Smart cities are already online and getting smarter all the time

Citizens and governments will be connected in ways we have never seen before. IoT will bring tremendous opportunities and benefits to smart cities, but this level of interconnectivity will also bring its own challenges.

Smart cities, defined as areas where technology is used to improve an urban area, are already being deployed around the world to improve quality of life, increase efficiency and reduce costs.

According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the smart city industry had a market size of US$457 billion in 2021, which is expected to accelerate to US$873 billion by 2026.

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The driving forces behind this are smaller sensors, part of the Internet of Things, capable of capturing and monitoring everything from traffic jams to pollution levels to parking spaces.

With this data, smart cities are able to analyze and develop solutions to improve life in urban areas. A city can use pollution and congestion statistics to reroute traffic while choosing to convert a busy street to a pedestrian street or make it available only for public transit.

“Sophisticated interconnectivity is one of the fundamental building blocks of next-generation smart city development,” said Joe Appleton, smart city strategist at bee smart city. “Citizens and governments will be connected in ways we have never seen before. The IoT will bring tremendous opportunities and benefits to smart cities, but this level of interconnectivity will also bring its own challenges.”

In a recent post from the Forbes Technology Council, made up of 13 industry members, they discussed several emerging smart city technologies that could significantly improve urban areas.

Some of these, like self-driving vehicles and last-mile delivery automation, are still evolving, though people in San Francisco can take free rides in Cruise Automation and Waymo vehicles at certain times and in certain areas. Delivery automation trials are also underway in San Francisco and Milton Keynes, UK.

Others are already being used by many cities, including alternative modes of transportation in the form of electric rental vehicles, e-bikes and e-scooters. This has become a valuable alternative for the millions in cities who cannot or do not want to own a car.

For the many millions more who still drive, intelligent traffic system management is proposed to reduce road fatalities by combining traffic and emergency systems to improve response time.

What’s taking this everywhere is 5G being rolled out across major cities, which is said to be enabling all this real-time data collection. However, city leaders need to be aware of the potential of collecting too much data or doing little with the analytical tools available.

Without a data-first approach, as in many industries, any data collected can be misused, if at all. City leaders are also under pressure to meet the needs of their citizens, although data suggests there could be improvements.

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