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Three things we need for smart cities to work


The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 75 percent of the earth’s population will live in cities. To accommodate that influx, it’s crucial cities become “smart,” using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to connect urban infrastructure and ensure quality of life measures (such as less traffic congestion), sustainability (smart cities have lower carbon footprints) and security for its citizens. This will have great benefits for the transportation industry especially.

Obviously, incorporating IoT technology to make smart cities work requires investment -  Frost & Sullivan expect smart cities to be a $1.5 trillion market as early as 2020. But smart cities won’t succeed if municipalities and urban planners alike don’t work together and take specific steps to prepare for them. 

Three key requirements for smart city success include:

1. Connectivity. The technology required to power smart cities demands reliable, fast, consistent network communications throughout the metropolitan area - “entire” being the operative word. Most cities do have sufficient broadband network in the developed parts of the metro area, but many people, including those who could be the biggest beneficiaries of smart city technology, trend toward lower income brackets where broadband coverage tends to be more sparse. For smart cities to work, connectivity needs to be ubiquitous. Planners also need to embrace the prevalence of smartphone devices and the latest ‘smart’ IoT devices. Advances in swarm intelligence and utilizing data from thousands of devices enables smart cities to manage issues such as congestion faster and more efficiently. 

2. A holistic approach to transportation. An effective smart cities strategy for relieving congestion and traffic incorporates everything from public transit to improving parking and road surface conditions. But before urban planners dive head-first into new ideas, it’s important to study the existing situation, including monitoring traffic patterns using GPS vehicle tracking, identifying areas with significant pedestrian traffic, problems in public transportation (like bus “bunching” and overcrowding) and more. The insights gleaned from this observation will help guide strategy around how best to make use of new technology like autonomous vehicles.

3. Strong data governance and security. Smart cities are “smart” because of the data they collect, generally from sensors. But IoT data is only useful if it’s accessible and fit for purpose - that is, if people or machines can easily analyze it to gain insights. Therefore, municipalities need to create an infrastructure for managing the various types of data the sensors collect. If that data isn’t properly organized, governed and secured, it could cause problems, from skewing analytics to having sensitive information fall into the wrong hands.

While there’s plenty more required to make smart cities work, the above are three important parts of the foundation. As more people move into urban areas, smart cities will become a key element in helping municipalities handle the influx, helping them make the best use of available (and limited) resources.

To learn more about the affect of smart cities on the trucking industry, read our blog How Fleets can Efficiently Navigate Smart Cities.

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