Currently, residents of mostly larger, innovative cities are privileged to encounter smart city applications. Soon enough, however, smart city solutions will affect everybody’s life. Before this widespread realisation, it is good to understand what already has been achieved to date and what to expect in the (near) future.
Increasing the living standards of citizens
We define a ‘smart city’ as a municipality that uses trends and technologies such as machine learning, internet of things and data democratisation to increase operational efficiency and sustainability as well as to improve the quality of government services. The projected outcome is an increased standard of living of all residents.
Why are smart cities a good thing?
Smart city solutions are widely applicable and, as such, city leaders can stimulate smart solutions to an abundance of fields. The figure below demonstrates the different fields: transport and logistics (traffic flow management), banking and finance (e-payments), smart homes (smart lighting), smart enterprises (supply chain simplification), government (cyber security) and public utilities (infrastructure efficiency). By means of these different fields, greater access to (public) services, increased (cyber) safety and healthier and easier lives are realised for city residents.
Bringing the smart city concept to live
To bring the smart city concept to live, several smart city initiatives are illustrated below. They show the diversity of fields in which smart solutions can be applied.
Santa Cruz – Crime prediction
The city of Santa Cruz (United States of America) uses smart city solutions to fight crime. By analysing historical crime data, social media data and other data sources, police requirements are predicted. It generates a list of locations where crimes are most likely to occur or alerts real-time threats, which allows the police department to deploy police efforts in these areas. Santa Cruz saw a combined drop of 38% in robberies and burglaries and is able to respond to crime more efficiently.
Stockholm – E-servicing residents since 1994
Stockholm (Sweden) started their Green IT strategy as early as 1994 by providing a universal fibre optic network across the city. The initiative aims to increase the sustainability of Stockholm and by now the city succeeded to reduce the environmental impact on several issues such as energy efficient buildings (minimising heating costs), traffic monitoring (minimising the time spent on the road) and development of e-services (minimising paper usage). The city is an innovator in the field of e-services as the city provides political announcements, parking space booking, snow clearance and their own city routeing service, which are widely used by the citizens of Stockholm.
Porto – Vehicles as Wi-Fi hotspot
In the Portuguese city of Porto, a process has started to transform all vehicles in the city into Wi-Fi hotspots. By means of mesh networks, Wi-Fi ‘moves’ through different vehicles being accessible across the whole city. It is also called ‘the internet of moving things’ with municipal service vehicles (e.g. buses) broadcasting Wi-Fi.
Rotterdam and Antwerp – Waste management with sensors in bins
The cities of Rotterdam (The Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium) adopted a waste and recycling solution. Through sensors located within bins, the cities are able to monitor the degree to which a bin is full and then plan an efficient route for the waste collection lorries. This plan is generated automatically and takes issues such as traffic into account. It reduced the number of used lorries by 50%. At the same time, both cities saved fuel, service costs, emissions and time.
Glancing the pace at which the technologies and, subsequently, city solutions are developing, it will not take long before the majority of cities can label themselves as a smart city.