How Smart Can Your City Become?
Nowadays, we live in a world where we use technology all day, every day. We communicate with everyone all the time with small devices such as smartphones, tablets and personal computers. It is worth asking ourselves what other uses could we make of these devices to make our daily lives easier, e.g. being able to find available parking spots near our next destination, providing information on energy use of surrounding infrastructure or even influence the use of that infrastructure? This whole concept of creating high-value interactions between citizens and institutions by leveraging new technologies and processes is part of the global movement in favor of smart(er) cities.
According to the IoT Agenda, “A smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.”1 In other words, a city that collects data using electronic devices and then transmits the information to and from the population using communication networks or uses the data in order to improve the quality of life and reduce costs of operations.
More and more cities across the world are joining the parade to become smart. For example, Singapore is probably the smartest city of all. It has even been the object of a National Geographic's report called The City of the Future. Not only does it use collected data to transmit information to its citizens, but it also uses the information to become a self-sufficient city. First, to fulfill its needs of water, Singapore built a water supply system to desalt water from the sea. To minimize the energy costs related to desalting water, Singapore set out to develop a technique that uses electrodes to attract ions, therefore, removing dissolved components such as chlorine. Repeating the path multiple times results in a desalted water that complies with drinking water standards. Moreover, to become self-sufficient in agriculture, they built an indoor farm where food grows in the absence of soil. They control the amount of water, of oxygen, the light level and the temperature of the room to perfectly grow fresh veggies and fruits. Additionally, they use collected data to improve the quality of life of the citizens. In order to reduce the number of cars on the roads, they use drones to deliver packages across the city. Each drone can deliver one package of up to 4kg at a time. Once the delivery is completed, the consumer receives an alert and can pick it up in his mailbox. Furthermore, they decided to use blockchain in the banking industry to protect the population from manipulation by hackers. Hence, the banking information of one person is spread across different ledgers - or blocks in the chain - in many computers across the world. The computers “talk” to each other and if there is one incorrect ledger, it is rejected and replaced by the good one. Hackers would have to access the information of many computers at the same time to perform fraud. Furthermore, blockchain technologies help accelerate transactions across countries and from one account to another.
It is safe to assume that there is no limit to what a city can do to be smart(er). From water supply and blockchain-enabled banking through delivery using drones, anything is possible using collected data. The only limit a smart city may have is the imagination of its innovators and thinkers.
1Rouse, Margaret. “ Smart City.” TechTarget IoT Agenda, July 2017, https://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/definition/smart-city.