Today we have smart TVs, smart washers, intelligent fridges and even smart toothbrushes! The world is awash with smart tech and people are now more connected than ever before but how are smart technologies being incorporated in the function and design of cities? Here are 5 game changers you should expect to see soon in city near you.
1.Smart Lighting, Roads and Parking
San Diego, Dallas, Barcelona and Amsterdam are just a few of the cities that have implemented smart lighting to reduce costs while keeping streets lit. LED traffic and street lights along with an army of smart sensors work together to create a system that saves on energy costs while being environmentally friendly and more efficient for municipal management. Smart sensors on led bulbs, garbage bins, and even those embedded into the street are able to send notifications of broken bulbs, overflowing garbage bins and potholes or other damage to roads. This is merely scratching the surface of what is possible. Road maintenance throughout winter storms could be better executed as smart sensors can monitor ice build-up, making the location of salt stores and the deployment of salt trucks more effective. Sensor equipped parking spots will make finding, reserving, registering and paying for short and long term parking easier. Imagine cities that host large events like the Olympics, concerts and marathons having a clearer vision of parking capacity and where to route tourists and staff while also bolstering security as each spot is registered and personal details are saved in the distributed ledger.
Utilizing blockchain technology and autonomous electric vehicles (EVs) will allow large cities and their inhabitants to better manage commute times and improve general road safety. Smart vehicles communicating with smart roads will provide a clearer picture of road congestion, construction and delays caused by vehicular incidents then automatically reroute passengers to reduce trip times. Similar technology is already in use in modern cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and San Francisco. Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City aspires to house 55,000 residents in a renewable energy reliant city where cars are not permitted and driverless EVs ferry residents from one place to another. Meanwhile, Vimana is in partnership with the government of Dubai to provide autonomous passenger drones that can safely ferry 4 to 6 passengers throughout the cities hypermodern towers and bypass the daily traffic jams Dubai has become infamous for. The genius behind the idea is Vimana’s use of blockchain technology to connect each drone with other drones, weather sensors, passenger logs, and flight manifests so the logistics of booking a single or multiple trip journey can be arranged in a way that is beneficial to the passengers but also easily manageable for the operator. Furthermore, passenger security is ensured as all required details are visible on the blockchain distributed ledger so data regarding lost items, young passengers, and the occasional questionable rider can all be and reviewed at a later date if required. Meanwhile Amazon owned clone Souq.com is considering the use of aerial drones for package delivery throughout Dubai, making the ordering and delivery of packages seamlessly quick and efficient.
3 & 4. Big Data Analytics and IOT
While these two often exist in separate hemispheres many companies are discovering that big data analytics and the internet of things (IOT) overlap and with time the two will become inseparable. With everyone connected to Wifi and 4G 24 hours a day there is a ton of data floating around and it would be to the benefit of cities to gather, analyze and interpret this data for the purpose of improving municipal services. When smart devices, sensors and cloud networks communicate with each other through various applications that can be downloaded to each resident’s phone, a city’s ability to monitor and make necessary adjustments to infrastructure, healthcare, waste management, energy and environmental services are improved. The benefits of analyzing this trove of data are limitless. Data from sensors that monitor air pollution, traffic lights and road congestion could be used to adjust signal timing, speed limits and also factor into future plans for expanding the number of lanes in a road or where to build bridges and intersections. Companies like Vimana could utilize sensor data from Dubai’s municipal cloud network to discover which residents work at companies within close proximity to each other to better organize commuting passengers into groups and schedule routes that save travelers time and money. Vimana could reach out to companies and offer affordable rideshare packages for residents working at the same company who live near each other. In cities like London and Copenhagen where big data from the city is publically accessible, companies like IOTA and Vimana could work cohesively with municipal transport services to provide travel time tables where all transport options are listed. Travelers in a rush could pre schedule an autonomous drone whereas others might find taking the bus during peak travel times to be faster than riding the Tube. In cities with renewable energy infrastructure, sensor data could be used to determine which way to orient solar panels or the exact height to place wind turbines. Essentially, big data and IOT have the potential to revolutionize how citizens interact with their surroundings and the ability of cities to meet the needs of each resident.
As the old adage goes, we’ve saved the best for last. Prior to the crypto-craze of 2017 it’s safe to say the average Joe might not have been familiar with the term but blockchain is certainly the buzzword du jour in 2018. Blockchain tech and cities go hand in hand and it is truly the main technology that will assist cities in modernizing and improving the services provided to residents. The beauty of blockchain lies in the fact that an open ledger in a peer to peer system allows visibility within every step of any transaction. Paid your parking fines but the teller at the counter or on the phone insists that you haven’t? This issue is eliminated as all transaction data is visible on the open ledger and if there was a modification it is easy to pinpoint where the alteration occurred. Blockchain essentially will serve as the guardian of private data in an IOT world. A huge and valid concern which may be preventing cities from fully embracing the capacity of IOT are vulnerabilities regarding privacy and hacking. Blockchain serves as the platform that connects communicating smart devices and allows them to exchange data in a way that is secure and virtually un-hackable. Voter fraud, identity theft, missing utility payments and multiple day transaction times on simple payments are all rendered obsolete by blockchain technology. It should come as no surprise that in 2017 the city of Dubai decided to become a blockchain powered city, keeping in tune with its reputation for breaking Guinness World Records. Plans to track goods delivered and exported from multiple ports could eliminate the need for paper contracts and a plethora of forwarded emails. While connecting hospital switchboards and ambulances to road sensors and traffic lights can ensure that those in emergency situations receive assistance as quickly as possible. Creating virtual identification profiles for residents and tourists that are securely stored in the blockchain could render the need for carrying a plastic id, wallet or even hard currency obsolete. Dubai might be the first city on Earth where you can forgo the traditional stuck in a taxi in traffic experience and hail a Vimana autonomous drone to ferry you through clear skies on to your destination. 2017 might have been the year of the crypto bull and while everyone is hopeful that crypto markets will replicate last year’s performance, it is certain that 2018 will be the year of blockchain.