Big Data | 24 October, 2018

Keys to the development of smart cities

Thaís Lino Cardoso Business Development

The world faces multiple global challenges. From sustainable development of smart cities to democratization, there are many unique opened questions related to the future of humanity specially related to the global urbanization and its infrastructure.

To pledge the global progress facing the 4th industrial revolution in the cities, it is necessary breakthrough innovations across nearly all sectors and technologies in order to address the unique challenges each city faces. A wide array of activities has already been developed in order to improve people’s lives in the cities around the world through disruption and innovation, like artificial intelligence, robotics, digital biology, cybersecurity, clean energy, among others.

Building an infrastructure that uniquely fits the environment

Every city worldwide faces unique conditions and challenges related to its population, climate, traffic patterns and more. It is a great challenge to meet their unique complexities and personalities, once no two cities are the same.

The challenges that each city faces are often so unique that solutions to address them do not exist, and requires someone who knows the city intimately to build it. In order to match each city specifications and empower local people lifestyles, there are important components to be noticed and usually they are not exactly the same to another city.

68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN. One in two people live in cities and two in three will live in cities by 2050.

The cities that have adapted and evolved in order to re-shape the way people interact with them, addressing each problem with a sustainable and smart approach, both respecting their complexities and personalities and looking for solutions for its people and communities, are called “smart cities”. Those are the cities that are trying to innovate to improve the living standards of their inhabitants.

Smart cities

Many large cities across the world have already started their development as a smart city. Many have started deploying zero-cost mobility initiatives in terms of emissions for the planet.

  • Bogota, for instance, with its EBus Andino 18, Madrid with its electric mini-buses, among other cities. Slowly, mobility is becoming more sustainable and environmental-friendly.
  • Boston, in particular, is currently testing how winter conditions and snow accumulation can affect traffic December through March and prioritize heated, offering smart roads that de-ice themselves. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is able to focus its efforts on how solar or ocean wave energy could power the city.
  • Amsterdam is rolling out multiple smart projects, including storage and trade of solar energy through home batteries. The main goal of this project is to improve the yield of solar panels via households that will be able to store and/or trade extra solar energy; and balance sustainable energy supply and demand in neighborhoods.
  • Copenhagen has also been fully engaged with sustainable development and clean air. The Danish government is aiming to get 50% of its electricity from wind by 2020. As part of this goal, in 2000 the country started investing in the development of Middelgrunden, an offshore wind farm that will eventually be able to generate enough power to cover the city’s needs.
  • Even waste collection services are starting to become smarter. Compology, a San Francisco startup is developing sensors for waste containers. The solution that Compology proposes entails the use of compressors capable of detecting and providing information about the amount of trash in the containers, based on which garbage truck routes are organized, thus saving costs.
  • Another city with smart management of waste collection is Seoul. The capital of South Korea’s problem with constantly overflowing public trash bins seemed insurmountable no matter how many times waste was collected during the day, apart from having insufficient public waste bins and low recycling rates. Furthermore, because the waste collection planners did not know how full or how quickly the bins became full, Seoul’s waste collection staff had to deal with plastic bottles and paper cups that continuously piled up on top of recycling bins. With the main goal of improving the cityscape by making streets cleaner and reducing waste collection costs, Seoul municipality decided to install solar-powered trash compactors which can hold up to 8 times more waste compared to non-compacting bins, reducing collection frequency by up to 80%. The solution, which includes real-time monitoring, cut waste collection costs by 83% and increased the recycling rate to 46%.

A smart city detects its citizens’ needs and reacts to their demands transforming the way in which they interact with the public service systems and elements through intelligent data. Thus, the city bases and plans for its actions building on this data, ideally in real-time, or even acting before these needs arise.