Five Ways Smart Cities Harness the Ingenuity of Their Communities

From the ground level, cities appear to be a mess of chaos. But from 10,000 feet away, there is an orderly process to everything. That is the belief powering smart cities.

Smart City

In 2015, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a Smart City challenge to encourage mid-sized cities to use data, applications, and technology to improve the efficiency and cost of their operations. 

The DOT selected seven finalists out of 78 entrants. For example, finalist city Columbus had a particularly comprehensive strategy.

As reported by the Bipartisan Policy Center, Columbus’ goals were to improve citizens’ connection to human services, increase sustainable transportation, provide more jobs, reduce truck congestion, and enhance commuter mobility.

Many US cities have begun reshaping themselves in earnest through the pursuit of becoming “smarter.” Smart cities use data, digital sensors, assorted technology, and streamlined workflows to collect, analyze, and act upon analytics. 

Here are five ways Smart Cities create a more empowered citizenry:

Energy Efficiency: Cities and their inhabitants produce and consume energy at a rapidly expanding rate. And that consumption in traditional cities is made much worse because of inefficiencies in the market and the lack of more automated ways to conserve electricity. While it’s true that smart cities require a significant amount of energy, they also prioritize methods to increase ways to conserve energy. One such way is through microgrids, energy sources that connect to the larger grid, and through a self-sufficient “island mode” where it disconnects from the grid and/or produces energy to sell back to it. Solar panels, wind energy, and public-private partnerships are often hallmarks of microgrid projects. For instance, a Brooklyn microgrid project where residents who set up solar panels can sell their excess energy back to the grid features a partnership between LO3 Energy and Siemens.

The Invisible Traffic Warden: The data collected on traffic patterns has wide-ranging effects on a city. Using smart switches and IoT-enabled devices, cities can more effectively manage traffic lights, show the availability of parking spaces, and minimize traffic congestion, which will improve quality of life and help areas businesses boost their productivity. More importantly, a smart city traffic system can more effectively route critical life-saving fire trucks and ambulances.

Healthier Health Care System: Advanced medical devices that can capture and send to the cloud data on environmental and individual health issues can detect critical patterns of concern, such as low air quality, leading to increased asthma or potential cancer-risk clusters.

Intelligent Data Management: Unique digital identifiers, a hallmark of any smart city initiative, enables cities to provide services to its residents with minimal friction and maximum value by unifying citizens’ data and sharing it across government and public entities.

Citizen Empowerment: Smart cities encourage citizens to become more active participants in the wellbeing of their communities. Equipping their citizens with applications and easy-to-navigate websites to report traffic or infrastructure issues or public nuisances, governments encourage civic participation and effectively crowdsource monitoring of the locality’s status.

UST cost-effectively helps cities become intelligent ecosystems that optimize transportation, utilities, and other essential services. We help administrators identify how to upgrade legacy infrastructure, identify and source new technology, and create work streams based on the understanding of their populace.

Author

Kuruvilla ‘Mat’ Mathew

Mathew is Chief Innovation Architect at UST