With over 75% of the world’s population expected to be living in an urban environment by 2050 the notion of “smart cities” has become increasingly important to all the stakeholders involved in planning city infrastructure for the future. The ability to scale will be crucial and embedding technology into urban planning will be critical. Smart cities require upgraded infrastructure services such as public transport, utilities, health care and even a coordinated disaster response. They also need to be managed efficiently and in a sustainable way. Each individual city is evolving at a different pace also. For example, Mexico City is not the same as Berlin, Dubai is not the same as Toronto, and Rio differs from Beijing, and so on… Megacities with populations of over 10 million are on the increase so governments at national, regional and local levels will be required to provide the appropriate resources to sustain these metropolises.
Designing a game plan
The United States Department of Transport (USDOT) has led the way in considering the future challenges for cities throughout the United States and come up with a strategy that will be sustainable and energy efficient. The USDOT introduced “The Smart City Challenge” which focused communities to consider not just introducing new transportation technologies. It required bold new solutions that would change the face of transportation by closing the gap between rich and poor, capturing the needs of both young and old, and bridging the digital divide through smart design so that the future of transportation meets the needs of all. The benefits identified are significant as they will reduce traffic congestion, reduce emissions and the use of fossil fuels, therefore reducing transportation costs for governments. Consequently, these actions will result in the accessibility to jobs and services and allow increased mobility within urban environs.
Bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots
Today’s technology relies heavily on connectivity, particularly mobile connectivity. However, there are limitations in most cities as internet connectivity is regarded as an expensive commodity. If networks are fast, reliable and widely available, companies produce more powerful applications to run on those networks, high speed internet is usually reserved for wealthier communities. Infrastructure limitations are also limiting the speed of our development in less affluent areas. As a consequence a social divide may be magnified, which may influence economic development. It is imperative that smart city technology reaches every citizen in the community, allowing the city to become a talent hotspot providing tools and applications for economic development. This will also encourage public funding and allow businesses to flourish. Technological pioneering smart city applications sourced via innovative start-ups and purposeful research will enable a template for smart cities to be established.
US Ignite, a non-profit organisation, set up a scheme to offer a low latency ultra-fast network with local cloud computing and storage capabilities that support highly interactive and immersive experiences not possible on today’s commercial Internet. The US Ignite scheme has already assisted in building over 100 next generation applications over the past three years. Universities and other knowledge organisations saw that high speed connection was necessary to further innovation. This collaboration with the educational institutions and the communities known as “Gigabit cities” can provide a steady channel of an educated workforce for the various enterprises and stakeholders to employ. This is a self-perpetuating approach to creating sustainable smart cities worldwide.
Initiatives such as “LinkNYC” in New York City have opted for a commercial solution to bridge the digital divide. “LinkNYC” offers a gigabit free Wi-Fi throughout selected communities in an efforts to reaffirm New York City as a hub for talent attracting more companies and funding.
The provisioning for smart cities requires a coherent plan for supporting the infrastructure required, such as the Horizon 2020-funded RECAP Project. RECAP enables the modelling of complex cloud applications and infrastructures via, e.g., the development of fine-grained and accurate application deployment and behaviour models for dynamic distributed cloud applications. Using the learning from this approach, it will facilitate the provisioning of new technological developments and dynamic smart cities of the future.