Innovation

Smart cities – The next tech revolution?

The world as we know it is changing. Gone are the days of isolated point solutions and accommodating technological constraints. We are entering an age of human-technology interaction, where human experience is the driver. An exciting age of intelligent devices, geolocations and algorithms. The dawn of the Smart City.

December 16, 2014

A smart city uses digital technologies to enhance performance and well-being, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. Key ‘smart’ sectors include transport, energy, health care, water and waste.

Smart cities will transform everyday life, from managing airport passenger flow to heating buildings and caring for the elderly. Residents will benefit from smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities, improved emergency services, and efficient lighting and heating systems. They will also benefit from a more interactive and responsive city administration, safer public spaces, sustainable smart gridssmart mobility and smart health.

But what exactly is a Smart City, and what will the implications of this revolution be?

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Smart cities around the world

From Chicago and San Diego to Amsterdam and Barcelona, cities from all across the globe are implementing smart city projects and initiatives in order to improve the efficiency of their networks, infrastructures and services with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies.

London City airport, for example, is using algorithms to enhance the customer journey. Systems are used to optimise the arrivals process by measuring the journey through the airport and seeing, in real time, how passenger flow is working in the baggage hall.

And they are not the only ones backing this tech revolution…

  • Vienna is establishing bold smart-city targets and tracking their progress to reach them, with programs like the Smart Energy Vision 2050, Roadmap 2020, and Action Plan 2012-2015.
  • London has also been well-recognised for some of its sustainability innovations (i.e. congestion tax) and its robust transit system. The city is home to Smart Cities research centre housed at Imperial College, which leverages transport, government, business, academic and consumer data with the aim of making the city more efficient and innovative.
  • In collaboration with Vattenfall, BMW, and others, Berlin is testing out vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies in the hopes of creating a virtual power plant from electric vehicles.
  • Barcelona is quickly becoming a world reference for Smart Cities, and the Catalan capital has taken a unique position of not only advancing its own initiatives, but trying to provide support for the global smart cities movement. The district has been so successful that it has inspired cities like Boston and Buenos Aires to follow suit.

 

Smart homes for smart cities

Thanks to low cost computing devices, RF networks and infrared-to-IP interfaces, Internet-based home automation is now a reality. From the comfort of your smartphone or tablet, you can control your home’s heating, security and lighting, programme your dinner to be ready when you get home from work, water your garden and tweet from your ‘fridge. The possibilities are endless!

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The benefits of a connected world

  • Tracking behaviour for real-time marketing;
  • Enhanced situational awareness;
  • Sensor-driven decision analytics;
  • Process optimisation;
  • Optimised resource consumption; and
  • Instantaneous control and response in complex autonomous systems.

Economically speaking, this tech revolution has the potential to generate billions and provide a rapid surge in global growth and employment. It will also bring hyper-connectivity to a global society, using augmented rich interfaces, and creating a reality straight out of a science fiction movie.

 

The next tech revolution?

One thing is clear – this is a revolution that promises to change people’s lives for the better, from inside the home to right across society. At this moment, cities, companies and universities all around the world are exploring the IoT and Smart City opportunities, and the market is expanding at a remarkable velocity as intelligent devices become more and more intertwined with our lives.

Smart devices can now be interconnected and “virtually” tracked in such a way as to make them intelligent, programmable and more capable of interaction with humans. This is the biggest tech development since the launch of the Internet itself, and it is transforming how we communicate with machines, and each other.

Brace yourselves and get connected: The next Tech Revolution is here.