As the world’s population continues to rise and the average lifespan increases, cities are getting bigger. This poses a new set of challenges and opportunities for government and municipal planners. The increase in population means more energy, water, public service personnel, education and other services.
With three million people moving into cities every week, these services are often needed before any taxes can be paid. To better face these challenges, cities have to adapt and become smarter about how they use existing resources. Advances in technology are permitting city planners more opportunities to maximize resources and providing a new lease on life for aging physical infrastructures.
Cities contain many objects that receive, collect and transmit data, including traffic lights and air pollution stations. This data can be harnessed to implement a more efficient and smarter city that efficiently utilizes resources. Ongoing events can be monitored in a central system instead of in scattered reports that feature incomplete data.
Ideally, these systems would be installed in the beginning developmental stages, but assimilating them into existing infrastructures is still cost efficient, as they can be installed at prices lower than the cost of a new highway or water main because they are incorporated into the existing structures of the city.
Smarter, Connected Cities
An interconnected system of technologies has always been at the forefront of humanity’s technological push. It’s the future, and virtually every faction of the 21st-century tech ecosphere is adopting it. The real estate industry is no exception. In New Zealand, there are plans underway to develop a radically interconnected city where dynamic data about the city, including its pollution levels, noise levels, traffic patterns and even water usage information, would be collated in real time.
The city of Manchester in the UK is another example of a place that’s working to give its city sensing capabilities. Early this year, Manchester city council appointed three key stakeholders to lead the onboarding of a distinct range of tech infrastructure. The goal here, as was the case in Christchurch in New Zealand, is to develop a smart city — fully interconnected and capable of subsisting by itself.
Sensitizing Our Cities
Underlying this drive to grant municipalities self-monitoring and possible automated control is a technological boiler room of sensors and artificial intelligence assets. Smart cities will be designed to incorporate a blanket of sensors at strategic locations in the cities’ architecture.
These will relay collected data to a central database. While fortifying cities with sensing devices is nothing novel, the sheer scale and integration with artificial intelligence systems distinguishes the concept of smart cities. This sensor-laden foundation of smart cities mandates a change from the traditional developmental strategies used in building cities.
Municipalities looking to onboard the technology must make provisions for the installation and maintenance of sensors and critical analytic assets, a feat that significantly ups the budget and complexity of orchestrating a city development project.
A Safer, More Convenient Place To Live
The increased financial implications of building smart cities are justified. When fully implemented, the technology holds promises of providing key insights and curbing the adverse effects of natural disasters and urbanization to a reasonable extent, the latter being of paramount concern to many metropolises in the world today.
In Buenos Aires, for instance, there is already a sensor-driven anti-flooding system in place to check the impacts of flooding that is now commonplace in the city. The system has a network of sensors integrated into the city’s underlying drainage and storm control architecture.
These sensors feed data to an analytic software — in this case, Oracle’s business intelligence applications — that analyzes the input and uses it to generate citywide predictions of possible disastrous weather conditions. The Buenos Aires case is but a subtle implementation of smart city technologies.
Elsewhere in Christchurch, there are plans to collect real-time data from city sensors and inhalers used by humans. The goal here is determining the relationship between air temperature, air quality and the now growing incidences of respiratory illnesses.
This level of interconnectivity and massive data pulling, however, comes with its attendant concerns. There is always the risk of hackers shutting down services, data theft and, as we have seen with the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica fiasco, large-scale extra-legal use of collected data.