The continuous and exponential urban population growth, added to the climate change crisis, pose new challenges that require new solutions. Indeed, according to UN data, at least 68% of the population will live in urban regions by 2050. Many see the creation of smart city infrastructure as part of the solution to this new situation.
The implementation of technology in major cities promises social, economic and sustainability improvements, as well as an increased citizen safety. However, smart city infrastructure will have to overcome certain obstacles to be able to apply its proposed advantages.
What is a smart city?
A smart city is a city that guarantees its energy, environmental, economic and social sustainability through the implementation of innovative technologies, processes and services with the goal of improving people’s quality of life and encouraging business and work activities.
Smart cities were created with the purpose of offering solutions to population and infrastructure challenges of modern cities. The basic premise is that, through the data and analysis provided by smart city technology, local governments will be able to make better decisions regarding how to invest their resources. This data is also made public, so that citizens can also be informed about their way of life, fostering transparency.
Generating smart city infrastructure is one way to achieve more efficient, sustainable and smarter cities. Some of the applications of a smart city include the generation of detailed, real-time information on drinking water, mobility (public transportation, traffic), parking, cleaning and waste and street lighting. This relationship is also bidirectional, since the citizen can also warn local authorities (if something is in bad condition or in emergency situations), encouraging participatory governance.
This generates communication channels that, in turn, translate into lower crime rates, citizen health improvements, better urban mobility and energy efficiency.
In every case, smart city infrastructure works in 4 stages:
- Data collection
- Data Analysis
- Data relay to decision-makers
- Undertaking the necessary actions
Investment in smart city technology has already begun, though there is still significant room for it to grow. A report by International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that it might reach 135 billion dollars by 2021.
This investment is being performed both by public institutions and by private companies. As reported by McKinsey, while most applications could be managed by the public sector, investments would come from the private sector.
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Smart city technology
The emergence of smart city infrastructure goes hand in hand with the adoption of certain technologies. Until now, the prevailing smart city technologies on the market are:
Smart Solutions. Internet of Things (IoT)
Smart Solutions through IoT devices allow cities to become true networks of connected objects (environmental quality, waste sensors, surveillance cameras and smart lights, among others). This being the case, platforms such as Nexus Integra are able to establish a communication between the various disruptive solutions to exchange data and provide real-time information to the citizen.
Smart City Platform
This is a software that must offer a control center that allows for the real-time monitoring of all data related to the services offered by a municipality. This allows for a smart use of the information and a more agile and effective decision making.
This platform should be interoperable, open, horizontal and scalable, as outlined in the Spanish CTN 178104 standard.
Data is detected by sensors and subsequently analyzed and stored using cloud computing smart city technology.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial Intelligence analyzes the data collected by the sensors and stored on the Big Data platform, which generates records of data collected by the sensors to offer advance data analytics and define patterns, feeding Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence applications with the goal of providing the necessary information to make decisions regarding a city’s resources.
Machine learning systems go one step further, allowing for the automation of certain processes. As smart city technology advances, it will be possible for the machines themselves to make data-based decisions autonomously.
Smart city infrastructure requires connecting a myriad of devices to a single Smart City platform. At the time there are late generation protocols and different communication technologies that can offer connectivity for a Smart City. Connectivity will offer the submission of information in real time, optimizing the devices’ battery consumption. These wireless communications networks are based on LORAWAN, WIFI, NBIoT and SIGFOX technology, among others.
Firewalls and blockchains to protect information
As an entire city is linked via a smart city ecosystem and infrastructure and the information of its citizens is intertwined with the system, it will be necessary to have a technology that can protect this structure and information storage. The emergence of firewalls tailored to these systems of the application of encryption techniques such as blockchain can be the answer to this requirement.
Attaining a smart city ecosystem and infrastructure
The implementation of smart city infrastructure has faced a few technical and social challenges that have, as of yet, prevented the potential of connected cities to be exploited to its maximum potential.
In this regard, there are 3 keys to achieve the smart city infrastructure that the world demands:
Achieve a continuous and integral connectivity
Smart city infrastructure requires connecting a myriad of devices to a single system. However, the current capacity of connectivity networks may be overwhelmed.
For example: a large amount of buildings already have the necessary capabilities and sensors to collect data. However, current connectivity systems are not prepared to unify them into a single network.
To address this, it is expected for technologies such as 5G and edge computing to be capable of offering this resource.
Accompanying smart city infrastructure with a change of mindset
Achieving a cross-cutting connectivity in an entire city requires the collaboration of different government organizations. Which is why overcoming bureaucratic and jurisdictional issues must result from a shift in the management culture.
Guaranteeing the effective communication of the benefits to the citizenry
The smart city technology in charge of collecting and analyzing data can generate a certain level of distrust by the citizens, who can see privacy issues in it.
In this regard, organizations in charge of generating smart city infrastructure must guarantee an anonymous data collection, as well as the safety of that information against hacking and other problems.
Likewise, it would be advisable to implement educational and training programs that explain citizens how to use these new applications in their day-to-day, with the purpose of incorporating them into the Smart City.
Nexus Integra Smart City is an operational IoT Smart City Management platform based on the Spanish CTN 178104. It has high analytic capabilities which allow for an integral and centralized IoT solution management. It is furthermore interoperable, open, and can be scaled based on the needs of smart cities and Industry 4.0.
The information collected by the Smart City platform is processed and displayed in real-time in an advanced graphical environment. This allows for a smart use of the information so that the manager is able to make decisions faster and more effectively.
The data generated by the sensors and the analyzed information is stored on cloud computing solutions or in on-premise infrastructure.