Smart Cities Open Up a Range of Benefits for Citizens
By effectively employing technology, smart cities can develop new systems and processes that can not only improve the lives of citizens, but also create new commercial opportunities for businesses. Citizens can look forward to more convenient and efficient lifestyles, encompassing almost every aspect of day-to-day life – from ease of moving about, to better public services, and better utilisation of resources. Some potential benefits include:
Improved efficiency and mobility
McKinsey estimates that smart mobility can create better transportation systems, cutting commute times by as much as 15–20%11. Smart street parking and traffic management systems can create better flows and road utilisation, and the longer-term vision for autonomous vehicles could improve public transport provision.
Energy consumption can also be made more efficient. For example, the use of smart meters (meters that measure energy consumption accurately and send the data on to an energy supplier) on a consumer level already enables better insight into – and control over – energy consumption; 55% of early adopters in the UK report positive behavioural change towards energy use following installation of a smart meter12.
Smart grids improve transmission of energy data and enable better management of energy supply and demand13. They also support the supply of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, integrating these intermittent renewables and enabling distribution systems to keep pace14. With smart grids, energy distribution can be optimised, reducing peak demand and need for bigger grid infrastructure. Public street lighting is also becoming more efficient. A number of cities are replacing street lights with more efficient LED bulbs that are equipped with sensors that adjust the lighting level depending on whether there is anyone on the street or not16.
These are just some examples of applications that drive energy efficiency and deliver sustainability benefits.
In addition to the energy efficiency potential, smart cities can have other positive environmental impacts. Smart cities are better able to utilise and optimise available resources, leveraging insights from data and information. From sensors in waste containers driving more efficient refuse collection, to connected, responsive home appliances that reduce energy consumption, building automation systems that reduce emissions, and water consumption tracking that encourages conservation, there are a multitude of potential environmental benefits that can be realised. McKinsey estimates that by “deploying a range of applications to the best reasonable extent, smart cities could cut emissions by 10–15%, lower water consumption by 20–30% and reduce the volume of solid waste per capita by 10–20%17.”
Crime and public safety are key concerns for local communities the world over. Safety and security benefits can be gained through improved personal and home security, better policing and real-time crime monitoring. For example, Shotspotter, an advanced surveillance technology start-up, uses AI to alert authorities within 45 seconds of a gun being fired, enabling swift and targeted response times. It has been deployed in around 90 cities, including Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Additionally, emergency response times could also be improved through optimised dispatching and synchronised traffic lights18.
At the individual level, digital and mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) enable preventive health tracking, as well as actual treatment of illness. Sensors allow medical professionals to collect patient data remotely, resulting in faster and more personalised treatments. Other developments such as 3D printed pills, first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2015, facilitate not just the dispensing of precise dosages, but also enable medication to be highly customised and produced near patients19.
At the national level, unified health databases that connect all hospitals and clinics allow patients to receive diagnosis and treatment across multiple institutions, and enhance data consolidation for research and collaboration by healthcare professionals. Better healthcare systems also have implications on resource and inventory management for healthcare institutions, and databases of comprehensive medical records help save costs for insurance companies20.
City governments tasked with delivering better services to constituencies can look to new channels that enable better communication with their publics. From social media channels to personalised digital platforms for service delivery, data collection, or consultation and opinion polling, city governments can enhance citizens’ experience and engagement, help officials develop a better understanding of public needs to make better decisions, and improve public servants’ responsiveness.
In Santander, Spain, 20,000 sensors were installed around the city to gather data to help officials make decisions on issues like frequency of waste collection, energy utilisation, park maintenance and the like. In addition, citizens were encouraged to turn their personal smartphones into sensors by downloading the ‘Pulse of the City’ app. Through the application, the public became intelligent mobile sensors for the city, contributing to the flow of information into the city’s data stream. Beyond the government’s use of the information, citizens could also access the application for day-to-day tasks such as managing their commute, or looking into environmental hazards like pollution levels, and other public services21.
Amman in Jordan has a data-driven approach for streamlining waste management, monitoring various factors – from volume of waste, to truck locations and number of complaints. This enables them to redirect trucks to areas where other trucks were too full to complete waste collection22.
Other countries are also making government information accessible via digital platforms. In India, to enable citizens to exercise their right to information (RTI) and gain greater transparency into government workings, the state launched the RTIonline service, allowing citizens to file RTI applications and participate in forums to share ideas and suggestions and query the status of applications online23.
These are but a few examples of how the integration of technology such as AI, machine learning, and IoT, can generate data and enhance the quality of life of citizens in smart cities.
11 McKinsey, Smart Cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future, June 2018
12 Early consumer experiences of smart meters 2018, www.tech.org, 20th July 2018
13 Smart Grid solutions to watch 2018, www.disruptordaily.com, 3rd March 2018
14|15 https://www.smartcity.press/smart-city-strategies-for-global-warming, 2nd January 2018
16 Smart cities: redefining urban energy, www.power-technology.com, 8th February 2018
17 McKinsey, Smart Cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future, June 2018
18 McKinsey, Smart Cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future, June 2018
19 Smart Healthcare Solutions for Smart Cities, www.smartcity.press, 5th August 2017
20 Smart Healthcare Solutions for Smart Cities, www.smartcity.press, 5th August 2017
21 Forces of change: Smart cities, Deloitte, 22nd March 2018
22 Forces of change: Smart cities, Deloitte, 22nd March 2018
23 Smart Governance for Smart Cities, www.smartcity.press, 21st August 2017