Nowadays everything is ‘smart’: smartphones, smart TVs, self-driving cars. We hear this word so much that its meaning has naturally shifted and at some point, we have started to neglect its essence. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the adjective ‘smart’ has three general meanings: intelligent, stylish, and quick. The first conceptual category is pretty self-explanatory, so let’s focus on the last two in association with the overarching concept ‘smart city’. Smart in the sense of ‘stylish’ is presented not only as tidy and appealing, but also as something that attracts classy and wealthy people (think of ‘smart event’); whereas smart as ‘quick’ is associated with an action done in the most efficient way. Building up on those ideas, a projection of the smart city would be a place where: infrastructures and administrations are intelligently connected, city functions are in accordance with a clean environment, the systems are efficiently working in difficult situations. A smart city is attracting plenty of investors thanks to its technological innovations but is also quite expensive.
The science fiction of the past is becoming the science of the present.
How would it work?
The Internet of Things, commonly known as IoT, is a technical jargon that represents the web space where all devices are connected to the Internet. It is a network embedded within the World Wide Web, a conceptual category, rather than a single-meaning product with a clear definition. To put differently, the Internet of Things is an umbrella term for a multiple of physical objects that mediate between themselves using the power of the Internet.
As all devices possess sensors of some sort, they generate data that is later on linked to a wider structure of information. Consider the following example: your car has a certain number of sensors that monitor the processes and generate those processes into data. When the oil is below the required level, for instance, the sensor sends the signal to the car’s computer which simultaneously turns on a light on your desktop. Of course, this is a very basic scenario which serves to show you that every single electronic device is somehow connected to the IoT. Other early examples of IoT are ATMs or gas stations.
With the advances in technology, it is now easy to imagine a smart fridge that tells you which products are consumed, a smart heating installation that is completely controllable by your phone, or a smart electric system that automatically switches off the lights when you go out. Smart meters provide much better and more useful information that would help people manage their electricity consumption.
Now envision all of this on a larger scale. Smart cities are essentially that: a network connecting smart homes on a local level, and later on applying it globally in a city’s infrastructure. Apart from smart homes that could be managed through an app on your mobile phone, here’s a list of some potential innovations that result from smart cities:
- Smart parking – thanks to sensors in the ground, citizens could see free parking spaces all around and spend much less time mingling around in the search of a parking spot. This also prevents traffic jams and reduces air pollution as less cars would drive around.
- Smart waste collection – whenever a waste bin is full, drones could signal to the garbage collectors who would come and pick it up; yet another step towards the decrease of air pollution.
- Smart healthcare – integrated systems that monitor each patient’s overall wellbeing and notify whenever there is any disturbance; moreover, a smart healthcare system would present the patient’s condition and cause of disease in precise detail.
What is required for building a smart city is smart energy. Briefly described, smart energy refers to a different kind of energy that shifts away from fossil fuels and focuses on integration of renewable resources in every aspect of human life. The process involves active consumption of microfibers and usage of biomass. This model is of great value not only for its efficiency, but also for its greater impact on the nature – this could actually be the solution to climate change. Think of a new way of powering concentrated on energy saving. All of this is possible through the Internet of Things that gathers data and efficiently synchronises numerous channels of information into one global network. More efficient data means that less energy will be used.
Even though it all sounds legitimate, don’t be too quick to seal the deal. There are some issues and concerns around the IoT and the smart city, namely security and privacy. A successful implementation of smart city structure would mean that all of our actions would not only be monitored, but also stored in an ever-existing database owned by tech companies. It is obvious that in order for it to work, all of the devices collect plenty of intimate data (your smart home would know whether you’re home or not, when you usually leave the house, what is your daily routine) that is later on shared in the global network and synced with others’ data. In order to have trust in a smart city, what is of great importance is a security system that would prevent hacker attacks and protect personal data.
If you’re wondering how a smart city would work, take a look at Singapore and Denmark!
In Novatel Bulgaria, we have some practical solutions towards building a smart city and we have already created the foundations in the pursue of innovations. First of all, one of our main goals that is successfully applied in many case studies is the creation of a managed office network that connects each node in the organisation. we are concerned with your intimate information; thus, our managed network security provides the hardware, software configuration and 24/7 monitoring systems that are required for a trustworthy network. In a smart city, Novatel’s firewall could help saving whatever’s left of privacy in the digital age.