By Mario McKellop
Just as villages grew into towns and towns expanded into cities, cities are currently evolving into smart cities. For the uninitiated, smart cities are ones that utilize cutting-edge technology to improve various aspects of urban life. However, despite a report from the International Data Corporation that by 2021, spending on smart city improvement will rise to $135 billion, the nature of how urban centers will be digitized is not commonly understood.
The Internet of Things
Essentially, smart cities have that name for the same reason smartphones and smart homes do; they have components that can send and receive data wirelessly. In fact, devices or objects that can be connected wireless fall under the umbrella of what is called the Internet of Things (IoT).
In practice, various infrastructural elements within a smart city are filled with sensors that communicate key data to public and private entities. With that data, more expedient and efficient municipal maintenance and service can be performed. And this urban optimization is important as by 2050, 60 percent of the world population will live in cities. And those cities will need to operate much smoother than they do now to accommodate so many people.
Smart Electric Grids
One element of the smart city revolution that has already been implemented throughout the United States is smart electric grids. An improvement on the networks of power stations, transmission lines and transformers that have provided electricity for centuries, smart grids use wireless sensors to relay relevant data to utility companies. Consequently, they allow for electricity to be transmitted to customers more efficiently, street lights to be repaired quickly and power outage times to be greatly limited.
The rise of smart cities will have a major impact on construction. By using self-driving and remotely operated construction equipment such as pavers and excavators, engineers and workers can build and maintain essential urban arteries like road and tunnels more efficiently and safely than ever before.
Moreover, as concrete can be embedded with smart sensors, maintenance administrators will be notified of infrastructure problems like rebar corrosion and structural deformation well before they have an impact on local residents.
Emerging IOT technologies also have the potential to make cities considerably more livable and environmentally friendly.
First, by providing smart cars with a constant stream of traffic data, car collision rates will decline. Similarly, cars, trucks and buses will be able to traverse the city more efficiently as their routing will be influenced by data regarding traffic jams and road closures. Municipalities can further reduce traffic by letting drivers know where open parking spaces are and giving them the ability to make contactless payments.
Additionally, reducing congestion through a city will greatly reduce the amount of air pollution that is generated by vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases. As vehicle emissions are responsible for 28 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States, smart cities have the potential to not only improve air quality, but also address the issue of global warming.
Another major implication of the rise of smart cities is that there will be increasing need workers who are skilled in various STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and technology) disciplines. The urban centers of tomorrow will need millions skilled and experienced people to make them function properly. As such, conscientious young people should ensure their futures by taking STEAM courses today.