“Its urbanization, progressing steadily, had finally reached the ultimate. All the land surface of Trantor, 75,000,000 square miles in extent, was a single city. The population, at its height, was well in excess of forty billions. This enormous population was devoted almost entirely to the administrative necessities of Empire, and found themselves all too few for the complications of the task.”
― Isaac Asimov, Foundation
By 2030 the world’s 750 largest cities will account for 61 percent of global GDP (or just $80,000,000,000,000). Supporting and establishing those future cities as smart cities (with sophisticated sensors, buildings, and appliances everywhere to ensure the management of city infrastructures and the delivery of services to its citizens) will be very different in many ways and thus is already becoming a major priority. Its fundamental solution, the Internet of Things, will create a digital layer of infrastructure that will help citizens access and consume any information they need, no matter where they are.
Components of the smart city
What the digital skeleton of the smart city might look like is open to dispute, but some elements are sure to emerge as standard:
Smart energy networks - The city might have numerous small power plants in buildings and between them, with batteries or other energy storage at many locations. Smart sensors will monitor the power plants, wiring, and other component.
Smart shareable homes—The Internet of Things will make it easier for people to rent out spare rooms in their homes and apartments. At a moment's notice it will be possible to remotely activate lights and heat or air conditioning. In addition to lighting, heating, and cooling a homeowner will be able to control appliances remotely. If you are in a hurry to start baking, you can remotely preheat the stove so it is time to put the pizza in when you arrive.
Traffic flow will be more efficient and predictable—There will be no need to drive around and around looking for a parking place. Mobile apps will help drivers find parking spaces and route themselves around trouble spots. Smart traffic monitoring systems with networks of wired devices will make it easier to keep a traffic jam from developing at all. Intersections can managed by smart devices that keep drivers safe and streamline traffic flow.
Shareable and reusable buildings—Smart devices will make it easier to manage commercial and industrial buildings, of course. The WEF suggests that smart devices will make it easy for a business owner to modify space to suit the communication and lighting needs of different clients. Another suite of smart devices will monitor power and water use, to make the most efficient use of each.
The "killer app" is data accessibility
All cities need telecommunications grids to handle the vast amounts of data racing around, into and out of, a city. Roads, power lines, water lines, sewage systems, traffic flow infrastructures, utilities in large commercial and government buildings—all need to be kept in top shape, monitored and managed efficiently. The data required to improve systems, perform timely maintenance, and do quick repairs has to come from somewhere. Currently, most cities rely on a complex blend of manual inspections, stand-alone electronic devices, and Web-enabled devices. A smart city moves that mix of management and maintenance tools toward a heavy reliance on Web-enabled devices.
The Internet of Things will help service providers use the full range of data that's potentially available to manage how they deliver services. Government officials will be better equipped to make good strategic decisions about infrastructure, while allowing more transparency to the citizens—service providers and government offices will have to share information on their performance. Are they meeting performance and quality goals? The data from Web-enabled devices will make it easy for decision makers and citizens to find out.
The smart city's data-intensive infrastructure
The vast number of Web-enabled devices around the smart city will have to communicate over an increasingly dense network of wires, wireless devices, and routers. Creating and managing that digital infrastructure will create new business opportunities for anyone who can create and install elements of that new infrastructure. Data storage and processing on a vast scale are going to be critical. That's the challenge that underlies all of the innovative developments that will create a Smart City. Wireless networks and wired networks will need to be ubiquitous and much faster than the norm today.
Faced with ongoing budget concerns, city managers are working to create more effective and efficient operating models by moving away from top-down, centralized management systems and breaking down vertical service functions and departments. Today, cities require regular maintenance and repair services to roads, sewer lines, phone lines, and power lines. Whether private companies or the government that will do the work in the future is irrelevant. Whoever performs the monitoring, maintenance, and repair work can look forward to integrate the IoT and software applications to control them in areas like road infrastructure (better monitoring of pavement and bridge conditions by using intelligent sensors and new “big data” computing capabilities), highway traffic management, healthcare, education, and agriculture. Collaborative design of multi-stakeholder ownership and processes calls for new governance and business models, which are essential to aligning all city services. Cities should take that into consideration when designing a coherent deployment plan to ensure synergies and cross-functionalities that optimize the number of sensors and services provided for the wires, wireless devices, and routers that connect all of these smart devices to each other and to their owners, constantly generating more data mining opportunities.
The smart city depends on collecting and processing a huge amount of data, some concerning residents' daily activities. The connected devices that make their lives easier also expose them to a potential loss of privacy. The proliferation of sensing equipment in society already raises important questions about data security and privacy. Addressing these challenges requires rules of the game that allow the fast-moving technology and market trends to evolve. To address data privacy and security and other challenges related to enabling progress in the circular economy–intelligent assets will require a robust legal framework with adequate innovative enforcement mechanisms. The key challenge for policy-makers lies in stimulating (open) innovation while ensuring data security and generating trust for those who are directly and indirectly linked through city intelligent assets. Companies and policymakers would need a multi-stakeholder approach to create such conditions; if successful they could lay the groundwork for solving several of the core challenges for designing an economy that is truly restorative and regenerative.