IMAGINE living in a city that could use the information available within it to make life easier for its inhabitants. The city becomes a living organism, feeding off a central nervous system providing real time power and information – “sensory data” – empowering it to react.
The first step towards creating a smart city is visualisation and then having the political will to pursue an achievable dream. The question is: could Port Moresby ever become a smart city?
A practical approach towards POM achieving this dream is to isolate one area, such as the CBD of Port Moresby, taking in the new Ela Beach development, and make it a smart city precinct – a “city within a city”.
This test case would then be a prototype for the development and roll-out of other similar smart city precincts in the National Capital District, and other parts of PNG. So it is an example of taking one step at a time.
The Smart Cities Council defines a smart city as a city that has digital technology embedded across all city functions. In their Smart Cities Readiness Guide, the council takes a comprehensive, holistic view that “includes the entirety of human activity in an area, including city governments, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, resources, businesses and people”.
According to Wikipedia, a smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets.
A smart city is promoted to use urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and devices – then processed and analysed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency.
If you think this is the stuff of science fiction then think again. The future is already here.
Already more than half the world’s people live in cities and by the end of this decade it’s estimated that three out of five people will live not only in cities, but in megacities – metropolises with over 10 million people.
We have reached a point where “the planet itself has been completely encrusted by design as a geological layer”.
It is now just a case of interconnecting all the available technology and information and applying it to a smart city model.
The internet of things
One of the key components in a smart city is the internet of things (IoT).
This is an inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as «connected devices» and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention.
On a global level, experts estimate that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020.
Smart city vision
There are a number of large multinational companies currently working in the smart city space. One such company is Lockheed Martin, an American global aerospace, defence, security and advanced technologies company with worldwide interests. It says that the first component necessary to build a smart city is energy.
A smart city won’t just use energy from a power plant a few kilometres away like the cities of today. It will find energy everywhere—from sunlight, wind, rain, waves, heat and even motion. In the future, buildings, roads and other infrastructure will double as our power plants.
Smart cities will also use every last drop of energy as efficiently as possible. With smart energy storage, we will be able to save power until its needed and smart meters and networked sensors will be able to optimise electricity distribution in real-time, making energy waste a thing of the past.
Once powered, the smart city increases safety for its citizens through sensors.
Sensors already play a critical role on today’s ships and aircraft to identify and address maintenance issues. In the future, we will be able to implement sensors on trains, self-driving cars and subways to ensure maintenance issues are solved before they even become a problem.
In fact, crime and health would also be monitored so that issues are solved before they become a problem.
So why become a smart city? The question is a bit like asking why one should get an education.
The Smart City Council identifies three core values behind smart city thinking. They are:
Livability: Cities that provide clean, healthy living conditions without pollution and congestion. With a digital infrastructure that makes city services instantly and conveniently available anytime, anywhere.
Workability: Cities that provide the enabling infrastructure — energy, connectivity, computing, essential services — to compete globally for high-quality jobs.
Sustainability: Cities that provide services without stealing from future generations.
Smart City as the new urban space which, provided with millions of sensors, will be able to “listen” and “comprehend” what is happening all over the city to thus make better decisions and provide the right information to its inhabitants.
The road towards a smart city
According to NEC, another global giant developing smart city solutions, city evolution is a three-stage process consisting of growth, maturation and reconstruction.
During the growth stage, a city’s infrastructure develops rapidly in response to industrial growth and a rising population. To a large degree, quantity is prioritised over quality.
In the maturation stage, growth stabilises and residents seek a higher standard of living by purchasing higher quality goods and services, moving to the suburbs, etc. Quality is prioritised over quantity during this phase.
During the reconstruction stage, mature cities undergo renewal to maintain services and enable further development. These cities collaborate with other cities to meet new challenges. They also redevelop to satisfy the changing expectations of residents.
By collecting and sharing information more effectively and linking the network layers that support urban life, state-of-the-art ICT can bring people closer together, strengthen the fabric of society and realize the dream of a Smart City.
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