What the future holds for smart cities
Connected devices and smart real-time data sharing are set to transform urban living, yet there is a significant knowledge gap between what people know about smart city technology and what they want from the smart cities of the future. The implications of a smart, networked city – in terms of how it could improve our lives, save us all money, and how it might challenge our data privacy or how it might drive change to our laws and society – are truly enormous. So what are smart cities and what might they mean for us all?
In the past few decades, society has witnessed a pivotal transition from analog to digital. The Internet, mobile computing and the dawn of IoT (Internet of Things) has transformed our personal lives while Industry 4.0 has brought significant changes to the workplace. Now local governments and municipal authorities are also getting on board, innovating the way our towns and cities manage and deliver a broad range of utilities and services. Practical examples of this include automating trash collection, street lighting or building management that allows cities to increase efficiency and reduce energy costs, or automating parking management to generate higher revenues. Such savings and new revenues are needed to respond to a changing world and environmental challenges, yet they are just the tip of the iceberg. As smart city systems become more integrated and as more data is fed into them, more use cases will emerge that will bring ever-greater efficiency savings and optimization.
A smart city is one where data from across the municipal departments is gathered by IoT connected vehicles, building, infrastructure and even workers, and then fed back to a central command and control center via the cloud, analyzed by AI (Artificial Intelligence) for possible efficiencies and ultimately aggregated, visualized and managed through a command dashboard by the city administration helping them understand the overall situation and take appropriate decisions more quickly.
From power grids and water systems to hospitals, public transportation and road networks, the growth in real-time data is remarkable both for its volume and its critical significance. Today it is a vital element in the smooth operation of all aspects of daily life for consumers, government, the military, and government.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic has hit cities across the world with momentous challenges, smart city technology also enables us to face a new reality that is starkly different from what would have been the norm even six months ago. The ability of smart cities to leverage real-time data makes them uniquely adaptable to these new challenges, and this capacity to evolve as new circumstances present themselves will become ever more important in an increasingly uncertain world.
Today, healthcare systems are overloaded, authorities struggle to control riots and demonstrations, job losses are mounting, new challenges around law enforcement and accountability are appearing. With revenues dwindling, maintaining supply chains, shortage of essential workers, balancing well-being and economic survival have quickly become top of mind for government officials. You can no longer throw budget at such issues, hoping to address them in silos or small patches. Cities need to “save to invest”. Freeing up wasted resources from legacy inefficient services to redeploy these resources into more efficient means of delivering these services leveraging technology. Smart City technology is the answer.
Digitizing crisis management through an ICCC (Integrated Command and Control Centre) such as the one provided by Quantela allows authorities to respond better to emergencies, optimize the use of critical assets, and increase public safety. Cities will be able to predict future scenarios based on current spreading patterns, understand the impact on critical medical assets, and speed up the allocation of patients to hospitals by evaluating capacity, track quarantined patients, and distribute assets where they are most needed. Data is the lifeblood of our rapidly growing global economy, industries and communities. Our very digital existence, as defined by the sum of all data created, captured and replicated on our planet in any given year, is growing rapidly, and – if managed well – offers us unparalleled control over our future and the chance to improve our collective lives.
Amr Salem is the CEO of Quantela, a smart cities innovator that deploy IoT and AI technologies to enhance municipal operations.