Smart Cities: The Internet of Things making cities more liveable, workable and sustainable

The race to become the world’s smartest city is on.

Increasing urbanisation, globalisation and climate change are straining the capability of cities to adapt and thrive. At the same time, new technologies are reshaping the urban realm and reimagining the citizen experience.

A Smart City integrates digital technology, in particular the Internet of Things (IoT), into its physical infrastructure and systems to make better, data-driven decisions and enhance quality of life. However, Smart City maturity is not measured based on the number of technological devices or sensors a city has installed. Rather, leading Smart Cities see technology as a critical enabler to capitalise on their strengths, address pressing challenges and unlock new opportunities – with citizens and people at the heart of connected cities.

In today’s environment of constrained resources, becoming “Smart” means putting technology to work to do more with less. It means putting people at the centre and finding new ways to effectively deliver services. It means embracing disruption to create a liveable, sustainable and inclusive future in the face of uncertainty.

Knowledge is power

Lack of visibility regarding the day-to-day ‘metabolism’ of cities is a key barrier to improving the effectiveness of services and to meeting citizen expectations. As we experience an exponential increase in data production, driven by the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), cities are seeking to harness new and existing flows of data to make better, evidence-based decisions.

The increase in the availability and quality of data presents the opportunity for cities to understand their conditions with a far greater degree of granularity. New technologies provide real-time data on a diversity of urban health indicators, including weather, carbon emissions, congestion, water and air quality, and crime incidents. By leveraging this data, cities can respond to events as they unfold in real-time, predict future changes, and measure performance to drive improvement. For example, by deploying Internet of Things sensors across a power grid, a city can understand current usage levels, anticipate disruptions to mitigate outages, and plan for future demand expectations.

Due to the significant value of data, cities are embedding cybersecurity mechanisms and controls right across their digital infrastructure from the outset in order to protect long-term integrity. Cybersecurity frameworks and management systems also serve an important role in building the trust necessary for the development of an open data ecosystem within a Smart City – whereby players across government, the private sector and the community share data for collective benefit.

A System of Systems

A Smart City cannot be master-planned. Rather, cities fostering collaboration across their diverse range of stakeholders to effectively navigate the complex process of Smart transformation.

The seamless integration of digital systems is a key foundation for breaking down silos and building a collaborative ecosystem. This is where standards play a critical role. By providing common vocabularies and frameworks, standards embed interoperability across a city, enabling the sharing of data and mitigating the threat of becoming ‘locked-in’ to a particular solution or vendor. Creating this enabling environment is key to propel sustainable and scalable Smart digital transformation.

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