30 March 2017

Smart Cities, the Cities of the Future

The world is changing and with it, many transformations have arisen. Technology has come at an almost uncontrollable speed in city life. They put sensors, automate services, look for energy efficiency, reorganize mobility, create and install applications to manage day-to-day life, and we can certainly say that cities are smarter.

They call it cities of the future, smart cities or even cities of the 21st century, designations do not lack, as well as the concepts to justify them either. If before we were surprised with the appearance of autonomous cars, we now deal with the emergence of smart cities, which until then were seen as a futuristic concept.

Cities are changing. And technology contributes heavily to this change. The development of the Internet of Things, the deployment of sensors, increasingly fast and resilient telecommunications networks, geographic information systems, Cloud Computing and Big Data have contributed to the physical world and the digital world developing in the creation of smart cities.

But what, in fact, are intelligent cities? This is the first and most important question to ask so that we can understand where the world and society are going. Smart cities are, in practice, cities that are more efficient, automated, sustainable and enjoyable to live.

According to Gartner, in 2017, about 380 million things will be connected to the great infrastructure of the smart city. That number will increase to 1.39 billion units by 2020, accounting for 20% of all things connected in use in smart cities. More and more we are certain that cities as we know them today will cease to exist "tomorrow", as we are moving towards the future. At this stage, smart transport networks are already being implemented, cars are already connected in the streets and even the containers already have sensors that allow the monitoring of garbage. On the other hand, going even further, the current trend is that, in addition to containers, sensors are also installed in cities in order to collect the largest amounts of data.

However, it should be noted that a smart city is not just a city that manages to have everything interconnected and access to the most varied data. A city, to be an intelligent city, really has to be, that is, it is essential that, in addition to collecting all kinds of data, also know what to do with them and, above all, to act according to them.

In this way, the change in the administration and management of the cities of the future must emerge in other revolutions, such as the one we are seeing in the Industry - with the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which technologies, automation, Big Data, the interconnection between physical and logical systems, the Internet of Things and the Cloud play a key role in change and transformation. In the midst of the 21st century, these technologies, when applied in cities, will effectively contribute to improving citizens' mobility, service management, optimizing resources, saving energy and speeding up safety and first aid services.

The connection between the City and the Citizens presents excellent opportunities for improvement in the sharing of information and in the availability of services. The solutions for smart cities aim to respond to the immediate needs of the City, being a vehicle of communication between the City and the Citizens, which also contributes to the definition of a future strategy.

It is crucial that the data produced are also used to identify trends and possible anomalies in the day-to-day functioning of smart cities, in order to stimulate innovation of new solutions that support citizens and local authorities to make the best decisions for the future of cities but, above all, optimize the experience of intelligent citizens. Because it is fundamental to think of the cities of tomorrow.

  • Opinion article published in media Smart Cities - March 30, 2017