If you live in a city, you can expect a significant increase of new neighbors over the next few decades. That’s because urban environments are growing. Today over 3.88 billion people live in cities, and according to estimates of the UN, that figure is expected to increase to 6.33 billion by 2050. This rapid growth is not the only challenge that your municipalities will face in the years ahead either. Cities already account for up to 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and that is why they must also do something to counteract climate change. The Smart City is seen as the key to provide citizens like you and me with a functioning municipal infrastructure and an extended range of services in the future.
The 19th century was a century of empires.
The 20th century was a century of nation states.
The 21st century will be a century of cities.
(Wellington E. Webb, former mayor of the City of Denver)
You can get a first glimpse how this can be implemented in practice, if you take a closer look at the port of Hamburg. Simliar to cities the port authority has to deal with a massive growth in limited space. Around 40,000 trucks are loaded and unloaded each day within the 72 square kilometers of the port area. In order to cope with the situation the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) uses the smartPORT logistics system. It is a private cloud application based on the T-Systems Connected Car platform and on SAP’s Connected Logistics software and enables truck and container movements to be better controlled at all times and at the same time facilitates more efficient use of the port’s limited space for additional traffic infrastructure. That reduces bottlenecks and waiting times and speeds up cargo transshipment. In this way ports form microcosms in which we can observe the initial approaches of the Smart City here and now.
But what can we expect in the near future? Declining budgets, a growing population and their rising impact on the climate leave cities no choice. They need to become smarter in order to address these challenges. But the Smart City is not only a troubleshooter. It helps city administrations to gain a greater degree of financial freedom and give them the opportunity to reinvenst in a liveable urban environment. This way they can enhance their locational competitive advantage as well as promote their sustainable and smart credentials in order to make themselves more attractive for people and businesses. For citizens, administration processes become not only way more efficient, but also more transparent. New channels of communication allow them to use city services and shape the future of their city along with the administrative staff. At the end, the result will be a urban living space, which is not only characterized by high efficiency and sustainability but also by the people who live in it. However, for citizens and cities to enjoy those benefits, they need to consequently invest in Smart City solutions.
The role of the Internet of Things
With regard to the expanding Internet of Things, nearly every connected product or solution can be seen as a part of the Smart City. In a narrower sense, however, Smart City solutions address specific municipal challenges. They include infrastructure areas such as utilities, traffic management, and public services for citizens like protection against threats. In practice, Smart City applications are not limited strictly to one area of use but influence several areas at the same time. Smart utility grids, for example, are considered to be the precondition for sustainable handling of resources. In the energy supply sector the so-called Smart Grid leads to a local structure into which electricity from different sources such as solar panels and wind farms is fed. Smart meters replace conventional electricity meters. Similarly networked smart meters record not only electricity but also water and gas consumption. The Smart Grid’s nodes include intelligent buildings that take into consideration aspects of climate protection and energy efficiency such as heating, light and ventilation management.
A use for which Smart City applications are already being extensively deployed is waste management. Cities like Amsterdam have deployed systems which automate the whole process chain of waste - from the creation and disposal to the recycling. The waste is collected exactly at the point where the garbage can is full. For citizens, it means that they no longer have to remember waste collection dates and worry what to do with the remaining waste if the garbage can is full. Solutions such as this make the process not only more user-friendly but also provide benefits to the environment. At the same time, municipalities profit from a more efficient processing of waste disposal. Unnecessary runs of the waste collection are a thing of the past. The collected data helps them also to prepare for legal disputes and regulatory requirements.
The eyes and ears of Dubrovnik
Besides Amsterdam the Croatian city of Dubrovnik is pursuing its path to be one of the first smart cities in Europe. In May 2015 the first demo lamp with an integrated multi-functional sensor circuit was switched on in Lujo Šoletic park. The lamp can do much more than just give light. It can act as the eyes and ears of many different Connected City applications. The integrated movement sensors, air pollution sensors, temperature sensors and sound sensors provide a detailed view of the lamp’s surroundings. More than that, they are also ideal for multifunctional sensor networks. The system is capable of integrating seamlessly into the urban landscape. In this manner, Dubrovnik preserves its rich historical heritage on the outside and relies on the most advanced technology under the hood to move into the digital era.
The city of Budapest is also on its way to a become a smarter city. It involves VECTOR – a modular traffic management system by T-Systems Hungary. The system supports the city from planning timetables and optimizing routes to analyzing past and current data. Based on the vehicle data, the system provides exact arrival times for passengers in real time. Citizens and visitors in Budapest who prefer to go by bike can use the public bike-sharing system MOL Bubi. The system was developed by T-Systems Hungary and Csepel Zrt. MOL Bubi is comprised of 76 docking stations and 1,100 bikes so far. The objective of the implementation of these mobility systems is to built an integrated Intelligent Transport System (ITS), which enables cities to improve urban mobility.
Are you interested in more details? In part 2 of this article Ralf Nejedl will cover the role of data and the challenges on the way to smarter cities.
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