For centuries, cities have evolved to meet the needs of their citizens and the innovations designed to make daily life easier and more efficient. From paving roads to enable horse and buggy travel, to electric wiring to power local homes and now, to integrating smart city solutions, the integration of solution-specific infrastructure has always been a critical driver of these innovations’ success.
While smart cities have been depicted on the big – and small screen for years, the reality of your hometown being transformed into a smart city is nearer than ever. To achieve this goal, future-forward infrastructure, the backbone of any and all smart innovations, must be implemented throughout the municipality’s existing neighbourhoods, including highly populated areas.
Let’s examine need, barriers, and a possible solution smart cities encounter and can harness vis-a-vis technological infrastructure.
When it comes to smart city evolution, it’s all about the infrastructure
We are living in an era of on-demand, convenience-based, instant gratification. Consumers want to access the internet, retail stores, mobility solutions and more, anytime and from anywhere, with minimum friction, pollution, or effort. Innovations that make the daily lives easier for a city’s residents, such as mobile data connectivity, autonomous vehicles, ride-hailing services and more, require the integration of appropriate infrastructure throughout, so that said technologies can shift from operating as silos and become dynamic elements of a smart city ecosystem.
The main requisite technologies implicated in the smart city evolution include:
- Information and communication technology (ICT) – A two-way communication channel that builds a bridge between the municipal government and its citizens, enabling the analysis of demand patterns and the formation of helpful online resources.
- Internet of things (IoT) -The combination and integration between ICT and urban functions, creating a body of communicating devices that enable smart solutions to
resolve everyday problems.
- Geospatial technology – Technology that creates the framework for data collection and analysis on the location of people, places and things within a smart city, to facilitate and optimize software-based solutions. Example: vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication.
- Sensors – The building blocks of smart cities, hidden but essential components that gather data about vital statistics and enable the entire city to run smoothly. For example: parking sensors that identify vacant/occupied parking spots, environment sensors to monitor city pollution levels and more.
- Blockchain – New to the smart city movement, blockchain secures the city’s data flow through smart contracts, enabling smarter, more seamless governance, with respect to billing, processing transactions, healthcare systems, energy management facility management and more, without the need for a mediating ( time-consuming and costly) third party.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The massive amount of data generated by smart cities requires machine-to-machine interaction, processing and insight generation, which AI enables with speed and ease. The code learns enabling better support of daily activities and lives.
Potential barriers to smart city infrastructure evolution
Many existing smart infrastructure solutions are expensive and intrusive. Consider the amount of noise, mess and general disruption involved in installing and maintaining all of the necessary infrastructure throughout a single given city. Municipalities are already struggling to handle existing, outdated infrastructure, such as underground wiring; they are simply ill equipped, with respect to budget or resources, to cope with latency, bandwidth and compute issues, key to connecting smart and infallible communication system infrastructure.
This, coupled with the fact that society in general and citizens in particular are risk-averse in nature, serves a significant barrier to the searching and procurement of better, more cost-effective and efficient infrastructure – what cities need to spread technological networks and become major smart city players, as they wish.
Israel – Innovating for the evolution of smart city infrastructure Known as the Start-up Nation, Israel is home to some 250 currently active smart city companies, each seeking to provide the best possible solution to overcome existing smart city infrastructure challenges and drive the future evolution of smart cities, in a smarter, more beneficial way. For example, ACiiST has developed a technology capable of spreading smart city infrastructure networks in a hassle-free, cost-effective way, by leveraging existing infrastructure and avoiding costly and time-consuming digging and trenching operations. Using a city’s lampposts as IoT assets, ACiiST minimizes cables and central boxes, while enabling easy camera installation in urban areas, diagnostic and monitoring systems from connected devices and more.
And other Israeli start-ups are working on developing easy to implement infrastructure solutions for managing transportation networks, municipal communication and decision-making, environmental sustainability, payment (via biometric identification), transparency and more.
While barriers to the implementation of smart city infrastructure remain, the need for said technologies to meet citizen and municipality demands reigns supreme. As such, several solutions are in development (some already on the market!), designed to circumvent the aforementioned challenges and enable new and evolving infrastructure to be integrated, allowing seamless, continuous and on-demand communication, whenever and wherever smart city locals and visitors may be.