Urban spaces of the future with smart city IoT
Smart city IoT is set to become a part of our lives in the cities of the future. The simple scalability of big data, IoT, and smart technologies to provide real-time actionable insights and guide strategies make them a key component for digital transformation. These smart solutions are already proving to be invaluable in addressing policy, sustainability, and economic challenges of moving away from traditional processes and systems.
The challenges of a growing population
Importantly, the benefits of smart technologies are flexible enough to be applied to the world as it changes. For a broad understanding of the challenges, one needs to look at statistics.
The world’s population is growing. It is expected that the number of people in the world will increase to 9.7 billion by 2050. Additionally, projections show that this trend will be accompanied by burgeoning urbanisation. The United Nations anticipates that 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.
Practically, this will involve the expansion of existing cities and the establishment of new ones. With this growth comes growth in material consumption, emissions, waste and pollution, and intensified climate change worries. This makes sustainability considerations important at the very outset.
The UN has said this involves building cities around people and investing in replicable systems of resource efficiency. The aim is uninterrupted access to resources and city processes with a concentrated effort on responsible resource consumption and reduced waste.
The UN has proposed that cities that become more resource efficient in the key sectors of transport, commercial buildings, and building heating and cooling have the potential to improve efficiency by 50%.
What is IoT and big data in smart cities?
IoT has empowered the collection of extensive data and valuable insights into city systems and processes. IoT drives connectivity. The growth of IoT and IoT devices has been meteoric in recent years, making it an easily integrable technology for the evolution of smart cities.
Broadly speaking, IoT and big data in smart cities will be the collection, storage, and analysis of data collected by various sources. This is the foundation analysis of large data sets for automation and long-term strategic adjustments.
Already established smart cities have seen digital transformation and advantages in areas such as transport, energy, healthcare and wellbeing, adjustment to changing weather conditions, and streamlined city processes.
How is big data used in smart cities?
Singapore has been recognised as a leading smart city and the UN has recognised the importance of innovation in urban spaces as a development priority. Regarding both the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNDP’s ‘signature solutions’, the following thematic areas have been identified:
- Inclusive cities – that bring administration closer to the citizen and work towards equal access to public services, safety and security.
- Sustainable cities – that maximise resource conservation and reduce waste.
- Adaptable cities – that are flexible enough to ensure resilience in the face of climate change, pollution, and other challenges.
Applications of Big Data to smart cities
Helping City Planners To Map Out Expanding Cities
The data around how cities are used and occupied allows for responsive, citizen-centric architecture and city layouts. These can also be created to be sustainable and wellness-oriented. The data collected around this can be used to guide design, maintenance, and costs associated with smart cities. It can also help to troubleshoot and aid in recovery in the event of a disaster. It can also be used as a fundamental tool for automation.
Smart transport takes many forms. It can ensure the integrity of infrastructure to reduce downtime, react directly to demand and trends, and reduce congestion (and, with it, emissions).
Not only are populations growing – they are also getting older. This places additional pressures on healthcare and wellness. By monitoring healthcare facilities and healthcare equipment in real time, healthcare personnel are equipped to provide a better service.
There are also a number of factors with a knock-on effect for wellness. For example, wellbeing is supported by streamlining transportation, reducing congestion, monitoring air quality and pollution, and ensuring waste management is efficiently handled.
Smart Energy Management and the Move To Renewable Energy Sources
By monitoring energy consumption, we are better able to identify areas of waste, areas of potential savings, and areas of long-term strategic change. At a smart building level, this includes the incorporation of AMR meter reading systems, for example.
By knowing how and where energy is used in real time – and analysing trends over time – leaders and authorities are given a roadmap for the shift to renewables. This is better achieved with minimal disruption by knowing exactly how much energy is needed, which industries are energy intensive, and the times of peak usage.
Air Quality Monitoring and Environmental Monitoring
The quality of the air that we breathe is arguably one of the most important considerations in growing metros. According to the World Health Organisation, poor air quality was responsible for 4.2 million premature deaths annually in 2019. This is exacerbated by climate change events. For example, the 2023 wildfires in Quebec resulted in historically bad sensor readings on air quality in New York.
Smart City Management
Within the context of sustainability and carbon reduction, smart city management is arguably set to be the hardest hit when it comes to the population explosion. Smart council management and its sub-services work to:
- Secure the integrity and security of infrastructure through smart systems around transportation, parking, traffic, rail services, and public spaces.
- Optimise provision of utility services.
- Optimise waste management according to actual bin levels and cycles.
- Smart lighting.
- Maintenance and optimal running of public housing, council houses, and public institutions.
- Responsive emergency services like ambulance and fire safety.
- Optimise environments for the elderly, education, healthcare, and public events.
- Ensure security at a granular level for all citizens.
The creation of a digital twin allows for powerful, low-risk forecasting – anticipating needs and reactions around amendments to data sets. As populations grow and behaviour changes, digital twins provide insights to guide the smooth running of smart cities into the future.