Living in the smart city

A digitised city helps to enhance the quality of life of its residents and to conserve resources. The starting point for the digitised city is the connected, intelligent home.

Rising levels of urbanisation are forcing towns and cities around the world to find a balance between limited resources, sustainability, and the public’s desire for comfort and quality of life. “Cities all over the world are looking to make themselves more efficient and enhance the well-being of their residents. Digitisation can help them to master the many challenges they face, such as in relation to traffic management,” comments Michael Ganser, Senior Vice President Central and Eastern Europe of Cisco. Connectivity will make the cities of the future “smart”. In smart cities, key systems and infrastructure elements such as buildings, energy, water, waste and transportation are interconnected, and the people who live in them are also linked up. Information and communications technologies are penetrating deep into the structures of both new and existing cities. According to the market research organisation Gartner, some 1.1 billion connected objects are in use around smart cities in 2015 – a figure they forecast will reach 9.7 billion by 2020. They forecast that 88 smart cities will exist as a result worldwide by 2025.

More efficiency thanks to smart roads

A small sign of what such a city might be like is provided by the “Smart Road” in Hamburg’s port district. The Smart Road, created by Cisco among others, is intended to enhance the management of resources and improve traffic flows, as well as monitoring the condition of the infrastructure and local environment. “Hamburg’s port is key to the city’s economy,” Michael Ganser points out. “That is why we are helping the Hamburg Port Authority to build more capacity by making more efficient use of its infrastructure, so as to strengthen its performance capabilities.”
The Smart Road solution comprises a range of different aspects: the traffic management system helps the port to monitor road traffic. Any congestion is automatically recorded and relayed to the Road Manager, who is able to contact the relevant agencies directly. IP-based sensors deliver real-time data on the status of mobile infrastructure, such as a lifting bridge. They enable the technical service department to plan maintenance and repair procedures accurately as well as predictively. Environmental sensors provide data to enhance analysis of environmental conditions on the port site. The “Follow Me” lighting concept also forms part of the proof of concept. The system automatically turns on a street light when someone approaches, and turns it off again after they have moved away.

It starts at home

“The majority of Internet of Things (IoT) spending for smart cities will come from the private sector,” comments Bettina Tratz-Ryan, Research Vice President at Gartner. The market research organisation predicts that city-dwellers will increasingly invest in Smart Home solutions, and that will ultimately result in the creation of the Smart City. Smart Home solutions connect single machines to each other and to the Internet, enabling new services to be offered within the connected home. That enhances comfort, safety and security, and helps to save energy. One example is a heating system which autonomously regulates the temperature around the home based on the location of the resident’s smartphone. A Smart Home can also use sensors and software to detect that the upstairs windows are open, for example, and link that information to the online weather report. The system could then automatically close the windows and lower the shutters to protect against an approaching storm.

A common language for connected objects

These are not just visions of the future; there are already lots of Smart Home products. The different solutions are not necessarily mutually compatible however. In view of that, ABB, Bosch, Cisco and LG are planning to develop a common language by which the various machines can communicate with each other. Based on the standards the consortium seeks to establish, the machines will be linked via a “home gateway” to the Internet and to a shared software platform, enabling services from different vendors to interact.

Optimising traffic flows

There are already a number of solutions for applications around the city in addition to the various home applications. Smart City applications are particularly widespread in the traffic management field. Examples include traffic routing and parking control systems, as well as traffic flow measurement. California and the UK are already implementing wireless receivers and sensors on motorways to diagnose traffic conditions in real time. Another application that is already being successfully implemented is smart parking. Los Angeles has installed sensors on parking spaces which detect when vehicles park on top of them. In conjunction with real-time traffic routing and parking management systems, this can make finding a parking space much easier. “Electric mobility, charging stations and embedded IoT will generate additional IoT opportunities in smart cities,” Gartner expert Tratz-Ryan adds. Among other measures, car-makers are investing in street lighting with integrated charging stations so as to reduce investment in charging infrastructure. Sensors identify vacant charging stations and notify users of them via on-board systems or a smartphone. “Smart cities represent a great revenue opportunity for technology and services providers (TSPs),” Bettina Tratz-Ryan continues, “but providers need to start to plan, engage and position their offerings now.”

(picture credits: Shutterstock)

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