According to the United Nations, the majority (54.5 percent) of the world's population lives in a city, and half of those live in a city of one million or more. Urban dwellers are expected to top 60 percent by 2030 with almost 730 million people, 9 percent of the total, living in “mega-cities” of more than ten million inhabitants.
As cities around the world experience tremendous growth, it’s more important than ever that they operate efficiently, sustainably, and maintain a high quality of life for residents. The Internet of Things (IoT), with its emphasis on large-scale connectivity and data analytics, is spurring the rise of “smart cities” that use technology to achieve a diverse collection of goals (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The Smart City requires IoT connectivity and data analytics in multiple areas. (Source: Water World)
What are some of the benefits that cities hope to gain from implementing smart city technology?
Faster-Moving Traffic: The Federal Highway Traffic Administration defines congestion as occurring when traffic demand “approaches or exceeds the available capacity of the system.” Most congestion is predictable and occurs at about the same place and time every day, but 25 percent is non-recurring; it’s caused by accidents, bad weather, road construction, poor timing of traffic lights, and a variety of other factors. The Smart City will use connected cameras and sensors to provide real-time data on traffic conditions, then use data analytics and real-time control of traffic signals to minimize both recurring and non-recurring congestion. Other benefits include lower fuel costs and greater safety for both drivers and pedestrians.
Easier Parking: ITS America reports that drivers looking for parking spaces cause up to 30 percent of traffic congestion. A smart parking system’s cameras, ground-embedded sensors, and smartphone apps can give real-time information on availability. Indirect benefits include time savings, reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and increased revenue via demand-sensitive pricing, together with one notable downside: real-time alerts to traffic officers when meters expire.
Improved public safety: Keeping residents safe is one of the primary functions of city government. A Smart City can help in numerous ways: real-time analysis of CCTV footage to prevent or predict crimes; or identifying high-risk structures so the fire department can take preemptive action. And when disaster strikes, the ability to control traffic patterns in real time can ensure that first responders get to the scene as quickly as possible.
Better waste processing: The World Bank predicts that global trash production will reach 6 million tons by 2025 with collection expenses of $375 billion, up 83 percent from 2010. Recycling programs are one attempt to cut costs and reduce waste, but the IoT gives cities more options. One solution from San Francisco-based Cloudology, for example, claims to reduce collection costs by up to 40 percent by retrofitting sensors to existing trash bins that signal when the bin is full. Tablets mounted in garbage trucks show drivers which bins need to be serviced.
Greater utilization of natural resources: Water is a limited resource, especially for mega-cities in drought-plagued developing countries. Smart City savings include monitoring water quality for pollutants; using sensor networks to detect water leaks early and prevent damage or loss; and monitoring storm drain run-off to prevent potential overflows and give early warning of floods.
Savings in energy consumption: smart lighting can cut energy consumption by only turning on when needed. Triggers can include a motion sensor, a signal from a connected vehicle, or a sensor monitoring light levels, moisture, and other environmental variables. Water systems, including wastewater treatment, can account for up to 50 percent of a city’s total energy costs: More precise control can drastically reduce energy usage.
New Revenue Sources: Just as Google, Amazon, and Facebook gather data on user activity to attract advertisers, the Smart City can create revenue opportunities with targeted digital signage, time-of-day tolls, and the sale of data to commercial enterprises.
Find out more about connected cities in Mouser’s Shaping Smarter Cities site.
As a freelance technical writer, Paul Pickering has written on a wide range of topics including: semiconductor components & technology, passives, packaging, power electronic systems, automotive electronics, IoT, embedded software, EMC, and alternative energy. Paul has over 35 years of engineering and marketing experience in the electronics industry, including time spent in automotive electronics, precision analog, power semiconductors, embedded systems, logic devices, flight simulation and robotics. He has hands-on experience in both digital and analog circuit design, embedded software, and Web technologies. Originally from the North-East of England, he has lived and worked in Europe, the US, and Japan. He has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics & Electronics from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and has done graduate work at Tulsa University.
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