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What is a Smart City?

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  • Jun 10, 2021
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Urbanization is an inevitable process which has been ever expanding. The lives in the cities are full of hassle and tedious, not just for the population but for the governance as well. 


Smart cities are initiatives which seek to make this easy and convenient keeping in mind the environmental considerations as well by using the technology present around as especially the internet of things. 


The term smart city is not an alien concept or a dream one. In fact there are a lot of such cities which are using such applications and expanding their base. 



What is a smart city?


A smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to share information with the public in various aspects and provide a better quality of governance which addresses the urbanization challenges 


Such cities used technology, interconnected systems, internet of things, artificial intelligence etc to  improve policy efficiency and catch the defaulters easily, reduce waste and inconvenience, improve social and economic quality of life, and maximize social inclusion and cooperation. 


Such cities also aim to address urban challenges of congestion, resource depletion, maintenance, public health,  waste management, transportation via using efficient technologies and cloud based systems and iot tools to generate real time data and use it in the appropriate way.


Why Do We Need Smart Cities?


Urbanization is an ever expanding process. Today more than half of the world population is living in cities and this number is only expected to increase in the upcoming years. 


With increased urbanization, the burden on resources in a specific area increases, issues of waste management of such a population, traffic management, health and employment security concerns pop for the governments to tackle. 


Smart cities can provide a solution for the same using technology. A smart city is capable of providing an urban environment that delivers a high quality of life to residents with economic progression and without environmental degradation. 

Smart cities are capable of having a more technologically advanced infrastructure with minimal costs incurred to maintain a high and convenient quality of life for its citizens in all the targeted aspects. 



Technology Used By Smart Cities


In a technological context, smart cities which emerge need high level participation from the population as they work on the data analytics, which will solely be provided to people living in the cities. 


Combining machine learning, automation and internet of things, a geographical information system to generate the real time database and information, with the help of a software which is connected to a cloud-based central control system to generate the actionable conclusions on which there can be action taken. 


In addition to that there are other connectivity features that can be used liek LTE Cat M, NB-IoT, LoRa, Bluetooth, depending on the purposes.   


Smart cities can work on the real time data operated and gained to guide people throughout the process. Also smart cities can use a series of artificial intelligence machines and conversation tools which can be capable of guiding the people throughout the process of performing such actions. 

For example, with the introduction of smart parkings, parking spots can be equipped with sensors to detect a parked vehicle, and where there are no vehicles parked this can be used to provide information of real time parking availability for the vehicles nearby. Also, in such cases automated digital parking tools can also be introduced. 


Smart Cities in Action


Smart cities seek to reduce the anomalies and make management systems more efficient to deliver high quality life to the citizens by using big data and internet of things and making it undergo several processes.

Collection of Data:  Be it waste management crisis or even traffic crisis, the more the data is the more efficient and meaningful conclusions can be drawn to execute. The primary task is to generate the real time data via the sensors implanted in the city.

Analysis of Data: Analysis is the calculation of the data and the process getting insight into how the operations are being handled. This is also deciding what to do ahead and what strategies to take to tackle a particular challenge and how to guide the population, set alerts or provide for solutions. In this staag based on the data gathered in a cloud system, solutions are sought.

Communication: The decisions hence taken are communicated to the desired set of population or everyone depending upon the circumstance so that they can take action to improve the operations taking place and manage the situation however they are being guided.

This might seem like a lot of things, but this will make the citizens’ life easier and convenient and real time data operation can always come to rescue with the study and adequate conclusions to take action. 


Recommended Blog: IoT in Smart Cities 


Features of Smart Cities


There are a lot of ways in which smart cities work and the problems that smart cities can solve. Here are some of them. 


1. Digital Prescription 


Smartphones are an essential tool that connects the citizens and the government and make them part of decision-making. During the covid 19 pandemics in India, Aarogya Setu was one such Bluetooth-based application that made contact tracing possible and it displayed the real-time active covid cases in the nearby area. 


In Delhi, itself real-time availability of the beds was made available to those who are in need. Korea and Singapore assembled public maps of confirmed Covid-19 cases, allowing citizens to see patients’ location histories and allowing them to prevent commuting to such locations. 

Such technological features can allow the citizens to have real-time availability of doctors and even can call for emergency first aid, speak to the doctors via a system which makes it easier to search for the doctors nearby and get perceptions. 

Insurance companies can pay directly in the hospitals verifying the details and credentials of the policyholder digitally instead of making a tedious process that will follow afterward.


2. Traffic Management 

Real-time situations of the vehicles on the road can be traced by the systems like street light sensors, connected vehicle sensors, and infrastructure so people can be updated on the routes to avoid congestion in peak traffic hours. 


