The technology is there… But how can cities successfully implement smart infrastructures in a way that benefits both municipalities and citizens?

smart-city_1Technologies: creating added value for urban communities

In mid-November the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona was attended by over 3000 experts from all over the world who gave their insights on the city of the future.  Keynote sessions covered subjects such as digital infrastructures, strategies to provide services for citizens, reducing carbon footprint via resource management, cooperation between public and private structures and user communities. Here are some of the highlights of the keynotes posted on the congress website:

  • The challenge now is how to manage information to create social value so as to save energy.” (Antonio Marques).
  • “We believe that if a city cannot satisfy the needs of its inhabitants will not have good results. This approach requires holistic solutions.” (Eddie Bet Hazvadi).
  • “Smart cities require an overview of mobility where traffic, transport, parking and people are connected concepts.” (Jean Louis Fiorucci)
  • We need to integrate informatics, energy and ICT to improve our live in cities.”
  • “The real opportunity that we have today is the construction of the digital architecture of the future.” (Laura Ipsen)
  • “It is essential the long-term cooperation between the public and private sectors.” (Matts Lager)
  • “The path to design a real time managing plan: define indicators, integrate systems, incorporate externalities and involve users.” (Luis Reis)

smart_cityThe Network-As-A-Service concept: gradually implementing services with a centralised infrastructure 

According to Eric Dresselhuys, Co-founder and Executive Vice President, Silver Spring Networks, a networking platform and solutions provider for smart grid energy networks, “For many, the complex vision of the Smart City is intimidating and recalls the ghosts of projects past that failed to deliver. Where they need help is in understanding how to practically begin their journey of transforming into a true Smart City.” One way to do this is by setting up a centralised IT infrastructure (such as in Rio de Janeiro, for example), and implementing a “canopy” for other value-add applications and services for citizens and sources of ROI for the community.

Smart lighting and parking will be the first systems to be implemented, as these have the advantage of offering valuable services to citizens on the one hand whilst making cost savings for the municipalities on the other hand. These benefits are prompting more and more cities to experiment with smart technologies, as is the case for Nice and the connected boulevard it set up with Cisco.

This concept of introducing integrating services step-by-step has led to the development of Silver Springs’ Network-as-a-Service model, whereby it where it will deploy, manage and operate Smart City networks on behalf of cities in order to address its economic, environmental, health and safety, and traffic and transportation challenges.

Smart grids: the first steps towards large-scale implementation of IoT

With a more holistic approach to sustainable cities involving both public and private bodies, such as utilities companies, smart networks rely on the full potential of new digital technologies and the Internet of Things. These technologies can be leveraged to enable proactive management of pricing policies on the one hand, whilst on the other hand offering citizens more efficient management of their consumption and equipment, and even changing their behaviour thanks to individual connected systems. Implementing smart grids requires substantial, long-term investments, involving the installation of millions of sensors and smart meters (in Barcelona for example). But, more importantly, it also requires active participation from users because, as the expert speakers at the Smart City Expert World Congress pointed out, cities won’t become smart unless citizens are on board.

The environmental and social challenges of urban areas: a few figures

  • 3.6 billion people currently live in urban areas (McKinsey).
  • Cities cover around 2% of the earth’s land area but account for 60% of energy use (Geoff Kendall, Development Director, SustainAbility).
  • Cities produce 70% of greenhouse gases (McKinsey).
  • 30% of the world’s drinking water never reaches consumers due to poor distribution systems or equipment, resulting in losses of $14 billion a year (World Bank).
  • In Asia there will be 18 megacities with over 10 million inhabitants by 2020, (United Nations).
  • 3 out of 5 people will live in cities by 2030 (United Nations).