Nowadays “smart” is being referred to anything with a sensor or processor and a connection to a network. It can be argued that possessing some processing power for information and capable to communicate makes a device smart.
Similarly “smart” is also being applied to cities now. Generally speaking, it refers to an information and communication infrastructure ( also acronymed as ICT) that enables smart devices such as smartphones, thermostats, automobiles, water meters, to connect to smart infrastructure (problem reporting, traffic signals, parking systems, and information, the electric grid, billing systems) to better quality of life and efficiency in cities.
Modern cities have become crucial based on their connection to man-made and natural transportation resources. Harbor cities were central shipping routes for trade, railroads, and highways. In nowadays information centric world, leveraging the ICT infrastructure will be crucial to solve many issues for cities today in traffic energy conservation, safety, and improve overall quality of life.
Roads and automobiles have heavily changed city planning in urban centers and created suburbs. The invention of smart and incidental cars will also influence priorities of urban planning. However, the ability to connect cars to smart infrastructure would change the way we think about the design and layout of cities.
Energy and Utilities
We have a connected electric grid that allows utilities to redirect power based on demand. What we don’t have is actually the ability to better monitor and control energy usage in offices, homes, warehouses, factories, and to share that information to better manage and conserve energy.
In the newer buildings, much better and effective intelligence is being built in, including the use of sensors to detect occupancy to the manage lighting and HVAC. Most progressive utility companies are increasingly offering more incentives to developers for the new construction projects to connect their systems to the national grid, so that power consumption can be closely monitored and messaged by the utility to better handle peak loads
Public Services and Safety
Beyond traffic and utilities, there are high technology and common sense-tech solutions to make modern cities safer, cleaner, and better. In Boston, for instance, Citizens Connect allows residents to report potholes, trash, and other less emergency issues and snap a picture of the issue with the mobile app. City employees can even take a picture of the solved issue to post back so the public knows it has been addressed. The Paytix application enables the unlucky lot to pay parking tickets easily from their smartphones. Another experimental Bumps application will even detect bumpy roads as people drive on them and send message back to the city to prioritize repairs.
On the higher technology side, the City of Denver and Panasonic are partnering on an experimental project for the smart LED street lamps in the Denver International Airport area. These lights will use HD cameras that can sense pedestrian traffic to brighten and dim the lights for energy efficiency and safety measures. The cameras feed parking space and traffic and data to cloud backend systems, which will provide analysis and data to enable future mobile and vehicle applications in the smart cities. The pilot also includes a partnership with Xcel Energy, where solar panels on buildings can store excess energy in Panasonic solar photo-voltaic and lithium ion storage batteries that can be shared on the electric grid. Smart cities are next big deal.