The flow of people migrating from rural areas to cities is predicted to rise to 68% in 2050 worldwide. Due to this, urban residents face multiple challenges from infrastructure issues to personal safety and mobility.
Urbanization demands communities to ensure a sustainable quality of life. In this article, we’ll explain how the smart city concept can meet this challenge.
A smart city and its goals
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “city smartness” is determined by 3 layers. First, it involves a technology base with a number of smart devices in a communication network.
The second layer represents specific smart apps and data-analysis tools. The third is the wide usage of apps by residents and companies.
At the output, these three layers of smartness improve the living standards of residents: safety, health, energy consumption, and environmental issues, social connectedness, and the cost of living.
In other words, smart city technologies translate into faster commutes, fewer accidents, and crimes, better health, fewer carbon emissions, improving these indicators by 10 to 30 percent.
On top of these metrics, this could mean, inter alia, saved lives. For example, in a city like Rio, smart applications affecting fatalities from homicide, road traffic, and fire ensure some 300 lives saved annually.
Smart city technologies: trends in 2023
Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are considered to be the most valuable assets to transform urban digital landscapes. “We are using AI to become the eyes of the city,” says Maarten Sukel, AI lead in Amsterdam. 30% of cities are predicted to take advantage of IoT and AI solutions by 2025.
In 2020, in Great Manchester (UK), AI-run traffic lights were introduced to identify road users and give priority to different modes of transport and people on foot and bikes when necessary.
Shanghai Subway has deployed AI-driven speech and face recognition technology for ticket purchasing.
In transportation, more cities with 500,000 plus residents will also shift from public transport to smart private transportation services like mobility-as-a-service providers, car-sharing services, bikes, and electric scooters.
It is expected that in 2023 and over smart city use cases will also include more rapid adoption of the following:
- Waste management with IoT sensors for a greener environment.
- Smart city lighting with IoT software adaptive to weather and informing municipalities of relevant lighting issues.
- Water and air quality monitoring to detect polluters, and leakage of wastewater residuals.
- Fire detection sensors that screen premises with an alert to emergency services.
- Wider adoption of digital tools by police to involve not only typical use cases like violent crimes but also lower-level crimes and social issues like juvenile delinquency, homelessness, etc.
- Smart grids for greener energy consumption. This is, perhaps, the most popular implementation of smart city landscape in Europe with renewables overtaking fossils in 2020 for the first time.
Smart city technologies: adoption pace
Although smart city technologies largely penetrate urban landscapes, urban AI-driven data platforms are still in their early days.
Only 31 percent out of the 85 European cities studied by the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics leverage operational “urban data platform” for data processing from municipal services and the private sector in mobility, logistics, environment, and energy usage.
“A digital twin model to manage urban neighborhood is a very advanced technology that is gathering pace.
The advantage of this technology lies in the possibility to simulate the impact of a change in the urban landscape prior to its physical implementation.” – says Alexey Shliakhouski, CTO at Elinext, a company that has strong expertise in smart solutions software development.
For example, in Helsinki, digital twin technology is used in virtual tourism, climate-related, and energy efficiency issues. The European Commission regards digital twins as a savvy tool to help local governments elaborate smart solutions for better city management.
As a result, Europe takes the lead in making cities smart: best European practices cover both most populated cities and smaller municipalities.
Smart city technologies will be trending in the coming years. We’ll see how this transition shapes urban ecosystems meeting the needs of residents.