The ecosystem concept, once confined to its biological origins, has found new life in the smart city.
When natural systems begin to evolve, there is at first low diversity and complexity. Over time, diversity expands, system interactions get more complex, and cooperation is necessary to ensure the success of the community.
Similarly, early smart city programs consisted of a limited number of participants and technologies. Many were top-down efforts that emphasized using technology to help city systems operate more efficiently. Over time, communications networks and the Internet of Things (“IOT”) expanded connectivity across sectors, assets and citizens. Accordingly, the range of smart solutions and participants has skyrocketed, and smart city silos are giving way to collaborative arrangements across sectors, solution providers, stakeholder groups and infrastructure assets.
The impact of new technologies won’t be measured in social media “likes” or page views like before, they’ll be measured in lives saved and children fed; parents educated and renewable megawatts generated. Technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, virtual reality, and robotics are simultaneously coming into their own. Each will be as important as the waves that came before, but when you stitch them together, you get game changers like self-driving cars or security-providing drones.
Smart grid has been enabled by the IOT, in this case in the form of networked meters and sensors, coinciding with the revolution in energy generation and storage technologies. Transmission and distribution systems can be monitored and managed more effectively. But most importantly from a city point of view, distributed energy resources (DER) such as wind and solar or energy from waste, perhaps integrated with energy storage on microgrids, and perhaps supported by demand response (DR), are augmenting or replacing traditional energy sources from central generation plants. These newer sources are often on a neighborhood, city block or single property scale, and are poised to grow even faster once electric vehicle batteries are added into the mix. The IOT has enabled the near real-time control and management required for these innovations, as well as more granular monitoring of consumption (or generation) by consumers combined with billing and supporting data, through AMI.
LI is a crucial component of city planning and state and local government response. In emergencies, real-time monitoring can provide instant information to responders, in situations ranging from fires to crime or hurricanes. It can help aid workers distribute their social services in areas where they will have the most efficacy. After floods, like in Houston, city officials could determine which areas are worth rebuilding and which neighborhoods are too dangerous to continue to invest money in after multiple losses.
In the first article in this series, I argued that cities are complex, urban ecosystems that exist at multiple spatial and temporal scales and that do not permit the kinds of decomposition or systems engineering on which technology is based. Because of this, until we have a deeper understanding of what really makes the city a living entity, our progress on smart cities will be inherently superficial and of limited impact. In this article I ask: if we want to develop an understanding of how cities work, how would we go about this?
Unfortunately, many local decision-makers do not have easy access to accurate and timely data. The most accessible land cover map for the United States is currently produced at 30 meter resolution, and is now 5 years out of date. Products like these are useful when asking very broad questions at a national scale, but the lack of spatial and temporal resolution minimizes the utility of these data for city-level planning.
Educational games allow us to present complicated issues in a simple but engaging format. As populations and economic potential become increasingly concentrated in urban areas, cities around the world are on the front lines of pressing global issues ranging from inequality to sustainability. In a world of limitless demands and finite resources, tackling these challenges requires both ingenuity and collaboration between public officials and citizens—and cities need to ensure that residents are equipped to engage. Technology can be a powerful tool for improving transparency, accountability, and communication between city officials and their residents. Technology can also empower the next generation of community leaders through civic education games and other interactive platforms.
Previously, custom manufacturing was seen as an unprofitable offering that only specialist manufacturers or large manufacturers could take on. The IIoT could make offering custom manufacturing jobs something worthwhile you can offer. With sensors attached to individual components along the production line, containing the specifications, much of this process can be automated – and therefore scalable.
Ohio is home to, or connected with, numerous businesses, academic institutions, research facilities and trade organizations involved in development and commercialization of new technologies, including those related to information technology and autonomous and connected vehicles.
Ohio is creating smart mobility corridors that will be the proving ground for innovation in transportation. In November, state officials announced a $15 million investment in a Smart Mobility Corridor, installing fiber-optic cable and sensors in the 35-mile stretch of highway between Columbus and the TRC in East Liberty, where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic situations.
As with AMI and smart lighting, the core benefit is efficiency, in this case in the form of reduced energy and water consumption. If the building design is extended to include technologies such as roof-top energy generation and water recycling, then it is increasingly possible to create, at reasonable cost, zero net impact buildings. Smart buildings may also incorporate green roofs, both to help manage temperature and heat island effects, and also to delay storm water run-off.
Today, continued advances in low-cost sensors and the Internet of Things have enabled the next-generation of air quality monitoring that can provide decision makers and communities with accurate, high resolution data at costs orders of magnitude lower than traditional monitoring stations. Cloud-based platforms and machine learning can ensure these low-cost solutions are increasingly accurate and remain calibrated. Further, these new solutions are often designed for minimal maintenance to ensure they remain feasible for city budgets (or other operators) over the long term.
At the recent Global Cities Team Challenge Expo, Acquanetta Warren, the Mayor of Fontana California, expressed that ‘Technology makes government more accessible.’ Similar to cities, however, district-level organizations face constant challenges associated with financial and human resource constraints. In an environment of competing priorities and limited resources, strategies that depend on upfront investment and long-term returns are difficult to adopt at any level of governance.
Sustainability programs often require such long-term visions and upfront investment. In order for smart districts to become sustainable districts, it is imperative to develop strategies that leverage administrative frameworks, external resources, and novel technologies to minimize costs and facilitate continuous progress.