Horrendous pollution levels, unimaginable traffic congestions, unmethodical modes of garbage disposal, these images immediately flash upon our minds thinking about the word ‘city’.
Normally, a city’s developmental indicators are measured through the use of statistics which calculates mainly the greenhouse gas emission levels, upcoming building and transportation projects, to name a few. The downside of these statistical measures is that they are quantitative in nature due to which the quality of life has gradually reduced over time.
When I reflect on the future of our planet, especially about how the cities are going to be structured, these past days while in quarantine, concepts like ‘Sustainable Cities’, ‘Green Economy’ dawned upon me. As someone who is fond with social innovation, the concept of ‘Smart cities’ to me seems like a plausible solution to the mammoth problems met with sustainable development.
I dig in some research, just to be sure.
As it turns out, these terms have been habitually used by many academicians, scientists, policy makers in recent times to emphasize that smart cities and green economies are the way forward especially Post COVID-19 because our planet has endured more than what she could and from now on it is our civic responsibility to do way more than the needful as billions of us have a long way to go.
Smart City vs. Traditional Cities
The technologies used in that of a smart city are what truly distinguish the smart city from the other regular cities. A typical smart city is propelled by the Internet-of-things (IoT). IoT in simple words is the use of internet to make human-to-human interactions easier. A simple example can be that of ordering food online instead of going physically to the restaurant. Starting from the transportation, buildings, infrastructure, environment which make up the foundation of a successful city, when thrusted upon Internet, makes an enormous difference.
In the case of traffic congestion, congestion sensors are used in order to deter vehicles to a different direction. Carbon emissions have been tremendously reduced with the production of electric-cars which are highly successful in countries like China, Norway, South Korea although the shift to electric cars is still alien to many in the world.
Moreover shelter is a basic necessity for all of us. Building projects are inevitable but they too consume a significant portion of energy. To reduce energy consumption, cities like Seattle and Singapore have taken the initiative of installing Smart Thermostats which adjusts the intensity of heating cooling and energy levels based upon activities generated in each and every room in the building which saves up to 32% on HVAC costs (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning).
Songdo International Business District in Seoul, South Korea is one of the top smart city in the world so far.
Photo Credits: Smartecocity.com
Impact of Smart Cities on the Environment
The pivotal aspect of smart cities and its conceptions lies in the protection and flourishment of the environment which forms the fundamental aspect of smart cities. Instead of constructing regular buildings, smart cities have a taken a step further in terms of building green and smarter buildings. These are designed and executed through the use of air pollution sensors and weather prediction monitors. The objective of such high-end technology is to measure the amounts of emissions of greenhouse gases and eventually to drastically cut back on the carbon footprints left behind on the planet’s surface. A city that has successfully accomplished this is Beijing. The capital was able to pin down great amounts of pollution through the installment of these sensors and resulting in a 20% decline in air pollutants.
The smooth operation of all these facets is possible when all infrastructures too are maneuvered through IoT. Waste management becomes crucial here. Smart cities enable for the effective management of waste through the use of waste sensors, which recycles and redirects several waste collection routes enabling waste management easier than usual. Statistics show a reduction in waste collection by 83% through the installation of Smart bins in and around Seoul.
Smart Cities to the rescue
The past decades have witnessed several natural disasters, especially that of earthquakes. As safety and security is of prime concern, technology has evolved to the length at which earth detectors have been designed and manufactured. Success stories of the same are witnessed in cities like Seoul and Philadelphia. According to research done on these detectors, they are very much handy as they also serve the purpose of limiting the number of vehicles on streets, reducing the pressure directly on to the tectonic plates.
Digitization – The Jack of all Trades
Living in the digital era has served to be advantageous chiefly for public security. According to a research conducted by Georgetown Law Center in USA, facial recognition is here to stay as it has proved to be effective in several cities across USA such as Detroit, New York City, Washington D.C to name some. With these imminent facial recognition cameras that help the law enforcement department as well as with the increase in establishment of emergency cameras that help the first-responders, the public is at an increased degree of safety leading to a surge in the quality of life and hence a holistic development of not just the individual, but the society as a whole is the immediate result.
The very reason as to why smart cities must be and is the way forward is because technology and ideas have evolved to the magnitude where solutions do not seem far away anymore. They are very much real time practices that we as trustworthy citizens of the globe must take charge in doing so, and do so for social good. After all, “the best way to predict the future is to design it.”
Zitzman, Lior, iotforall.com, (2019)