THE PROs, CONs, and CHALLENGES of Creating a scalable, optimized Smart City

Experts estimate that by 2050, two-thirds of the global population will be part of an innovative “smart” urban city—cities equipped to optimize technology and innovations and collect massive quantities of data to create an interconnected umbrella of data analytics and communication. This transition requires sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), and massive data storage.

If we look at all the facets of a modern urban city, it would be similar to a giant jigsaw puzzle. Ideally, each induvial piece (or technology) would integrate perfectly with all the other sensors and communication hubs. As we quickly advance technology and new solutions to the puzzle, challenges, and potential for problems increase.

Over time, cities have taken on the mission to upgrade, improve, and increase the quality of their citizens’ life through energy-efficient (and controllable)LED lighting, traffic control, and congestion reduction. Enhance safety with technologies such as AI gunshot detection, surveillance cameras, and license plate detection, which quickly identifies those who have warrants or even for an Amber Alert, dramatically increasing the ability of first responders to react swiftly and accurately to emergencies.

Energy efficiency and broadened communication between city managers and their residents are enhanced. Basically, by investing in smart city technologies, cities can dramatically reduce energy costs, upgrade internet connectivity, and improvements will save considerable money and improve the quality of life.

With the incoming Electric Vehicle (EV) transition, cities are scrambling to also include the development of public charging infrastructure. The Drive Electric USA coalition (in conjunction with the Department of Energy) is helping develop best practices, standards, and tools to prepare for the dramatic increase in EVs. We anticipate that 50% of new car sales will be electric by 2030.

But the believers continue to drive forward through various obstacles, developing the infrastructure standards and taking some interesting turns. Incorporation of renewable energy, solar, and microgrids, or battery support, will help carry the load on the increasingly fragile grid. Wireless charging built within smart LED streetlights and within the streets are examples of creative solutions to the EV revolution. This, too, factors into smart city infrastructure.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an umbrella term for all the technologies a city may want to incorporate, either using collaborative pilot programs or developing and scaling a few improvements at a time. Some cities prefer to use a Smart City Integrator or expert in the field to create the master plan that allows for scalability as technology advances.

Air pollution, waste management, broadband internet or 5G systems, surveillance cameras, and license plate recognition can work together for many stakeholders. The exciting innovations emerging in this arena are many.

City planners must decipher their challenges(Is crime or vandalism a big problem? Outdated, ineffective and expensive lighting? Traffic congestion and inefficiencies?). Like a smartphone, there are so many options and apps. But one bad apple, implemented incorrectly, can create havoc. Hacks. Privacy breaches. There are so many unknowns and possible liabilities that some think, let’s wait and see.

On the flip side, there are tremendous opportunities to save money on energy and develop efficient waste collection (without the use of trash trucks), which improves the climate and traffic congestion. Optimism offers fuel savings, improves air quality, and makes congestion less demanding when we sit for what seems like forever at a traffic stop with no cross traffic in sight.

What if smart LED lighting could automatically dim up or down to adjust for foot traffic (or lack thereof) to increase safety and save money? Some cities have opted for options where the police can turn up the parking lights near closing time so that bar patrons might go home rather than get into trouble.

Beyond that, sensors and devices are available to detect severe weather, flooding, earthquake, and other potential tragedies. So many big-picture benefits can make life better and safer for all citizens. But people are concerned about what they don’t understand. As stakeholders, they must be included and educated on these devices and the data collections that cause distrust. Each city has unique challenges, and collaboration on all fronts is critical.

Lack of oversight and standards could be the main challenge. But “ISO” certified (ISO/IEC 2700) servers could help avoid security breaches with rules and data inscription.

Engineering smart cities is no small task. Hiring an experienced project engineer/integrator will help avoid costly mistakes. A plan can scale and develop by taking an inventory of a particular city’s needs and the vision for improvement. This endeavor should include all stakeholders, suppliers, and stakeholders, making the process as efficient as possible. Develop as many data sets as needed, perhaps in a “big picture plan” or by taking a step-by-step approach.

The first step is to engage nearby local governments and maximize collaboration and communication in sharing artificial intelligence and data analytics. Cooperation and transparency will encourage the city’s institutions and citizens’ participation and operation in their town. Feeling a sense of ownership in one’s environment and change will make a healthier transition to an openness to new technologies and changes to one’s environment.

Learn together, educate, adapt, and continue to innovate. A transparent big picture and sub-tasks result in smart cities being able to react and respond to the continuing and changing conditions and circumstances that come our way. The evolution to sustainable, scalable integration of human, collective, and artificial intelligence is critical for success.

In closing, applying various electronic and digital devices takes a mindful, educated, and collaborative team approach. Information and communication technologies can transform life and working environments for the better. Thorough and conscious integration and safeguarding of possible hacks or breaches are paramount. But done well, life is better in a Smart City.