New technologies are emerging to help build cities that are prepared for sustainable development, population growth and widespread internet access. Such developments address some of the most fundamental problems in urban geography such as housing, infrastructure, traffic, overcrowding, support of increasing population growth and sustainable living for future generations.
Governments in some parts of the world are embracing disruptive technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to create effective solutions for the challenges faced by megacities.
As the global population will continue to grow, urbanisation is expected to add 2.5 billion people to cities across the globe over the next 30 years. The effective use of data and digital tools can provide smart solutions to problems arising from rapidly expanding populations.
The engineering behind the structure of smart cities combines multiple digital tools such as location sensing, cloud computing and mobile connectivity.
McKinsey estimates that smart-mobility applications could create up to $70 billion in value and forecasts suggest that by 2023 the smart cities market will be a US$7.6 billion Telco opportunity for mobile service providers (MSP) and network vendors.
Despite the figures above, the real positive impact of smart cities cannot be measured in economic growth or market size; it is instead reflected in better quality of life, more effective public services and sustainable lifestyle.
It is all about connectivity. Smart cities are, above all, cities made for people. They are designed to address structural inefficiencies and prepare urban areas for future growth and coming generations.
Whilst different locations require specific measures, there seems to be a global move towards smart, sustainable development, supported by disruptive technology. The Asia-Pacific region tops the tables on smart city strategies, making up 42 percent of global investments in smart city technology initiatives.
One of the most populous countries in the world, UN data shows that by 2050, India will have 404 million more people in its cities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined his vision when he launched a strategy in 2015 to build 100 smart cities in the country. The initiative seeks to invest more than $15 billion over the next few years to build and implement efficient infrastructure and management solutions.
The initiative also aims to attract foreign investment and job opportunities to these locations, promoting them as manufacturing hubs in a forward-thinking country.
Among the projects in the strategy are affordable housing, integrated multi-modal transport, creation and preservation of open spaces, and waste and traffic management, among others.
Each of the selected cities will have a Smart City Centre (SCC), which functions as the city’s technology central system where digital technologies are integrated with social, physical, and environmental aspects of the city, to enable centralised monitoring and decision making.
In the SCC architecture, Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as sensors, GPS equipment and cameras located in open spaces collect and transmit data through a communication network to a central facility. Applications then convert the data and information received into insights to facilitate the decision support system. The SCC structure enables real-time monitoring and quick incident response management in city operations.
Even it is still early days in their Smart Cities mission, results are already visible. In Rajkot, the crime rate has reduced by 18% over the past two quarters. There has also been improvement in traffic, and the monitoring of cleaning work through CCTV camera has led to reduction in instances of littering, public urination, and night-time burning of rubbish.
With a third of the Indian population living in urban areas, the strategy is a way to better accommodate and improve the quality of life of big city inhabitants, making room for sustainable development.
Few nations have understood the potential of technologies as agents of positive change as Singapore has. Singapore is the leading smart city in Asia and second in the worldwide ranking, just behind Copenhagen. The government launched its Smart Nation vision in 2014: “our vision is for Singapore to be a Smart Nation — a nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all.”
Impressive results have come from the smart transportation and mobility system which has been in place for more than 10 years. Using sensors to track buses, the data is used to identify problem areas and come up with effective solutions. Identifying where more buses were needed has already “resulted in a 90 percent reduction in crowdedness” and has reduced waiting times on popular services by three to five minutes.
The smart waste management program monitors attached on bin lids collect information on contents and location, with the information is transmitted to a waste management team through a central server. The waste collection team can then optimise route planning with the information provided by the sensors.
In the health sector, Singapore has implemented a central database, which helps doctors keep track of patients’ health records across hospitals, facilitating access to health services and patient record keeping.
As we welcome the fourth industrial revolution and let innovation keep on improving our lives, more systems are set to transform, bringing positive changes to society. Watch this space for more updates on technology projects in emerging markets. Subscribe to our FinancialFox YouTube channel for all the latest developments and news.