We know about smart phones, smart speakers and even smart refrigerators, but what about smart cities? What does it mean for a city to be “smart” and why should you care? Imagine waking up to an alert saying that your usual commute to work is blocked. You also receive a suggested alternate route saving you 30 minutes and several dollars and reducing your carbon footprint by a measurable volume. This just begins to scratch the surface.
A smart city is one that not only installs digital technology in traditional structures but also uses that technology and data to improve the quality of life for its inhabitants – in some cases by up to 30%. Before we explain what this actually means, take a look at the components of a truly smart city. Keep in mind that even today’s most advanced cities still have a ways to go before achieving smart status.
According to McKinsey & Company, smart city has three layers.
- Layer One: Technology base complete with a critical mass of smartphones and sensors connected by advanced communication networks.
- Layer Two: Technology and applications that translate raw data collected into actionable insights and behavior.
- Layer Three: Adoption and use of these applications along with receptiveness to behavior change suggestions. Remember that technology matters less if no one uses or listens to it.
So how can we quantify improved quality of life? What parts of our lives can smart cities impact? The answer is almost all parts including safety, time, health, environmental quality, community, employment and the cost of living – to name a few. Though we can measure individual impact in each of these areas, note that positive change in one category often affects concurrent change in another.
Let’s take a deeper look at transportation. Smart transportation is defined by connected transit apps, intelligent traffic management and dynamic mobility options that include selecting and combining multiple modes of transport like buses, bikes, trains and car sharing instead of choosing just one. These smart changes could reduce commute times by 15% – 20%, return lost time to us each day and increase our productivity. Read: Our rides to and from work (and everywhere in between) must no longer be beleaguered by frantic rushing and hustling or endless wait times threatening to make us late. Smart transportation can also reduce the cost of living as we eventually give up personal vehicles.
As transportation becomes smarter, its ripple effect touches other sectors like environment and health. In 2014, the World Health Organization estimated that 7 million premature deaths annually can be linked to air pollution, to which urban transit significantly contributes. Regulating traffic and discouraging the use of personal vehicles by offering viable, even enjoyable alternatives will improve the quality of our air and consequently the quality of our health.
Smart city benefits demonstrate how important it is to capitalize on this opportunity. To be forward thinking and prepare for a healthier, more livable and even more profitable future – especially in our cities. Transportation is just one step, but represents a tremendous chance for progress.