The Internet as we know it is likely to disappear. Not by some cataclysmic event, but by a major upgrade from full integration with the Internet of Thing (IoT). We already have what some call the “global brain” in the form of the current Internet. Add to that, the connections to our smart homes, smart buildings, autonomous vehicles, and every device imaginable through the IoT.
With the ubiquitous high-speed connectivity promised by widespread 5G deployment, there is an increased potential of smart cities popping up all over the world.
IoT in Smart Cities
The IoT in smart cities connects everything and everyone. The optimistic goal is to enhance the lives of the people living in a city and make managing the municipality easier and more efficient.
It is prudent to consider the downside as well. The pessimistic view is that these smart cities will be so monitored that the residents will be subject to 100% control by the government or artificial intelligence (AI). Either of those control systems may create unintended consequences. Instead of enhancing people’s lives, this can enslave them.
Technology is just a tool and like a hammer that can be used to build useful things like houses or to hit someone in the head and kill them. What happens is not really technology’s fault. It is up to us to make the best results possible with what we have on hand to work with.
With that warning in mind, let’s focus on the good stuff.
Features of Smart City
Here are some features of smart city design that make city-living better:
- Lower Traffic Congestion: The timing of the traffic lights can be adjusted based on traffic flow. Traffic can be automatically redirected around congested areas using alternative routes.
- Fewer Traffic Accidents: Self-driving vehicles have fewer accidents, on average, than human drivers do.
- Control Over Water Supply and Natural Gas: Smart meters provide real-time leak detection and give homeowners the ability to monitor usage. Water contamination is reduced by continuous quality monitoring. In an emergency, such as a fire, the water pressure can be diverted to specific city areas. Natural gas systems can be shut down when needed due to a natural disaster such as an earthquake.
- Net-Metering: Electricity produced by the alternative energy systems of individual homes, such as solar panels, can be sold back to the electrical grid, thereby reducing a homeowner’s utility bill.
- Managing Public Transportation: Smart technology allows city authorities to better manage public transportation resulting in the more efficient usage of resources and greater rider satisfaction.
- Improved Air Quality: Sensors that monitor air pollutants in real-time can aid city management in taking the necessary steps to improve air quality.
- Lower Crime: Smart cities have 100% surveillance that is recorded and stored in a permanent digital record. AI technology, such as facial recognition, can identify the perpetrators of crimes. AI data mining can create predictive analytics to better allocate law enforcement resources to prevent crime before it happens.
- Efficient Infrastructure Maintenance: Self-reporting of required repairs is possible using sensors to check infrastructure integrity. For example, potholes in the street can trigger repair orders themselves via a regular routine laser scan of the road surface integrity.
Smart City Platform
A smart city platform is an operating system underlying all the technology and connections made with IoT devices, smart homes, smart buildings, autonomous vehicles, city services, and other systems. It is the hub for all municipal services. The platform collects the data from every IoT device on the smart city network.
Advanced smart city platforms integrate with popular online systems such as Amazon, Google Maps, Uber, Airbnb, and many others. All the food delivery services should be included in the system. The platform also connects smart buildings and smart homes to service companies such as plumbers and electricians.
Smart City IoT Applications
Smart city IoT applications are useful and can be fun. There is a funny television commercial where a teenage boy wearing a virtual reality headset is controlling his gameplay by waving his hands in the air. He walks into the kitchen where his parents are standing. He tells the toaster to order him a pizza. A drone delivers the pizza by flying through an open window. It is hilarious to see his parent’s reactions.
This advertisement is a bit of an exaggeration about what is possible but not by much. Amazon is not yet delivering things by fleets of flying drones in the USA. However, this is not because of any technical limitations but because the American laws have not yet allowed it.
The Tech Republic reported in 2017 that, 66% of American cities are investing in smart city technology. That number is rapidly approaching 100%. Most cities are deploying smart city IoT applications, at least in a limited way already. Often the IoT deployment by cities starts with the smart metering of water, natural gas, and electricity because of the significant value for implementing these IoT systems.
More Smart Cites are Coming Soon
The expansion of smart city technology also depends on the pace of the deployment of the 5G communication network. 5G smartphones are already for sale, even though they are quite expensive. The 5G network is already available in major cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and others.
The expectation for 5G is that it will be rolling out very fast in the USA over the next five years. TechJury reports that IoT already connects about 26 billion devices and estimates that the IoT will connect 64 billion devices by 2025 providing a huge incentive to create smart cities and then interconnect everything.