A year has passed since our first article about smart cities. Last year, 50% of the world’s population lived in cities, now it is 55%. This number should increase to 70% by 2050. Cities will keep growing and changing to face new issues : environment, power management… Cars do not fly yet but things are already changing. New technologies will help our cities become smarter.
A Definition of a Smart City
Smart cities are the perfect answer to the numerous problems faced by modern cities: air pollution, energy waste and so on. Smart cities are build upon smart administrations that keep citizens’ concerns in mind. Electric cars and eco-friendly neighbourhoods are also part of the smart city ecosystem.
In order to achieve a smarter city management, deep and accurate analysis of data is crucial. In a connected world (smartphones, heaters, vacuum cleaners, vehicles…), this data is used to measure the city’s potential and identify its limits. Being instantly aware of the city’s public transport, operating conditions of distribution networks or air pollution levels are key factors to optimize the city management in an accurate way. In order to make the most of these data, it is essential to gather them all in one and the same place: a data lake.
As an example, Barcelona used city data to entirely rethink its public transport network. It is now possible to travel around the city with only one ticket. But there is more: interactive screens powered by solar energy, intuitive mobile phone apps and a new system for waste removal via underground pipes instead of lorries… This is the right example of an emerging smart city.
What are its specificities?
To be Smart, cities should have an open data system that provides data in real time on a public website with the capacity for anyone to extract this data. For example, in France, Nantes is one of the most advanced smart cities in terms of open data with three public websites regrouping more than 500 datasets on the city and a connected application for its citizens.
In order to get there, public administrations and private companies will have to share their data with the city. In particular, there are two crucial areas where a city can be made smarter:
- Transport: transport companies’ data may optimize the frequency of buses, trams but also taxis and other public transport. Data for smart mobility aims at integrating several modes of transport in a single system, easier to use and eco-friendly.
- Energy management: data on energy consumption enables Smart cities to determine peak usage. Dispatching the right amount of energy at the right location and time can reduce energy costs significantly. Cities can also implement targeted actions to reduce energy consumption even more. By shutting off heating systems a few minutes every night a city has been able to avoid using a coal-fired power station without any loss of comfort for the inhabitants.
Today's Smart Cities
According to Easy Park’s index, Europe is the best at smart cities. 5 European cities are on their top 10 smart cities: Copenhagen (1st), Stockholm (3rd), Zurich (4th), Amsterdam (8th) and Geneva (9th). Even if Paris created an event dedicated to it starting today, the French capital is 19th. The city officials expect Olympics and Rugby World Cup to help make Paris smarter in the next few years.
In Asia, Singapore, often quoted as the number one smart city, is only second. Tokyo is 6th.
Depending on the ratings, American cities are more or less present. Boston (5th) and San Francisco (7th) seem on the right track. The National League of Cities claims that 66% of the cities in the US invest in smart cities related technology. In Canada, the government created a Smart City Challenge to encourage innovation.
Smart cities keep growing bigger in number. We may all live in ecological, connected cities in a few decades. It could be a solution to live happier, make our cities smarter.