Smart cities are coming: Driverless cars, intelligent transport system, personal mobility as a service… These and other smart city technologies are coming to your town. The multi-discipline urban development movement will transform how we live and work. The technologies will meet the needs of people and our communities so quickly and efficiently that we will wonder how we lived without them. While we have a long way to go before every city is a smart city, there are a few smart city centers available today that will get you on the ground floor of this awesome future.
What is a Smart City?
“Smart city” is a vision of urban development. It tries to solve urban planning issues with big data information, and communication technologies in conjunction with the Internet of Things. Developed by several leading technology companies over the last decade, smart city looks to connect city assets into a single information network that city planners can use to make city life better and more efficient. For instance, London is testing a smart parking project that will show you all the available parking spaces in the city at any given moment.
Some of these networked assets include:
- Local information systems
- Transportation systems
- Power plants
- Water supply networks
- Waste management
- Law enforcement
- Other community services
Smart city networks allow city officials to interact with the community and city infrastructure. This gives them insight into how the city functions and where they need to focus their improvement efforts.
Why are Smart Cities needed?
Organizations such as the European Commission are considering smart cities because urban areas are growing faster than expected. People are flooding into cities, straining the already limited available resources. Cities need to become more efficient to handle their surging populations, not for just today but for well into the future.
Cities need a way to effectively manage:
- Congested streets and transportation
- Energy supply and storage
- Emergency services
Smart City Benefits
Using data to manage city assets is not new. However, civic analytics is only a few years old. We can do it now thanks to recent developments in communication technology and computing such as connected sensors, lights, and meters.
Cities implement these technologies into their normal workflow and operations. They want this because of the huge advantages they will give them. Some of these include:
- Making better decisions and to deploy resources more effectively
- Enhancing communications with citizens
- Improving traffic flow, business classification, and zoning
- Improving response times and effectiveness of emergency services
- Improving health inspections and other regulatory audits
- Monitoring and improving the overall health of the city
- Establishing economic sustainability
Cities such as Copenhagen are already using Internet of Things sensors to improve their bike traffic for more than 40% of their residents who commute to work on bicycles. They have already placed hundreds of sensors all over the city so they can monitor this traffic in real time, and there are more on the way.
Still, current smart cities have only scratched the surface in what smart city data analytics can do for them.
Smart City Challenges
In spite of the many advantages, smart cities are not without challenges.
Bugs & Glitches
For one, the required technology is not yet here. While some smart city tools exist, most are in the very early stages. Using them can lead to false positives and other life-threatening glitches. These bugs can also lead to the next major disadvantage: privacy.
Most cities have policies in place to protect the privacy of their citizens, but they might not be enough to ward off the hacking vulnerabilities all smart cities face. Even if city officials strip personally identifiable information from their data, thieves can still figure things out by combining the data with other sources. There is also a threat of corrupt city employees skimming the data as it comes.
Then, there are the social risks. Not everyone has the same level of internet and technological literacy and access. Elderly individuals and others who are less fortunate may not know how to use technologies such as smart meters. This could marginalize many cultures and ideas that could improve society out of existence.
Smart cities will need to solve these challenges before they can properly implement the technology and reap their rewards.
What are the future trends for Smart Cities?
Smart cities will make our urban areas sustainable, but we have a long way to go before any city is truly smart. However, we move closer to that goal every day. The following trends include both the benefits and the disruptions. Together, they will create the world in which we live and work, in the cities of tomorrow.
New Urban Mobility
Traffic management, as in the Copenhagen example above, is the prime reason cities are turning to smart city design philosophies. Every city needs to efficiently allow citizens to go where they want to go. Because of this, smart transportation networks and data management were some of the earliest smart city technologies in use.
One popular solution is autonomous or self-driving cars. While not completely ready for public use, cities and automobile manufacturers are already testing autonomous vehicles. Paris, for instance, implemented the Autolib electric car sharing program in 2011, and currently has over 3,000 vehicles. These vehicles come with trackable GPS units and allow their drivers to reserve parking spaces in advance.
In the future, these connected cars will work in tandem with drones. While we already use drones for photography and entertainment, we will soon use them to transport goods and people as well.
Connected mobile goes beyond our vehicles, though. Wearable technology will eventually track and provide us with useful information about our daily lives and jobs. In fact, this emobility network will form the backbone of the entire smart city movement. Connectivity, in general, will be the basis for many ground-breaking developments.
Artificial Intelligence in Public Safety
Besides connected transportations, cities need to take public safety seriously, and smart cities use artificial intelligent and deep learning to enhance their services. From rising crime rates to the threat of terrorism, cities need to improve their security measures. Even as society trades privacy for security, current assets are not adequate to handle today’s threats. That is why smart cities are using artificial intelligence to analyze their video surveillance systems and social media to predict crimes before they happen.
