Communications technology is progressing at a phenomenal rate, especially when it comes to wireless communications and the ever growing Internet of Things. While many observers and media outlets focus on the benefits of devices and how they will impact consumers, producers, and service providers, there are also huge benefits to be gained by modernizing cities, and progressing towards a smart city model.
A smart city is any city where technology is used to improve public services, safety, and efficiency, and the development of such cities will have major economic and social benefits for individuals and organizations within them.
Major Benefits of Emerging Smart Cities
While many of the consumer technologies in the IoT industry have focused on consumer convenience and entertainment, smart city technologies are aimed more at improving quality of life and providing economic advantages within urban areas.
One major area of focus for smart city developers, is transportation. Smart city planning requires that transportation is completely integrated, with mass automation. Big data plays a significant role, as connected sensors record data ranging from traffic statistics, to public transport vehicle location, or even the number of pedestrians who are using a major controlled crossing at any time of the day. A smart city will collect this data to aid urban planning, making it easier for cities to plan new infrastructure.
A smart city can also better manage its transportation infrastructure in real time. Sensor data can help to reroute traffic using electronic road signs, or could automatically adjust signal light timing at major intersections, depending on real time congestion and traffic flow. Rather than urban planners reacting to accumulated data over long time periods, smart cities will have immediate access to sensor data which can be interpreted by machines almost immediately, allowing for traffic management changes to occur within minutes, rather than days or months.
Safety in large cities has always been a major concern, and a significant area of expenditure for governments. Smart traffic management aids road safety, but other areas of personal safety can also be improved with smart cities. Automation can control lighting in public areas, allowing for increased security. Sensors can alert public services when maintenance needs to be performed on street lighting and traffic signals, and data can be used to increase efficiency of maintenance schedules, resulting in cost savings for large cities. Public cameras can deter and detect crime, and sensors can be used to detect gas leaks, fires, or air quality risks in public spaces. With the integration of location beacons in emergency vehicles, fire, police, and ambulance services can better coordinate coverage in high risk areas, and respond to incidents with increased speed.
The benefits even extend into utilities. Sensors on electrical lines can detect faults and control electricity flow in real time. Water lines can also be monitored by IoT connected sensors, allowing for the real time detection of leaks and flow problems. Advanced sensors can even test for water quality along mains. Sensors on gas lines will also increase safety and reduce waste from inefficiency. According to data from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, wide scale smart energy sensors could save the United States up to $1.2 billion dollars per year, and efficiency improvements with other utilities would only add to the potential savings.
Significant Advantages for Stakeholders and Residents
The worldwide smart city technology market is expected to be worth almost $30 billion within the next seven years, a figure that illustrates the huge level of interest from cities and their technology partners.
Smart cities are not just about reducing the costs and resource requirements of the cities themselves, because the benefits will be directly felt by all who live and work within these urban areas. Convenience and quality of life can be improved, and city savings may translate to reduced local rates and taxes, while allowing for increased investment into key infrastructure and public services.
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