From smart cities to ‘sensible’ cities, via IoT
By Mark Koh & Brian Toh August 7, 2014
- Cities are a platform where people elect to live, work and play
- Sensible cities are more human, smarter, more sensitive and sustainable, safer
BY 2025, it is estimated that around 58% of the world’s population or 4.6 billion people will live in urban areas. In developed regions and cities, the urban population in cities could account for up to 81% of the total population.
This is expected to present grim challenges for city planners, who will have to review how basic city services are provided to residents more sustainably.
As a case in point, today’s cities collectively consume 75% of the world’s energy and are responsible for 80% of energy-related carbon impact on the environment. The ability to provide sustainable and clean energy will become increasingly important as we approach 2025.
This significant confluence of headcount will also have implications on the feel and flavour of urban life.
Today, cities like Seoul account for approximately 50% of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product), whilst cities such as Budapest and Brussels each account for 45%.
In future, cities are expected to contribute to two-thirds of the world economy and 85% of global technological innovation.
Future cities will have to evolve to support this new and significantly higher level of economic activity and technological innovation.
In the recent years, there has been growing interest in ‘smart cities.’ In particular, some see smart cities as a panacea to many of the challenges and a source of leverage for the boundless opportunities that urbanisation brings.
Generically, smart cities are urban environments that are built on ‘intelligent’ solutions that enable cities to transform, support and manage rapid change.
At Frost & Sulllivan, while we see cities as a platform where residents are well served, we also recognise that they are places where people elect to live, work and play.
That said, we submit that successful cities of the future are likely to be highly ‘sensible.’ By sensible, we mean cities will be more human, smarter, more sensitive, more sustainable and safer.
They will have a form that is both fun and functional – offering the romance and theatre of urban living seamlessly, as well as unique and memorable experiences.
A key technological enabler for sensible cities is the Internet of things (IoT). In conjunction with cloud computing, ubiquitous connectivity, and big data analytical capabilities, the Internet of Things will enable the provisioning of new innovative public and private services.
These services will be cost-effective, efficient and sustainable, and will help cities overcome many of the challenges associated with rapid urbanisation.
As the capabilities of sensors continue to improve and become smaller, sensors are expected to be integrated at the chip level. Sensors will be increasingly found in everyday objects and devices, providing real-time visibility of the objects and the ability to control these objects and devices.
Information gathered from these sensors and devices located around the cities will enable better dissemination of information to residents and improve efficiency of services delivered.
Hence the competitive paradigm for cities of tomorrow will not be predicated solely on drawing more people or capital, but also in attracting, serving and retaining quality talent and resources.
A tale of two cities
In the city of Santander, Spain, a joint European-Japanese ICT project known as ClouT involved 20,000 sensors installed across the city, providing environmental monitoring, smart irrigation, transportation monitoring, electronic displays, and parking sensing capabilities.
The initiative aims to leverage cloud and IoT technologies to improve residents’ interaction with city services, improve energy and resource efficiency, enable new business models, attract investments into the city, and create a more cohesive and supportive society.
An example of the services offered as part of this initiative is ClouT’s Participatory Sensing Application. This application and service facilitates the sharing of sensor information through the use of mobile devices.
Subscribers of the service will be able to receive information on city-related events and notices – that is, entertainment events, disruption of city services notifications, and traffic incidents – by geographical regions and by proximity.
Similarly, Norway’s Steinkjer Town is introducing the Internet of Things by implementing a low-power radio infrastructure in symbiosis with its existing WiFi and mobile network.
The project is a smart city living test pilot programme that includes the participation of residents, seniors centres, education institutions, the city council and energy companies to support the testing and development of smart city services and smart energy solutions.
The pilot smart city seeks to develop and test smart living applications to control home appliances, home reminders, non-intrusive monitoring applications of seniors living alone, and smart community enablers.
An example of an application arising from the pilot is the development of a system to monitor and remotely control water heater tanks in buildings. This provides energy companies the ability to remotely switch off multiple water heaters in order to coordinate energy requirements.
For instance, to cater to spikes in energy needs, they can start up a big generator at the power plant.
Many cities around the world have already made significant investments or plan to invest in various smart city technologies in the areas of energy and resource sustainability, as well as socio-demographic, healthcare, transportation, and security challenges.
This trend towards sensible cities will continue to grow and the Internet of Things is expected to play an integral part in supporting the efforts to make cities smarter and more sensible, by providing information visibility for city planning, and enabling the provisioning of new services efficiently, seamlessly and sustainably.
Mark Koh is the Connected Industries Programme director at Frost & Sullivan’s ICT Practice; while Brian Toh is an associate director at Frost & Sullivan who works closely with public sector agencies in Asia Pacific.
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