The technology developed to create the so-called “smart cities” can make cities more effective and efficient in the use of resources, which is necessary given the projected fast growth in urban populations over the next decades.
While the definition of a smart city continues to evolve, some things have become more clear: smart cities make the most of information and communication technologies to improve service levels, citizens’ well-being, sustainability and economic development.
About two-thirds of the world’s largest cities have already invested in technology and many others are considering its implementation. The increase in federal funding and strong partnerships between city governments and private sector technology companies will further consolidate the reality of smart cities in the upcoming years.
What is it like to live in a smart city?
There are many practical and economic benefits in smart cities and smart technology. However, although it seems there are only advantages for the society and the environment, we cannot lose sight of some things that may seem good now, but that could become inconveniences in the long term and vice versa. These are some factors to consider:
Advantages of smart cities
• Making more effective and data-based decisions:
A well-designed data analysis strategy gives city officials the ability to access and analyze a large amount of data, and obtain meaningful and useful information. When a city can monitor desired metrics in real-time, service levels increase rapidly.
• Better transport services:
Connected transport systems have one of the greatest potentials to drastically improve efficiency throughout the city. From improved traffic management to the ability to track the buses and train location, smart technologies allow cities to better serve citizens even though populations often grow rapidly.
• Safer communities:
A smart city is a safer city. Making the most of technological advances and seeking private/public partnerships help reduce criminal activity. Technologies such as license plate recognition, shooting detectors, connected crime centers, the next generation of the 911 emergency telephone system and body cameras give police authorities an advantage while they work.
• Efficient public services:
With a limited supply of natural resources available to meet human demand, smart technologies are providing cities with the necessary tools to effectively conserve and reduce involuntary waste of water and electricity.
• Reduction of the environmental footprint:
Energy-efficient buildings, air quality sensors and renewable energy sources are providing cities with new tools to reduce their ecological impact.
• Increase in digital equity:
To ensure digital equity, people must have access to high-speed internet services and affordable devices. The adoption of strategically located public Wi-Fi access places throughout the city can offer reliable internet services to all residents.
• New economic development opportunities:
Investments in smart cities are playing an increasingly important role in improving the regional and global competitiveness of cities, to attract new residents and businesses. Besides, by providing an open data platform with access to city information, companies can make informed decisions through data analysis of the smart city integrated technologies.
• Infrastructure improvement:
Roads, bridges and old buildings often require massive investments to be maintained and repaired during their useful life. Smart technology can provide cities with predictive analytical reports to identify areas that need to be solved before an infrastructure failure occurs.
Disadvantages of smart cities
• Very limited privacy:
The use of security cameras and intelligent systems connected through all different spaces makes it more difficult to maintain anonymity. Technologies such as facial recognition drastically changed the concept of personal privacy.
• Social control:
The ability to track and centralize data gives great power to the person who handles the information. Whether it is a government or a private agency, whoever has access to citizens’ data can control, frighten and try to manipulate public opinion.
• Excess network trust:
By relying almost entirely on electronics and networks, cities lose autonomy in decision making and could become incompetent to react or act in a scenario where these tools are not available.
What’s next for smart cities?
Smart cities are just starting to get recognition for their countless benefits and are the future investment to maximize efficiency, sustainability and improve the living conditions of the citizens who inhabit them.
As the world of interconnectivity expands day by day, there is no other option but to embrace it and try to keep up with the events to guarantee that the benefits from around the world can also be seen in our local communities.
From smartphones to energy efficiency systems and smart buildings, the world is becoming smarter and its citizens need to keep up. Cities need to attract the best talent to become true smart cities that have a compelling differentiator.
After all, it is a race towards modernization, where natural resources will no longer matter that much, but the capacity for innovation and the use of exceptional human talent to create the technologies of tomorrow. If you thought this article was interesting, tell us, how do you think living in a smart city will influence your life?