Building the Cities of Tomorrow‎

Jordan Appelson, CEO of Hark

Sustainability has become a huge driving force for many people and many companies. It is driving transformation, innovation and improvement across all aspects of society. To reduce their carbon footprint, forward-thinking cities have made sustainability their focal point and have begun integrating smart technologies such as IoT.

A smart city can be defined as a city that utilities IoT sensors and technology to create interoperability between components across the city to derive data, meaning local authorities can better manage assets, resources and services. Allowing them to become as efficient as possible and improve the overall quality of life for residents. They operate as a data-driven ecosystem to avoid accidents, emissions and congestion. Although the concept of a digitalised city sounds futuristic, they are already being integrated into cities across the world and the global smart cities market is predicted to reach $3.6 trillion by 2025.

Sensor Sustainability

For cities to truly become more efficient and provide actionable improvement, they require mass amounts of accurate data. This integrated suite of applications produces accurate real-time data derived from the IoT sensors. For the city to truly become ‘smart’ it needs to analyse this data using machine learning algorithms to provide insightful information at a highly detailed level. Many platforms then visualise this information in a clear and diagrammatic form.

Across a city, the sensors can monitor energy usage, traffic flows, air quality, footfall and so much more. This provides local authorities with the power to, firstly, gauge their current emissions for benchmarking purposes and gives vital information that can form a citywide environmental improvement strategy. The tracking of environmental factors such as energy usage, water and waste tracking can reduce GHG emissions by 10-15%, produce 30-130 fewer kilograms of solid waste per person each year and save up to 80 litres of water each day per person.

Smarter Infrastructure

To truly become a sustainable city, core changes need to be made to the infrastructure to ensure it is designed with technology in mind. New infrastructures, whether it be houses or transport systems, need to be built with integrated technology, so instant monitoring of core features such as energy usage and heating can begin. One of the major contributors to carbon emissions is traffic, so new transportation infrastructures need to be designed with this in mind. For example, smart parking improves drivers’ experience in a city but also simultaneously reduces traffic levels, which in turn reduce car emissions.

In terms of the energy supply, cities need to reduce their pressure on the National Grid and seek alternative sources of energy. Smart grids need to be introduced across the city, localising the energy supply and providing greater control over energy consumption. Buildings should be integrated with solar panels to generate sources of renewable power and they can even become entirely self-sufficient by using technology such as solar windows.

Connected Canada

Toronto is probably one of the best examples of a smart city implementation with their Sidewalk Labs proposal. In Quayside, a 12-acre area is covered in IoT sensors to monitor and optimise processes across the city. They are using this technology integration to optimise building systems through managing energy usage, harnessing clean energy from a thermal grid and introducing a smart disposal chain. This climate-positive district aims to cut greenhouse gases by 89%.

Smart cities have so much potential to improve quality of life and create a more sustainable environment. To achieve this, cities need to effectively combine a smart physical layer with a smart digital layer, turning data into decisions.