Smart Cities for a Smart World

Mohammed Emran /
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The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices that streamline our lives by using wireless Internet to do simple tasks. These might include your phone scanning for your location, or it might include your home lighting system turning on and off at scheduled times using smart bulbs. Fast Internet has allowed a lot of interesting, useful, and even frivolous devices to become “smart” by making them Things on the IoT ecosystem.

These technologies are not just limited to homes. Cities are also using smart technologies to help manage traffic, save energy, and even charge electric cars as they drive. So what is a smart city, and how does it impact its residents? 

Is Your City Smart?

A “smart city” is a city that integrates IoT technology into its infrastructure. This means the city governance has invested in IoT devices that benefit the city and its residents. IoT devices in the home benefit people by streamlining our lives, and municipal IoT does the same on a larger scale. 

This makes things easier for people because it cuts a lot of wasteful spending, which in turn cuts taxes or diverts them to programs that can help individuals. Smart technology in cities manages mass transportation and traffic, making it easier to travel around. In a way, IoT makes a smart city come alive to serve its residents.

The Brain and Nervous System of a Smart City

The central need of a smart city is Information and Communication Technology, or ICT. Information Technology is related to Internet and to managing factors like usage and speed. The Communications element ensures nodes can communicate with one another as well as a central database.

In this way, wireless technology establishes a web of invisible, wireless communication that reaches over the whole city. With 4G and 4G LTE technology, this was run by cables and wires connected to broadcast hubs like modems. 

The purpose of ITC is to ensure these communications are as fast and reliable as available technology will allow. An efficient ICT infrastructure is the backbone of an efficient smart city.

As telecommunications technology becomes faster, more devices can be added, and perform more complex functions.

Smart Cities and 5G

5G is innovating ICT by using more powerful, shorter waves to communicate with devices. The antennae for 5G are more numerous, but also much smaller and can carry more data.

While IoT already generates a lot of Internet traffic, 5G will be able to handle it more efficiently. It is powerful enough to handle current smart technology without breaking a sweat. This speed leaves a lot of room for more smart devices to be invented and added to both homes and cities. 

Also thanks to the placement of 5G antennas and the powerful communications they provide, smart devices all over town can communicate with both one another and centralized data banks. This results in traffic lights that can tell the next light that cars are coming or waste receptacles that can call to be emptied when it’s needed. 

What’s So Smart About Smart Cities?

Smart city technology is serving a variety of functions for residents and visitors. People who live in or visit these cities can get around easier and with less environmental damage. In fact, the city’s overall carbon footprint is mitigated through energy-efficient city services and improved public safety. 

This is accomplished through a myriad of smart city initiatives:

  • Municipal buildings are being designed to minimize temperature controls and reduce electric use through natural light and cooling.
  • Transportation systems are being connected to smart cities, so riders have real-time information on when they will arrive and depart.
  • Many cities have initiatives to reduce carbon emissions within the decade, which has caused a rise in public transportation with no combustion engines. Vehicles from taxis and busses to trains and subways are powered by sustainable resources instead of gasoline. Charging stations and strips for electric vehicles is part of this infrastructure.
  • Lighting is increasingly turning to LED, while also being motion sensitive so empty streets aren’t wasting energy. This also enhances public safety by illuminating where people are.
  • Traffic management, including restructuring for pedestrians and biking, has reduced traffic congestion by collecting data on how cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians move. This not only keeps traffic flowing, but also reduces accidents for both the public and private sector.
  • Air and water quality can be measured using smart technology, as can water usage, helping reduce utility bills and conserve resources.
  • Public and elder housing portals allow local communities to manage their homes on the Internet by paying rent, requesting maintenance, and other services that previously meant waiting in a busy office.

What Is the Aim of Smart Cities?

To improve the quality of life in urban areas, some city governance has initiated smart cities councils, composed of tech advisors who analyze various logistics to improve city functioning. Even existing IoT in urban areas is teaching more about than first imagined from the information being provided by data analysis. Some of these data points have helped local governance make smarter cities through the power of ICT and WiFi.

  • Traffic studies using smart technology has provided data that enables cities to transport people and goods with highest efficiency and less pollution. Traffic lights in major cities around the US have learned when traffic is heaviest, and adjust their timing to allow more even flow of traffic. Public transportation is linked in to the whole city so riders can keep track in real time. Ride- and car-sharing stations have been established so people can use or share their cars and reduce pollution.
  • City engineers can monitor data to help inform commerce and public works usage trends for more efficient allocation of resources. Some municipalities use “load management,” which is a meter that cuts electricity to non-essential devices (such as pool pumps) for a period of time during the day to preserve energy. Smart meters enable load management periods to be more efficient and therefore shorter. 
  • Citywide energy use patterns can also allow electricity to be diverted to areas that are highly populated at different times. This means lighting up industrial and business sectors during the day and entertainment sectors in the evening. As renewable energy technology has become more common, excess power can be restored to the grid for high-traffic use.
  • Local governments can study continuous real-time data on air and water quality. Like electricity, smart meters for utility usage at homes and businesses can monitor water impurities and alert the city to leaks and floods. Air quality alerts have become an unfortunate necessity in cities because of the close proximity of so many neighbors. Smart technology helps more quickly detect the conditions that might lead to smog, ozone depletion, and other unhealthy toxins in the air. 

Smart Cities, Data and Security

Thanks to all the data collected by smart cities, local planners gain more insight into how people interact with their cities. They can also find problems, such as dangerous road intersections, water and air impurities and electrical waste, faster than ever. Sometimes they can find them even before they are reported by the public.

Many people are wary of data collection after several scandals that involved hacks, sales, and leaks of personal data. These are reasonable fears, especially as cameras have found their way everywhere, from traffic intersections to individuals’ cell phones. Thus, transparency in data collection methods and use by smart cities is vital to protect the privacy of individuals.

However, smart cities run more efficiently as they collect data, almost as if the city learns how to make life easier for the people who live and work in it. Most data collection is about large-scale patterns, such as how many cars pass through an intersection during a specified period of time. It is used to manage infrastructure in ways that ensure everyone in the city has the resources they need.

This necessitates tight security. Not only does the privacy of individuals need to be protected, but so do the details of how the city is managed. Most of the challenge of smart city security is in protecting data collection integrity while making the results available to citizens. This includes protecting equipment as well as databases. 

While malicious actors having access to data such as transportation patterns, energy distribution, personal data and water quality is a threat, most security breaches are less sensational. Since they are a risk nevertheless, smart cities have both security measures and redundancies in place. As cities get smarter, they require more ICT techs to keep them running smoothly, which includes keeping them safe.

The Future is Smart

From Manhattan to Boulder, Colorado to Fresno, California, cities all over the United States are implementing more smart technology. These public works have reduced waste and emissions, created attractive spaces for pedestrians, streamlined services like transportation and utilities, and provided numerous opportunities for residents. 

If your city doesn’t have smart initiatives yet, that’s okay. Smart cities start small, and the first step is knowing what Internet speeds are available in the area. An IoT ecosystem has a lot of devices communicating on it, and fast, reliable Internet is a must. If your town’s Internet speeds can support small initiatives, like LED street lamps or smart utility meters, this can go a long way toward saving the whole town money. You don’t have to be a big metropolis to benefit from smart city technology.

Smart cities benefit residents because they make life easier, safer, and greener. They also hint at fast, reliable Internet service for homes and businesses. Would you like to see what rates and speeds are available? Give us your zip code or call 1-833-933-2468 and we’ll show you what’s available in your area. Whether your city has a lot of smart technology or is just emerging, you’ll know you’re getting the best deal for local high-speed Internet!