Honeywell – Why Smart Cities Are Better Cities
Smart cities that run on data aren’t just more efficient to run. They’re also more enjoyable to live in.
Since the 1990s, the term “big data” has echoed through industry like the sound of dripping water in a cave. What began as a trickle eventually became a torrent. Now, its true potential is finally becoming clear. And nowhere more so than in cities.
Cities around the world are replacing educated guesses with data-based decisions that are better for citizens and for the environment. In the process, they’re building an entirely new type of infrastructure that marries bits and bytes with steel and stone.
The result is a paradigm shift in the urban experience. Instead of being known for their problems — cities of the past were criticized for being dense, dangerous and dirty — cities are becoming esteemed for their solutions: Cities of the future will be lauded as safe, healthy and efficient.
In a word, cities are becoming smarter.
You’ve heard the term “smart cities” before. What you might not realize, however, is just how much a city’s IQ affects its residents. Smart cities will be more than dots on a map. They will be portals through which humanity discovers new ways to live, work and play. And that’s going to change everything.
What Makes Cities ‘Smart’?
Understanding smart cities’ potential requires understanding what makes them smart to begin with. The answer, of course, is technology. But not just technology. Rather, integrated and automated technology.
A traditional city is a series of silos. There is a department in charge of housing, for example, a department in charge of transportation, and another department in charge of streets and sanitation. Although they’re united under a single mayor and a single city council, each has its own discrete ecosystem that serves its own distinct mission. They don’t compete, necessarily. But they don’t exactly collaborate, either.
A smart city, on the other hand, is a system of systems wherein each city function is connected to all others, creating a single web of information from otherwise segregated streams. The product of that web is a holistic instead of fractured urban portrait that gives citizens and governments the unabridged insight they need in order to solve complicated social problems.
Consider something as common as traffic accidents.
In a smart city, traffic cameras can capture accidents in real time. When an incident happens, they can use artificial intelligence to instantly recognize that a collision has occurred, then automatically alert stakeholders with location coordinates and other relevant intelligence about the situation. The result — a faster response — could help save lives and reduce traffic congestion, thereby making the city safer as well as more enjoyable to live in.
Machine learning algorithms can subsequently process traffic data and, over time, learn to predict accidents before they happen. Armed with that information, the city can re-engineer streets and traffic signals, post signage, issue public alerts or take other pre-emptive actions.
Traffic lights could also be adjusted based on needs. For example, say there is a sporting event in a stadium that finishes at 9 p.m. Traffic emptying out of the area will spike. A smart city would adjust traffic lights durations in anticipation to help the area empty out faster. The same use case applies when traffic densities change, the city recognizes that fact and adjusts traffic light duration accordingly.
Tomorrow’s Cities, Today
The smartest cities are still years away. Already, though, cities around the world are demonstrating serious intelligence.
In Egypt, the government is building a brand-new capital outside of Cairo that will soon become the smartest city in Africa. At the heart of the unnamed metropolis will be a central command center created in partnership with Honeywell, whose technology will be the brain that powers the city’s digital nervous system. That system will rely on ubiquitous sensors for continuous monitoring and management of traffic, utilities, public safety and more.
Honeywell has also been a partner to several cities in India, including Rajkot and Faridabad, as they work to incorporate smart technology to improve lives of their citizens and become smart cities.
An Intelligent Investment
Clearly, smart cities will do neat things. But the question begs: Why should they do them now?
Technology is one reason. Sophisticated sensors, cloud infrastructure and massive data stores have become extremely powerful and extremely cheap, which makes smart cities more practical than they’ve ever been before.
In addition, urbanization is pervasive. That means the challenges of running a city are getting tougher as cities continue to grow. The cheap and ubiquitous sensors plus big data and AI technologies can easily be deployed at scale to solve the problems cities face.
And yet, perhaps the most compelling reason of all to invest in smart cities is for the tremendous good that they can do. Centuries of urbanization already have proven the merits of city living, from smaller environmental footprints to increased innovation and productivity to higher standards of living. To make cities smarter is to make them better for people, for the economy and for the planet.