of smart cities. To achieve this, it is imperative to invest in efficient and environmentally friendly energy management.
With the rapid growth of urban clusters in recent decades, the demand for energy supply has exploded. It is sometimes so high that it exceeds the availability of their local resources. A long-term solution to meet growing energy demand is the so-called smart energy chainwhich relies entirely on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. This system allows decentralized clean and sustainable energy to be transmitted to every corner of the urban area through an intelligent digital system.
One of the most iconic and visionary illustrations of smart energy is the EnergyLab Nordhavn project in the city of Copenhagen. In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the city has started building a massive smart energy grid. The initiative aims to solve the problem of improving the flexibility of the energy network which is increasingly dependent on intermittent energy sources. It does this by testing large batteries and electric vehicles to reduce peak load on the grid and deploying smart heating in 85 homes to reduce the load on the heating circuit while simultaneously improving indoor comfort. To date, more than 7,000 households in the urban district have benefited from this initiative.
Although the conceptualization of smart energy looks promising, there are still some inescapable operational challenges to putting it into practice. The accuracy of energy metering smart meters is difficult to guarantee at any time and in most cases, such mis-sensing can lead to chronic waste of energy and defeat the purpose of sustainability. Moreover, the integration of the smart energy system into a larger urban operation mechanism is still technically and financially demanding, which makes it potentially unfeasible for most developing cities in the near future.
3. Smart mobility and transport
Mobility is the heart of a city. Smart urban mobility and transportation networks have been prioritized in many smart city initiatives. Urban areas such as multimodal transport, smart parking, and smart traffic lights are often included in this concept. This approach is based on redesigning the transport infrastructure used in everyday life, including not only traditional automobiles, electric vehicles and mass transit, but also entirely new and innovative forms of transport such as on-demand carpooling services (Uber and Lyft) and car sharing programs. Urban accessibility and the habitability of a city can thus be enhanced by such considerations.
Singapore has an undeniable lead in experimenting with smart mobility. The city one Smart Mobility 2030 is a 15-year master plan that outlines how the country will develop its Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). It is a complex transportation network consisting of, among other things, a highway monitoring and advisory system, Green Link Determination System, Junction Electronic eyes, Traffic analysis, a parking guidance systemElectronic
Road pricing and smart bus stops. The plan’s mission is to use the latest ITS projects and advancements in transportation technology to optimize transportation networks and sustainably improve commuter travel experiences across Singapore.
However, for most developing cities, many argue that the Singapore case does not have much benchmark significance. For starters, many communities lack the capacity to raise the massive sums of money needed to support infrastructure projects. Second, urban transport infrastructure projects are difficult to plan and implement, especially in densely populated areas where land acquisition and resettlement issues can be extremely complicated.
4. Smart buildings
The flourishing of smart buildings is essential for the long-term well-being of a smart city. A smart building is a building that uses digital automatic procedures to generate building systems, including lighting, process equipment, plumbing, access control systems, digital signage, wayfinding, and security systems. In a nutshell, it is a building with a dynamic and breathing organism. A remarkable feature of these modern buildings is its climate resilience, which is far-sighted in the context of worsening climate problems. Buildings with technological advancements can easily reduce resource use and improve energy efficiency, simplify maintenance, reduce operating costs, and provide a cleaner environment for occupants.
A pioneering example of smart buildings is The edge in Amsterdam. According Bloomberg, the Edge is the smartest and greenest building in the world, with the highest sustainability score ever awarded: 98.4%. With some 28,000 sensors fitted inside, every individual inside the construction is connected through a mobile phone app. The most cutting-edge feature is that smart buildings can memorize a schedule for each employee, providing them with instructions on where to go to ensure they are in the right place at the right time.
As groundbreaking as it is, there are many challenges awaiting the future of smart buildings. There are five major concerns highlighted by architecture specialists: acquisition cost and barriers to investment, distrust of cybersecurity, good planning and adequate maintenance, insufficient integration and cultural responsiveness. Despite the human-centric nature of smart buildings, the line between digital connectivity and privacy seems blurred.
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