Not just this the traffic management systems can adjust the traffic lights based on the traffic direction and guide people of the condition of the roads, reasons of traffic blockage etc, and the expected clearance time. 



3. Parking Finding Sensors


Parking unavailability is a real issue for the commuters and vehicles, in smart cities smart parking can be introduced so as to update the real-time filled and vacant spaces and drivers do not need to waste fuel by moving around purposelessly. 


Sensors embedded in the ground or in the lights near the parking space can be made to detect the availability of parking and update the cloud system for the same purpose. 


This in turn can update the city map showing the exact details of the parking availability and such parking spots can also be made safe and secure with the automated digital payment systems which can record the vehicle details and accept the payment. 

Image Showing Features of Smart Cities:  Digital Prescription Traffic Management Parking Finding Sensors Public Transportation Updates Energy Management Waste Management Identity Cards Storage Safety Management.

Smart City features

4. Public Transportation Updates


The people can be made aware of the availability ot timing of the next bus or train so that they can plan their trip accordingly. Most people are adamant about not using public transport due to the fact that they think it's inconvenient and crowded. 


Recommended Blog: IoT in Construction Industry


Such systems will not just make people aware of the real-time routes and availability so that they can choose to commute by the vehicles but also the government can get insights about the real-time availability of transport and can set up more in number for the public usage. 



5. Energy Management 

Smart cities can input solar panels wherever possible to make a switch to energy conservation and whenever they make new infrastructure they can be sure to put solar panels so that their buildings can be self-sustainable and the reliance on traditional electricity generation tools can be reduced.


Also the buildings and homes and street lighting systems can be incorporated with sensors with automated turn on and off feature which can save energy wherever they can.


Automated homes have everything: surveillance cameras, lighting systems all can be connected to an iot network where they can update and manage to work together and alert and update the management systems wherever required even in the case of a device usage being wasted. 


Such careful systems can reduce the carbon footprints of a building and can lead to redacted emissions. 


The cities can have separate cycling lanes to encourage people to take up cycling for smaller distances and can switch to electric cars with charging slots made available locally. 



6. Waste Management 


Waste management includes everything from collecting the garbage to getting rid of it.  Waste crisis and management is a task for the governance systems. 


In such cities, there can be iot sensor-imbed dustbins which can update about the emptying need, guide the trucks during the empty roads and automatic robots can pick up the garbage to maintain the cleaner roads and streets. 


In the case of recyclable trash, effective machine-based processes can be infused to reduce the work of janitors. 


Recommended Blog: Big Data in Waste Management 


7.  Identity Card Storage


Smartphones are doing all the major connectivity in smart cities. Driver’s license, identity cards, important documents, credit and debit card shopping coupons are all the essentials that people need to carry all the time. 


Such a system of safe storage can be introduced where they can keep a digital version of all of it on their phones to be used whenever needed. 



8. Safety Concerns 


People can immediately post pictures of the public property maintenance wherever they see it on the portals and can let the authorities know of the maintenance needed to prevent wastage and authorities can also respond thereof all the issues which have been taken care of. 


In the case of any theft, security default, and crime the defaulters can also be traced pertaining to the location, cameras, and sensors which are available at various places in such cities. 



Examples of Smart Cities


  • The New York City Department of Transportation's Midtown in Motion is a congestion management system that has improved travel timing congestion.


  • Copenhagen has an innovative smart bike system to provide real-time information to both riders and administrators to manage air quality and traffic congestion. 


  • Singapore also has systems to monitor energy use, waste management, and water use in real-time. This is one of the smartest cities in the world the have installed  IoT cameras monitoring the cleanliness of public spaces, crowd density and the movement of registered vehicles

  • The city of Seoul in South Korea reduced its collection costs with a smart waste management system and eliminated waste overflow at the same time. 


  • Smart lights can automatically adjust their brightness based on periods of no usage and not required. They can also transmit maintenance information to the concerned authorities. The city of Miami has taken to energy conservation using such systems as compared to the amount paid previously for traditional streetlights.


  • Chicago uses IoT sensors to collect a variety of air quality data, including levels of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, etc. to use this data to make the city healthier and more livable for its population 




Smart cities are making the best use of technology and related devices at best. Such cities are pertaining to governance systems wherein they are capable of making the lives of the citizens convenient and better in all the daily aspects. 


Smart city projects are being taken by the governments worldwide as per their own considerations and priorities. 


This adaptation required a huge capital to begin with and cooperation from the citizens in the form of faith in the security and data management of the systems but in the long run that can be very helpful as they are capable of providing the desired and smooth outcomes. 

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