Smart cities capture headlines and make people dream about what’s possible. However, they go far beyond mere fantasies and bring tangible benefits to businesses and residents alike. Those advantages make it more attractive to live and work in a smart city or visit it. Here’s a look at how they can create mutually beneficial situations.
Providing More Safety
A smart city is not automatically a safer one. However, responsible planners can integrate features that protect people from harm. Despite the controversies associated with CCTV cameras, they could help authorities remain more aware of potential trouble. Similarly, some city authorities have high-tech tools that facilitate better crowd control management. Analysts expect smart cities to create $2.46 trillion in business opportunities by 2025. Moreover, there will be 20%-25% growth in crowd analytics solutions by 2030.
Communication and collaboration are also crucial for safety. In Incheon, South Korea, a centralized control center coordinates traffic and rescue crew operations during emergencies. That connected approach to smart infrastructure reduces the delays or misunderstandings that could slow responses to urgent situations.
At a more basic level, intelligent lighting systems could promote safety by automatically turning on when people arrive in the area and immediately alerting maintenance personnel to issues like burned-out bulbs.
When residents feel consistently safe, their stress levels should go down. They’ll feel more eager to participate in their communities rather than staying in their homes due to fear. Such circumstances have a positive effect on businesses, too. Consumers will be less likely to perceive certain areas or merchants as dangerous or unappealing.
Moreover, business owners can be less concerned about crimes such as robbery and vandalism. There may even be a system whereby someone in distress could instantly call for help without attracting others’ attention. Such technology could be immensely helpful in a hostage situation.
Many people overlook barriers in their cities before directly encountering them. Individuals who never use bikes for transportation probably don’t see the lack of safe cycling paths. Moreover, if they speak the native language, they’ll likely never deal with the challenges many refugees face daily. People who use mobility aids deal with frustrating obstacles related to the lack of curb cutaways, ramps and accessible terrain.
However, analysts believe proper planning could facilitate inclusivity for those who live and work in a smart city. When people feel they belong somewhere and are seen and heard by fellow residents, they’ll have a better quality of life. There are various options for figuring out the best ways to accommodate people. However, some of the best ones involve collecting data to identify needs and see how trends change. Some degree of evolution is inevitable, but data can ensure planners are ready to address emerging priorities.
Apps exist to provide real-time translations, even for less-common languages. Imagine a scenario where a person could walk up to a bus ticket machine, point their smartphone at the screen and instantly see text in their preferred language. A smart city may also have an intelligent crosswalk that detects someone’s walking speed and automatically adjusts the traffic light timing to compensate. That setup could help someone who’s blind, using a wheelchair or otherwise needs more time to cross.
Businesses can thrive in more inclusive cities, too. Shop owners may find they can appeal to more segments of the market than before. Perhaps a town has a large population of Bhutanese immigrants, and they love the plentiful assortment of spices sold by a local grocer. The shop owner could then directly market to that group, noticing that profits grow in the process.
Creating Real-Life Environments to Test New Tech
Getting the news about a smart city makes people start wondering about the possibilities. What will the destination have? Will there be self-driving cars or robots cleaning the streets and providing directions to bewildered tourists? Perhaps. Relatively few places in the world earn the designation of official smart cities. It’s more common for planning authorities to launch initiatives that investigate how to make areas progressively more innovative. Both of those situations provide chances to create technology testing grounds.
For example, when Tengah, Singapore, begins welcoming smart city inhabitants in 2023, it will be the first place in the country to have a car-free city center. Leaders worldwide will undoubtedly keep an eye on how things go there, potentially getting inspiration for how they, too, might reduce dependence on cars. However, living in Tengah does not mean people must go without vehicles. Instead, officials want to move all traffic and parking to an underground smart infrastructure.
Smart city plans are especially well-positioned to gain momentum when they feature collaborations between businesses and municipal decision-makers. The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) hosts 42 startups focusing on critical care issues, such as food, water and waste management. Partnerships between LACI and city officials provide chances for businesses to show off their advanced tech and encourage leaders to test it. Similarly, early adopters have opportunities to work out the kinks associated with new technology.
The forward-thinking attitudes of smart city planners appeal to people who want to do everyday tasks differently. Another innovation associated with Tengah is a system where people take their garbage to centralized points where it gets taken away through a suction-based system. This setup prevents people from seeing overflowing garbage bins outside residents or businesses, and it means smelly garbage trucks spend less time on pickup routes.
Boosting Smart Cities’ Economies
Residents and businesses benefit from strong economies. More resources are available to maintain and improve essential aspects ranging from transportation networks to public health clinics during economic growth. Plus, people typically have more disposable income and feel comfortable about spending it rather than saving it in anticipation of more difficult times ahead.
High-tech cities can stimulate economies by encouraging investment and spurring tourism. A data collection and usage strategy could remove issues that discourage tourists, such as long lines at attractions or delayed buses. If city planners invest in smart navigational systems, visitors could put away their guidebooks and paper maps and get immersed in more pleasant, helpful experiences.
A person might aim their smartphone at a street sign and instantly see a directory of the stores, restaurants and cultural attractions located on it. The content might also include supplementary information, such as business hours, admission prices and details about sales. That approach helps visitors get orientated while encouraging them to check out local offerings. Economic growth could also occur when planners get more information about how people use smart infrastructure.
In London, smart scanners can differentiate between vehicles and people, tracking the road’s traffic patterns. The system boasts a 98% accuracy rate and gets smarter with use. City officials might hear complaints from residents who say they avoid business districts at certain times because traffic levels are too high. In that case, existing data could help reroute cars and people to relieve congestion and encourage people to frequent the nearby companies.
Collecting Ongoing Smart Infrastructure Feedback
Many residents and business owners complain that authorities usually don’t seek their feedback before making changes that affect them. For example, demolishing a historic building to create a parking garage could subject residents to excessive noise while eliminating a beloved city landmark. Business owners may also point out that the planned construction will discourage people from visiting the area, decreasing their opportunities.
Fortunately, it’s now more common for planners to seek input from city dwellers without making them fill out lengthy surveys or attend council meetings. Some municipal authorities launched Tinder-style apps that let people swipe to indicate whether they like or dislike potential upcoming changes.
Smart city plans associated with Nolanville, Texas, include a semi-autonomous van to transport those with mobility challenges and an app-based alert system to tell people about train traffic that often disrupts the city. Another possibility involves creating an incentive system to attract established businesses or promising startups.
The people tasked with this initiative worked in groups guided by an active community member. That person served as a mentor and point person for any questions about Nolanville’s current conditions and desired improvements. It was then easier to proceed with developments the residents and local company leaders genuinely want.
An Exciting Future
A smart city does not immediately address all the problems connected to a specific destination. However, these examples show that thoughtful planning and community input can help technological advancements assist residents and business owners in meaningful ways that help them prosper.