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Smart Cities – Tech for the future

A smart city is a town, or city, that uses different types of IoT devices to collect and use data about the city itself. Data is collected from the citizens and devices and is then processed to track things such as traffic management, power plants, crime detection and water supply networks. Increasingly, the technology is being used to help schools, libraries and other community services. A city government can use IoT devices to optimise traffic flow during rush hour or to dim certain streetlights, depending on pedestrian flow.

Examples of Smart City initiatives:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

In 2009 the city of Amsterdam set up the Smart City initiative. This initiative is special because it holds an annual challenge for residents of the city to come up with ideas on how to improve living social conditions around the city of Amsterdam. One such idea that came from the annual challenge is an application called Mobypark. This application enables people in the city to rent out parking spaces to people that need them. This, in turn, reduces the number of cars on the streets, as well as helping people earn a bit of cash on the side.

Another good example of IoT in the city of Amsterdam is smart lighting. Municipal councils are able to use data from foot traffic and CCTV to determine which routes are most used and are able to dim the street lighting in less used streets in the evening and at night. This has led to a decrease in carbon emissions from the city.

Trikala, Greece.

Trikala is fast becoming known as the Silicon Valley of Greece. When mayor Dimitris Papastergiou took office in 2014, he had grand plans for the small city of 82,000 but had no budget. The municipality was around £40 million in debt, but, with the help from his vision, and backing from various EU technology funds, he has managed to reduce that debt by £20 million.

One of the innovations that were trialled in the city of Trikala, is an automated bus system. The unmanned service was in trial for six months, and rather than being a permanent change to the city, the mayor explained it was more to capture the imagination of the citizens.

Other, more impactful changes were made, one of which was the introduction of an e-complaint system. Residents file complaints to the council, which could range from late rubbish collection to a street lamp that is broken. That information is then fed through a series of programmes, and responded to. The whole process means that issues are able to be dealt with a lot quicker, with an average of eight days, instead of nearly a month.

Barcelona, Spain.

There are a wealth of examples to talk about when it comes to IoT in Barcelona. We could mention the free wifi that is piped through street lamps, or sensors that watch air quality.
Sensors in the Parc del Centre de Poblenou monitor the water requirements of the plants and trees in the park, alerting gardening staff to what needs to get watered and when.

The street lights are also changed when the emergency services are en route to a call. The lights change to assist the movement of the vehicles as much as possible in the event of an emergency, even predicting the route the vehicle will take.

What we can see from the examples above is the sheer versatility and variance of IoT in use in cities today. The same is happening all over the world. With applications being tailored to the needs of different cities. What might work in one city, might not work as well in another. What is needed in one city will be different from what is needed in another. But the constant of the Internet of Things revolutionising our cities and urban spaces remains. And will continue to change the world we live in for a long time