Smart Renewable Energy
Smart technologies are “always on” technologies. You must continuously run your smart devices to properly evaluate their data, and that requires a lot of electricity. Thus, smart cities need a cheap and reliable energy source. Smart cities need sustainable, renewable energy sources, driven by a new environmental awareness of their citizens.
Like the IT revolution, smart city sustainable energy is consumer driven as it was in Amsterdam. A few years ago, the City of Amsterdam gave its residents home energy storage units and solar panels for their roofs. These units were then connected to the city’s electrical grid. As they came online, the batteries immediately started lowering the peek-hour stress on the grid. The city even ended up with enough surplus that residents could sell back to the grid, lowering the city’s overall cost of electricity.
This surplus created a need for a smart electrical grid which can take and monitor the electricity being generated, and then send it to where it needs to go. The European Commission predicts that 72% of European consumers will have smart electricity meters by the end of the decade as the trend of using residences as power generators spreads to other cities. The Commission also claims that 40% will have smart gas meters by then as well.
Extending the Internet of Things to City Services
To become smart, cities need to convert all their operations and services to smart city and Internet of Things technology. This IoT technology will come in the form of efficient and miniaturized sensors and networks linking city services together.
These sensors will monitor the cities:
- Air and water quality
- Movement of people and objects
- Weather patterns
- Road traffic
- Energy production and consumption
Smart city Web of Things will interconnect buildings, factories, vehicles, power generating plants, and all city lighting. This is what Barcelona has done for its citizens. The city placed sensors everywhere to monitor everything from the city’s noise and air pollution to traffic congestion to waste management. They also used that data and some smarty city planning to create its [email protected] innovation district. The district improved the quality of life for its residents so much that it has become a model for success for other cities around the world.
Other Ongoing Trends in Smart Cities
While the above three trends are the majority, they are not the only smart city trends out there. You will not find the following trends in every smart city, but they help you decide where you want to work.
- Humanizing technology around smart communities
- Collaborative ecosystems
- Home Automation
- Automation in general
- Safety and Security
Smart City Employment Changes and Opportunities
Innovative New Smart City Career Opportunities
Smart cities and companies need IT, telecommunication, and technology professionals to function. They also need the infrastructure so those professionals can do their jobs. This means that they need human talent to build the infrastructure.
Some of the smart city jobs available today include:
- Robotics specialist
- Cyber security analyst
- 3D print technician
- Virtual reality design
- Network programmer (SDN)
- Machine learning scientist
- Industrial network engineer
- Customer makers
- Neuro implant technician
- Professional triber
- Digital anthropologist
- Platform developer
- Business transformation practitioner
- Cloud architect
- Data scientist
- Urban innovation/Urban mechanics
- Private-Public Alliance Directors
The demand for these smart city jobs is so great that cities are going out of their way to attract more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and creative people. For instance, Berlin sought to improve their cultural attractions including their two zoos, three major opera houses, seven symphony orchestras, and scores of museums with progressive policies and planning. Meanwhile, Hamburg launched HafenCity, Europe’s largest urban regeneration project, to market itself as one great place to live and work.
Smart Cities Career Skills Profile
All this means great employment opportunities if you have the right skills. Cities and companies need people to plan and implement their smart technologies. They also need people who know how to read data and gain insight from it. The following list contains some of the more common skill sets smart city employers are looking for, according to a quick survey of a few online job descriptions:
- Data science, computer science, or engineering proficiency
- Computer programming
- Multithreaded software development
- Distributed algorithms and systems
- Machine learning
- Artificial Intelligence
- Research and development
- Data mining and deep learning
- Wireless communication
- Embedded software
- ARM assembly and miniature electronics
- Collaborative communication
- Blockchain and digital security, especially public-key encryption
- P2P networking
- Machine-to-Machine (M2M) devices
How You Can Help the Smart City Movement in Your Town
Modern smart cities are far from perfect. They come with lots of dreams and prospects, but they are also loaded with challenges and potential trouble. It takes strong leadership, knowledge, and wisdom to pull the urban design format correctly. To reap the rewards of smart cities, you must work at them.
City officials receive proposals and new ideas every day. However, not all of them will lead to sustainable smart cities. That’s where you come in. By taking a proactive approach, you can ensure that your city becomes smart with as few disadvantages as possible. You just need the drive and knowledge to create the technology tools and policies of the future.
You cannot learn everything about a topic as vast as smart cities by reading just one article. With such an ever-changing landscape, you need to stay informed about everything that happens in the sector as it happens. To help you in your search for a good smart city career, we have already done most of the work for you.
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