Cities are struggling to keep up with the unprecedented population growth and other challenges such as climate change, water shortage and air pollution. These challenges demand new and smarter solutions in infrastructure. The concept of smart cities entails building cities which can cater to the present needs as well as adapt to the uncertain future.

Features of a Smart City

How will technology change the way we live?

1. Advancement in public transport

McKinsey has forecasted that up to 15 percent of passenger vehicles sold globally in 2030 will be fully autonomous, while revenues in the automotive sector could nearly double to USD 6.7 trillion. This will mostly be a result of increase in the shared car services and e-hailing as well as connectivity services including apps and car software upgrades. In a move to get ready for the coming wave of autonomous vehicles, the Ministry for Transport, Singapore is planning to make three districts ready for autonomous vehicles by 2023.

Population growth is putting pressure on the existing transport systems. While electric vehicles and driverless cars are going to help ease the pressure, high speed trains such as bullet trains will improve connectivity and reduce travel time.

Other advancement in transport is the use of data and AI based systems for intelligent traffic management and smart parking lots with flexible capacity. For example, the Virginia Department of Transportation in the US has implemented dynamic toll pricing on a busy interstate highway. The system collects real-time data on road use and works out flexi-toll-pricing.

2. Infrastructure
What people want from buildings is changing as technology and demographics evolve. Better utilization of space, walkable convenience, better insulation from extreme weather and green spaces for recreation are some of them.

A smart building is any structure that uses automated processes to automatically control the building’s operations including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems. A smart building uses sensors, actuators and microchips, in order to collect data and manage it according to a business’ functions and services. This infrastructure helps owners, operators and facility managers improve asset reliability and performance, which reduces energy use, optimizes how space is used and minimizes the environmental impact of buildings.

In Quayside, a neighbourhood in Toronto, dozens of acres of formerly industrial coastal land is being rebuilt, by Google’s Sidewalk Labs venture, as a highly sensor-enabled smart-city. Through continuous generation and analysis of data, this smart city is expected to be nearly ‘self-run’. This joint effort between the Sidewalk Labs and tri-government agency Waterfront Toronto is called Sidewalk Toronto and it aims to make Toronto the global hub for urban innovation.

Over-urbanization is putting pressure on environment and natural resources. This forces us to think green. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and establishes global standards on best practices.

Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED)

3. eGovernance

Through online portals and phone-based apps, government services can be provided to the citizens electronically, from the comfort of their homes and phones.

Electronic governance or e-governance is the application of information and communication technology (ICT) for delivering government services, exchange of information, communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between government-to-citizen (G2C), government-to-business (G2B), and government-to-government (G2G). Through e-governance, government services are made available to citizens in a convenient, efficient, and transparent manner.
Source: wikipedia

A big part of smart cities is the surveillance through cameras across the city and face recognition technology, resulting in better crime management, faster aid for road accidents and data collection for monitoring usage and projecting future infrastructure requirements.

Data collection is an important feature of any smart city. In 2009 the IT department at Stockholm Public Transport noticed irregular activity on its website when the third-party train timetable apps started scraping the site at high volumes. This soon led to opening of their data to the third party apps. The organisation’s head of passenger information told researchers at Sweden’s Viktoria Institute, “the only way to gain value to our brand was to make data available,”. Numerous data applications can be found in other parts of the world as well. In Chicago, US, streetlight systems self-report malfunctions to better keep high-crime areas lit at night.

This collaboration between a data provider, typically the local government or authority, and a community of user-facing application developers is an important part of any smart city ecosystem and is encouraged by many city administrations across the world.