July 12, 2018

Smart Cities: A Guide for the Perplexed

Posted By: Noam Maital CEO at Waycare

These days, everything is smart. Smartphones, smart digital assistants (Alexa), even smart refrigerators. Well, cities too want to be smart. But what exactly is a smart city? Here is a short guide.

One accepted definition of “smart city”: A city that uses information and communication, to maintain, sustain and improve the quality of life in the city, by using key technologies – sensors, data analytics, and networks – that are all well integrated.

The ultimate smart city, which does not yet exist and may not happen for many years, will have many of the following elements.

Multi-modal integrated transportation.: Take your car to a commuter train from the suburbs, with loads of parking. In the city, take a subway or bus to a central area. There, get on a shuttle that goes right to your office. Pay with a single smart card. Multi-modal travel time beats sitting in your private car in clogged traffic, even with ride-sharing.

• Car sharing: Phone-based applications enable people to conveniently share rides, using dedicated high-occupancy vehicle lanes and even, sharply reduced tolls and taxes for cars with 3-4 occupants.

• Big data analysis: Intel claims that a single vehicle will generate 4 terabytes (4,000 gigabytes) of data in just one day. Smart cities will take this massive amounts of data and use it to find clever congestion solutions, both in real time and forward-looking.

• Congestion pricing: Based on the time of day, road access will be contingent on varying charges according to peak travel periods. This will help spread travel more evenly throughout the day, away from peak rush hour 8-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. travel.

• Self-driven cars: The advent of autonomous vehicles should improve traffic flow, by ultimately lowering the number of cars and density of cars on roads, as people transition to ride-service companies (Uber, Lyft).

• Smart traffic signals: Red lights turn green, when a line of cars warrants it, rather than every 1-2 minutes automatically, as in-road sensors inform traffic lights when to change.

• Smart vehicles with car-to-car and car-to-command center communication: As cars ‘talk’ to one another and to traffic management centers, traffic will be far better coordinated and managed. In the same way that a soccer team of 11 players coordinates and moves the ball forward, with implicit communication compared to a group of 8-year-old soccer players each of whom chases the ball and boots it randomly.

• Smart roads: Roads with sensors and electronic signs that gather data and inform drivers about optimal speeds, potential delays, and alternate routes.

• Drones: Technology exists to enable drones to supply some city services, in place of workers in vehicles, e.g. checking utility lines.

• Pedestrian tracking: Existing networks of closed-circuit cameras can be used, with sophisticated software, to track not only vehicle traffic but also pedestrian traffic, so that cycling, walking and driving can all be smoothly managed, optimized and integrated.

All these examples showcase the potential of smart cities and the benefits they will bring to its citizens. An essential step in successful innovation is prototyping and testing these use cases. There has been progress, but it is crucial or nations like China, India and the US to continue incentivizing project to make cities smart and develop model smart cities that showcase all these technologies and how they interact with the citizens and between themselves.

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