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Smart Cities

Smart cities do not yet exist but they could be (and probably will be) a reality in the future. This is due to the Internet of Things (IoT). Quite a lot of devices can be hooked up to the internet now which means interconnectivity is greater than ever. Furthermore, data is shared from all of these devices so the potential for learning and spotting trends across entire cities is easier than ever.

So, what does a smart city mean exactly? This generally refers to the portion of IoT which is focused on infrastructure. Smart cities are those which have a waste collection and power distributions, among other things, will be heavily run by IoT systems and devices. This doesn’t mean that the services themselves will be automated but that the data for them will be improved by smart technology. Smart devices should also help with decision-making and change management.

Telefonica, the global mobile giant, is leading this concept of the smart city and has already heavily invested in pilots and prototypes. These projects are being rolled out in many cities in Spain, where Telefonica originates from. The key sectors that are now being focused on are parking, streetlights, a collection of garbage, transport and tourism. There are plans to focus on environment and criminal activity in the near future. These sectors were chosen because it was found that the administrative process of these activities could be made more efficient by using smart devices. It was also a good idea because the infrastructure needed was either already in place or could be set up quickly.

For waste management, sensors on the garbage bins report how full they are in real time meaning that they can be emptied only when they’re close to full and garbage collection isn’t wasting time checking on nearly empty bins. This means that the data being collected is actually more relevant since it’s possible to see how much bins are full and when they’re going to be emptied. This metric is far more relevant than the current ones such as trucks on the road, which doesn’t state how long collection would be since there’s no measure of how fast a truck can clear a street of garbage without sensors in the refuse cans.

Smart cities also allow people to be more involved. Apps will allow locals to report overflowing bins or graffiti which would then alert cleaners. The cleaners can then match up to their targets on how quickly they clean the problem (much like an Uber driver rating system).

These initiatives are helping smart cities become a reality and helping us to connect like never before. This shared data will help analytics and should help locals in the long run as essential services will be improved. Many IoT concepts have limited use but the smart city projects can have very real impacts on the quality of life. It should be no surprise that cities highly ranked on quality of life metrics in future would be the most connected ones.