Smart City Challenges and Imperative
Humanity has officially become an urban species with over 50% of Earth’s 7.4 billion inhabitants living in urban environments. In the near future, there will be near 30 megacities with a population of more than 10 million around the globe. The infrastructure investments needed to keep up with the demands of very large cities will need to address the following to develop sustainable living conditions:
- cities consume around 75% of the word’s energy
- cities produce 80% of greenhouse emissions
- megacity transportation must become smarter to avoid perpetual congestion conditions
- megacities need smarter and more responsive disaster and crisis management
- megacities need to plan for governance of very large citizen populations
- megacities need to be smarter in managing valuable resources such as water
To respond to these megatrends, cities need to evolve into smart cities. A smart city is an urban environment that utilizes information technology and Internet of Things (IoT) to manage assets, services, and resources to provide a sustainable and enjoyable quality of life for its citizens. The infrastructure investment over the next two decades to upgrade these urban environments is projected around $35 trillion. With so much at stake, it’s important to develop a strategic roadmap that envisions the smart city future while paving the road there one project at a time. First, it is essential to know the key aspects that are driving the urban digital transformation.
Smart City Megatrends
The smart city megatrends to watch are the following:
- Mobile access is the expected norm for access to information and services provided by municipalities. The citizen persona and the affordances delivered create a consumerization effect on city IT delivery.
- City operations are taking a more holistic approach to achieving efficiencies and optimizations at the urban scale. More and more, different departments in city governments are realizing collaboration is vital.
- Knowing the inter-dynamics necessary to build next generation urban environments, city governments are identifying ways to unbundle infrastructure services in order to have more agility in delivering innovative, integrated digital capabilities.
- To keep pace with the rapid level of change, reliance on mechanical means of monitoring urban environmental factors is being replaced with a computing stack to enable capture and ingestion of real-time data.
- Data silos belonging to disparate municipal entities are giving way to a more open data platform that allows more seamless integration and potential for value generation.
Urban Operations and Infrastructure
Consider for a moment the major urban operations and infrastructure involved with running a thriving metropolis depicted in the graphic below. The challenge with developing smart cities is to take these blocks and decouple their capabilities into a platform architecture that enables more frictionless, seamless integration across municipal entities and departments. The strategy is to go from an operations-centric view to a citizen-focused view for delivering services. In each of these areas, such as governance, health, and commerce, turning the focus outward and then working back into the new platform will create new opportunities for transformation and greater value generation for citizens.
The big idea is to create an environment where citizen quality of life is significantly enhanced via digital experiences and affordances. How might citizens find it easier to get from point A to point B in the city? How might citizens find new ways to save energy? How might businesses build sustainable new developments to take care of the natural environment? These are the types of questions that launch the design challenges for a smart city of the future.
Smart City Design and Architecture
Designing a platform for a smart city does not happen overnight. It requires visionary leadership to lead the build out of the smart city platform architecture. It requires a great deal of collaboration – one initiative at a time. Those aspects of transformation are out of scope for this article but it is very important to be mindful of them. But we can envision the components of the smart city architecture. The following smart city architecture representation can serve as a starting point for defining the platform services and components needed to deliver the digital transformation for citizens. This reference can inform the human collaboration toward the smart city vision.
- IoT sensors capture real-time data from many sources such as water quality, air quality, traffic conditions, energy grid utilization and equipment operations, for instance.
- Functions run by different departments are digitized in the form of unbundled cloud services including governance, transportation, energy and others. The cloud services can be combined with new offerings.
- Mobile applications are the conduits for digital services that deliver innovative affordances with the smart city platform to significantly enhance the quality of life.
- Security is a critical component to keeping citizen data and access safe through the use of profiles and claims.
- An open data foundation supports machine learning algorithms that create compelling real-time insights and affordances for citizens on the go. Big Data analytics over data lakes that store historical smart city information that has been ingested via IoT channels can provide trending analysis and predictive capabilities.
- With the smart city platform, operations can better monitor, automate, optimize and predict a wide spectrum of parameters about activities in the city to deliver great experiences and a much higher quality of life for its citizens.
Smart City Case Study – Barcelona
Some cities are forging the way into the future to illustrate what can be achieved today with IoT technology. Barcelona undertook a smart city transformation initiative and developed innovative new services such as smart lighting, smart buses, smart parking and smart water management. The initiative also delivered digital services to empower its smart citizens. The new smart city services and capabilities generate revenue, enable smart citizen experiences, enhance productivity and enable cost avoidance. Some estimates put Barcelona smart city value creation at around $3 billion. Barcelona estimates that IoT smart city systems have delivered these benefits1:
- $58 million savings on water,
- $50 million increase in parking revenues per year,
- 47,000 new jobs,
- and through its smart lighting, a $37 million annual energy savings.
More and more cities around the globe are following suit to realize the tremendous potential of digital transformation and IoT platforms to keep up with the ever increasing demands on urban infrastructure while enhancing quality of life for citizens using sustainable strategies. These cities are leading the development of the awesome new world and era of smart cities.
- How Smart City Barcelona Brought the Internet of Things to Life, February 18, 2016, Laura Adler