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March 27, 2017
The development of smart cities
Megs Tessema

Informational infrastructure has been a part of urban planning for more than a century, with telegraph, telephone, and more recently, wireless technologies serving this purpose with increasing range and capacity. Presently, urban environments are nearly universally information-friendly with access to the internet available at numerous indoor and outdoor locations. The next step in this process involves connecting non-programmable assets to a broad digital network, ushering in the era of smart cities.

This era has already started, with numerous municipalities in Europe, Asia and North America experimenting with smart services in some form or shape. It would be reasonable to expect projects of this kind to become more common and sophisticated in the near future, as governments and private companies are working together to produce workable models that can address the most important practical issues.

Here is what you need to know about smart cities:

Maturation of the IoT concept

The idea of connecting numerous assets into a coherent network isn’t new; but applied to urban utilities it assumes the form of a smart city project. In this way, hospitals, schools, water supply systems, transportation, waste disposal services and other essential functions can be managed jointly through a single dashboard/interface for maximum efficiency. Integration of community services and public infrastructure goes beyond information exchange, enabling collaboration and strategic coordination at a level that was never possible before. In a way, smart cities are the ultimate development phase of the IoT principle, where entire ecosystems are managed based on interactions between individuals and public assets, with the ability to gradually learn from experience and become ever more efficient.

Challenges of large-scale deployment

There are well-established providers offering cloud solutions for asset management, but only the most skilled among them meet the demands of a smart city project. Due to tremendous amounts of information concerning a broad array of diverse assets, technical requirements are much stricter than for smaller IoT implementations. City-wide systems must be able to handle a large number of requests at the same time without delays, which can be quite a challenge during periods when the city experiences a sudden influx of visitors (i.e. sports events, tourist season…). Compatibility issues must also be addressed to ensure that the entire network adheres to the same standards and protocols.

Key benefits of smart services

Obviously many different facets of urban life can be improved with the help of machine intelligence. Physical assets such as roads, parks, etc. can be managed more effectively, while access to organised services (i.e. law enforcement, paramedics…) can be made more convenient and reliable. On the other hand, city managers can easily collect data about real-life needs of the city and tweak their financial and development plans to reflect the measured trends. Finally, the same infrastructure can be used to empower citizens to perform creative or business-oriented tasks through digital interfaces connected to the cloud, stimulating them to develop their own applications that take advantage of the shared bandwidth and computing power.

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