People continue to flock to cities for several reasons, such as employment opportunities, lifestyle, and more.
The latest U.S. Census Bureau data showed that all but one of the 20 largest cities in the U.S. experienced population growth last year. And with the exception of New York City, the 15 cities that had the greatest population growth were in the southern and western portions of the country.
As this migration continues, cities will need to become more efficient in order to keep up with the surging population. Thus, smart cities will start to become the norm in the major metropolitan areas of the world.
But what is a smart city?
Quite simply, smart cities use Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as connected sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyze data. The cities then use this data to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services, and more.
Below, we've outlined how smart cities provide a more efficient and higher quality lifestyle for their residents, and the methods they use to reach these goals.
Smart Architecture and Infrastructure
Building managers throughout the world are more frequently looking to incorporate IoT devices and solutions into their infrastructures in order to reduce costs and improve the quality of their buildings.
A recent survey from Daintree Networks found that almost 60% of building managers in the U.S. are familiar with the IoT, and 43% believe the IoT would shape how they operate their buildings in the next two to three years. One area with massive potential for improvement is in lighting, as building managers could switch to LED bulbs in order to save money and energy.
Another area is elevators, where the need for greater efficiency is shocking. IBM noted that in 2010, people in New York City waited a total of 22.5 years for elevators. As a result, Allied Market Research expects the smart elevator market to nearly double from $12 billion in 2015 to $23 billion in 2020.
Arguably the greatest implementation of smart architecture and infrastructure is smart grids, which help tremendously with resource conservation. The European Commission expects that 72% of consumers in the European Union will have smart electricity meters installed in their homes by 2020, and 40% will have a smart gas meter.
Amsterdam, for example, has been experimenting with offering home energy storage units and solar panels for households that are connected to the city's smart grid. These batteries help lower stress on the grid at peak hours by allowing residents to store energy during off-peak hours. The solar panels also let residents sell spare energy from the panels back to the grid.
Smart City Projects & IoT Applications
The Amsterdam example is just one of many, particularly in Europe, which is leading the world in smart city development. The EU has been proactive in encouraging its member nations to develop smart cities, and the European Commission has allocated 365 million euros for this purpose.
And the efforts have already started to bear fruit. Paris debuted an electric car sharing program called Autolib in 2011, and has since grown the fleet of vehicles to 3,000. The connected vehicles can be tracked via GPS, and drivers can use the car's dashboard to reserve parking spaces in advance.
London announced earlier this year that it would begin tests on a smart parking project that would allow drivers to quickly locate parking spaces and remove the need for lengthy searches for an open spot. This, in turn, would alleviate urban traffic congestion. The U.K. capital also plans test electric car and bike-sharing programs.
Meanwhile, Copenhagen has started using sensors to monitor the city's bike traffic in real time, which provides valuable data on improving bike routes in the city. This is crucial, as more than 40% of the city's residents commute by bike each day.
North America has lagged behind even though it is the most urbanized region in the world, with more than 80% of its population in urban centers. Still, there are plenty of smart city projects up and running in these nations, specifically with regard to public safety and traffic.
New York City has test gunshot detection technology in police precincts in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and the mayor wants to expand this testing around the city. Camden, New Jersey has implemented similar tech.
New York City also piloted a connected car program in 2015 with the goal of learning where drivers make frequent hard brakes or sharp turns because of traffic. Officials could then use this data to improve road conditions and alleviate traffic.
Finally, San Diego has started using cameras built into connected streetlights to monitor pedestrian traffic and reroute cars during peak hours to avoid pedestrian accidents and alleviate congestion.
The Future of the IoT and Smart Cities
The potential of smart cities is nearly limitless, and the growth of these cities should only accelerate in the coming years. But this is not the only area that the IoT will profoundly change in the near future.