Technology has evolved the way we do so much in our day-to-day lives, and we’re smack in the middle of what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 refers to a new social norm where smart technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile supercomputing, and intelligent robots change the way we work and interact.
Smart cities and IoT: It’s a revolution
Innovation led to the transformation of societies in lifestyle and work, from the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries when predominantly rural societies became urban and industrial. In the Second Industrial Revolution around the turn of the 20th century, electricity, petroleum and steel production replaced much of the coal, iron, railroad, and textile industries.
The Digital Revolution, often called the Third Industrial Revolution, began during the period from the last 1950s to the late 1970s is referred to as a period of significant shift from mechanical and analog to digital technology. This transformational period is also sometimes called the Information Revolution. The Information Revolution is a time period where we have largely moved to a knowledge economy, dependent on the availability and accessibility of information rather than production, creating change beyond the extent anything society has seen before.
“This revolution is expected to impact all disciplines, industries, and economies. While in some ways it’s an extension of the computerization of the 3rd Industrial (Digital) Revolution, due to the velocity, scope and systems impact of the changes of the fourth revolution, it is being considered a distinct era. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting almost every industry in every country and creating massive change in a non-linear way at unprecedented speed,” according to Bernard Marr of Forbes.com.
What is a smart city?
Information communication technology (ICT) made it possible to access and deliver information electronically, forever changing the way businesses work and people communicate. TechTarget.com describes a smart city as “a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.”
Though it may seem to many this is a far-off technology, the building blocks of smart cities can be found across the country already. Smart parking meters communicate with drivers via mobile apps of parking spot availability and accept payment, while smart traffic management monitors and analyzes traffic to optimize operations during high traffic periods.
Governments are already seeing practical implications for smart city technology, collecting and analyzing data using sensors, devices and software. From urban planning to garbage collection, ICT frameworks (like smart grids), IoT networks, and geographical information systems (GIS) can instantly transmit data using wireless technology and the cloud. Devices and sensors work together to provide information that is helping public organizations to communicate effectively to citizens and drive data-based decision making toward improved sustainability.
Challenges of smart cities
Leaders in these kinds of technologies are having to navigate the new world of innovation with government entities as these technologies begin to necessitate regulation, control and monitoring. As these relationships evolve, countries are prioritizing the initiatives that intermingle technology and governments due to the major political, financial and social implications.
According to Business Insider, the growth of IoT is leading us to 24 billion IoT devices by 2020, many of which are widely used already, like smart lighting and other smart home devices. Though the convenience and depth of knowledge the widespread access to instantaneous data offers, the ever-present risk of hackers and cyber criminals remain a major concern.
In addition to security issues, consumer worry about privacy in general. The perception of vulnerability that such connectivity exposes citizens to is a serious barrier to adoption. Of the respondents to the 2015 Icontrol State of the Smart Home study, 44% said they were “very concerned” about the possibility of their information getting stolen from their smart home, and 27% were “somewhat concerned.”
With the growing demand for smart devices, many new players have entered the IoT game, many of whom are able to offer cost-effective solutions due to their singular purposes, excluding the “luxury” of a robust security solution.
The sheer quantity of data that all these devices and systems collect is another challenge the industry faces. There will continue to be a growing need for seamless data transfers at increasing speeds and storage that can hold all this data.
Smart cities are built on these key technologies
The connectivity of smart cities relies on the following key technologies:
Smart energy: Smart grids collect data about energy use and can allow cities save on energy costs much the way smart home devices are helping homeowners to do the same.
Smart transportation: Real-time monitoring of traffic, street lights and parking can help cities take steps to reduce congestion and therefore pollution. Automated collection of fines and parking meter monitoring, for example, are automated, which allows cities to reduce labor costs.
Smart data: Vast amounts of data are being collected by all these systems, and this information can be analyzed and used by cities to for improved decision making.
Smart infrastructure: Planning for the future and maintaining current systems is improved with data. Monitoring in real time allows government agencies to make proactive decisions to prevent costly consequences.
Smart mobility: The ability for data to move between systems seamlessly will be a continuous process, and policy, for example, will need to change with it.
Smart IoT devices: As the technology evolves, the sensors, beacons, and other devices that are the foundation of smart cities will require continuous development.
Emerging Tech and ICT are the foundation for smart cities
As people continue to move to urban areas and infrastructure is more reliant on technology, traditional urban management will cease being effective. ICT, in particular, will play a critical role in the implementation of each of these critical technologies.
“The answer lies in making cities ‘smarter’ by efficient management of resources and infrastructure, greener environment, and smart governance resulting in a better quality of living of its citizens. This can be enabled by the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) tools, which have the ability to provide eco‐friendly and economically viable solutions for cities,” say the authors of the chapter titled “The Role of Communication Technologies in Building Future Smart Cities, Smart Cities Technologies” in Smart Cities Technologies.
ICT and Emerging Tech are changing the way we relate and work already, and now they’re primed to change even more of society by changing the way cities are run and how citizens interact with them. Smart Energy International reports that the “global market for smart city information and communications technology (ICT) is forecasted to hit the $994.6-billion mark by 2023 from $476.7 billion in 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.8%, a report by BCC research showed.”
Companies offering these services and the professionals skilled in these areas are looking at a forecast of healthy growth for decades, with the need for infrastructure design, implementation, maintenance, and development.