All this talk of smart cities. Will they actually benefit urban citizens? The answer is yes. In fact a recent study by Juniper Research estimates that smart cities have the potential to save their citizens 125 hours per year. Here are nine smart city applications that could make a difference.
Urban areas are magnets for traffic congestion. But if you think your rush hour commute is bad, spare a thought for the citizens of Beijing. The gridlock was once so bad that drivers were stuck for twelve days. Smart city devices will monitor the flow of traffic to optimise driving conditions. And when you need to park? Smart parking systems guide you to the nearest available space.
- Smart streetlights
On or off. So binary, so wasteful. Smart streetlights have the ability to adapt their brightness to local environmental conditions while gathering valuable data on things like traffic flow and air pollution.
Leaky pipes can cause a lot of damage to a property. Connected monitoring systems can detect changes in water pressure that suggest a problem may be developing in your home. And of course your water’s journey is far longer than from tank to tap. Smart city technology can help improve the quality of water by testing for contamination at key points in the supply chain.
Utility bills: nobody’s favourite postal delivery. Here to help make them land with less of a thud on the doormat is smart metering technology that measures how you use your utilities and makes recommendations on how to cut your consumption. You will even have the ability to control energy-guzzling devices in your home remotely - while you’re sat in the office, for example. Your home will be connected to a smart grid. One that auto-detects faults and constantly gathers data on local city-wide power consumption and feeding back to power producers to ensure a steady, efficient and economic distribution of power.
Do your recycling boxes and waste bins always seem to fill up days before they are collected? Smart cities will come with sensors that optimise waste collection by tracking the fullness of residents’ bins. If there are any waste collections at all. In Songdo in South Korea household rubbish and recycling is sucked straight from the kitchen to a central sorting facility via an underground network of pneumatic tubes.
City buildings should be safe. That’s a given. But have you ever considered who is actually responsible for the maintenance of the offices you work in, the museums you visit, the cafés you buy your coffees from? The buildings of tomorrow will monitor vibrations in the walls to auto-detect when structural issues may be developing.
Supply chain control
Supply chain control is about more than making sure you don’t run out of fresh fruit and bread. Keeping an entire city’s population fed and hydrated demands impeccable planning. With automated monitoring of storage, consumption and buying patterns, the consumer supply chains of tomorrow will be far more resilient and robust.
Hospitals are overcrowded. The demands on the NHS are acute. The adoption of wearable technology that automatically monitors patient health will allow far more patients to recuperate at home when they might otherwise have taken up a hospital bed. Likewise wearable technology will be able to detect if someone that lives alone - an elderly relative, for example - has fallen and contact a carer, neighbour or someone in the family.
- Smart education
Gathering data on educational achievement will allow local authorities to optimise teaching and provide more personalised support and learning materials for each student - whether they’re young, old or somewhere in between. Imagine applications that adapt to your personal style of learning and it’s easy to see how the smarts of tomorrow’s cities will be matched by the smarts of tomorrow’s residents.
Urban environments that put people first
First and foremost, cities are for people. Many of the column inches committed to the approaching smart city era talk of the business or economic benefits of smart cities. Yet it’s luminously clear that the technologies that smart cities are built on will be fundamentally good for the city, good for city authorities and - most importantly of all - good for the citizens themselves.
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