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Artificial intelligence, Big data and the Internet of Things are quickly creating spaces where humans and technology interact in new, more connected and more intelligent ways. Cities are no exception: smart cities incorporate data and digital technologies to provide better services to residents and solve public problems. This can lead to improved transportation and accessibility, social services, lower crime and better sustainability.
There are three layers to a smart city: a technology base which includes smartphones and sensors connected by high-speed communication networks, applications translating raw data into insights and usage by cities and the public.
The rising popularity of 5G, worldwide penetration of smartphones and increasing adoption of IoT are all expected to accelerate smart city technologies and bring them into the mainstream. With this, there are new ways that technology can change cities.
“In 2022, we anticipate cities — now more tech-savvy than ever — will have an increased focus on using technology to improve equity for city residents, with a particular emphasis on bridging the digital divide,” according to Vice President of Public Sector at Civis Analytics Clare Epstein.
The pandemic has made it clear: the community plays a large role in creating better health environments for citizens. Smart technologies can reduce strain on healthcare ecosystems by supporting not just diagnosis and treatment, but also preventive self-care. This shifts the focus from individual-centered healthcare to a community model.
Guided by data analytics, healthcare can be tailored for individuals and their families. For example, applications can monitor chronic conditions and facilitate remote patient-monitoring, while data. For instance, Chicago launched Healthy Chicago 2025 in 2020 — a multi-stakeholder plan centered around reducing health inequalities.
Biometrics, facial recognition, smart cameras and video surveillance all have been gaining traction with increased use by law enforcement services. These technologies help cities identify patterns and trends in crime data, reduce response times and explore crime prediction. Per McKinsey’s report, using these applications could reduce fatalities by 80% and incidents of assault or robbery by 30%.
But even though these technologies pose attractive options, citizens’ privacy, freedom and civil liberties remain of paramount importance. Cities will have to be careful to navigate accompanying ethical and regulatory issues of using such technologies, and avoid discriminating against specific neighborhoods or demographic groups.
Besides investing in clean energy, cities can use technology to monitor real-time energy use and optimize energy consumption. In 2019, the Coalition for Urban Transitions estimated that cities can cut emissions by about 90 percent by 2050 using proven technologies and practices. This involves the use of sustainable and ethical materials, environment-friendly and resources-efficient designs, renewables powered systems and digital technologies to adapt to usage.
In Amsterdam, homes have smart energy meters to encourage reduced energy consumption while Beijing reduced airborne pollutants by around 20 percent via tracking the pollution sources and regulating activities accordingly. Schenectady in New York is upgrading its street lights to LED technology, which can be adjusted or dimmed based on real-time data.
The energy revolution contributes to creating a circular economy, according to Deloitte Insights, through the decentralization of energy production with renewable sources. This is paving the way for cities to be self-sufficient in their energy consumption.
Infrastructure forms the backbone of every city, and technology can enhance existing interfaces in several ways — from green buildings to waste management systems to traffic regulation. Singapore’s Green Mark certification scheme, for example, is now aimed at making 80 percent of the city’s buildings green.
Gartner predicts more than 4 billion connected IoT devices in commercial smart buildings by 2028, powered by telecommunications infrastructures, with 5G and High Efficiency Wi-Fi along with smart utilities such as power, waste and water. Trending technologies include bridge inspection systems, IoT sensors for wastewater and congestion monitoring, parking sensor apps, lighting sensors and fire detection systems. This could lead to more compact, close-knit cities in the future.
Finally, smart cities magnify the voices of their residents. Apps allow citizens to instantaneously report local issues, while community networking platforms allow people to pool together and share resources.
Cities are evolving as collaborative ecosystems, with more participation and transparency. Open data and emerging technologies are paving the way for cities to be more human-centered and multidirectional for government, businesses and citizens alike.
Cities are facing a multitude of challenges in 2022: environmental, economic and societal. If done right, smart city technologies can improve quality of life indicators — such as sustainability, health and crime — by 10 to 30 percent.
But more than that, technologies can bridge existing gaps in societies by fostering inclusivity. Digitalisation in cities can improve accessibility, accelerate business opportunities, respond to societal gaps and aid proactive governance. As long as governments take care not to leave digitally invisible communities behind, smart cities can create better lives for all citizens.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Freya Savla is a Tech Innovation Fellow from Yale University, where she is exploring the political economy through the lens of economics, policy and journalism. Do you have information to share with Identity Review? Email us at email@example.com. Find us on Twitter.
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