“Smart” technology is only as good as the value it provides. Let’s look at how a few cities around the world are deploying smart technology in order to bring greater value to their residents and visitors.
This past January, I had the pleasure of traveling to Montreal to meet with a client. Now, don’t get me wrong, Montreal is a beautiful city. In fact, I encourage everyone to visit…in July! I was either very dedicated to my customers, or just in the mood for extreme punishment! After our meeting, we go out to dinner. He parks his car, gets out, takes out his phone, and appears to be texting the parking meter! I approach him increduously because I knew that Montreal is a progressive city, but I had no idea that they were SO progressive that you can actually text the parking meter! I ask him, “Are you texting the parking meter?” He responds, “No. I’m texting my wife to pay for the parking meter by using the app on her phone!” Welcome to the Smart City!
When we think about smart cities, the first thought that comes to mind is the cool technology. You imagine that you can press a button on your phone and a taxi will swoop down from the sky, and whisk you away to your destination. As crazy as it sounds, this is actually happening as we speak! Talking about progressive cities, the city of Dubai will be conducting a trial run of its autonomous aerial taxi service (a.k.a., Passenger Drones) later this year. This is the same city that deployed Robo Cop, a robotic police officer.
What do bicycles and smart cities have in common? With roughly 220 miles of bicycle roadways, the city of Copenhagen broke headlines in 2014 when it welcomed the Cykelslangen or Cycle Snake, an elevated bicycle roadway that was built over the harbor in order to ease congestion. They are known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, with over 50% of their residents commuting to work on their bicycles. The city was getting a lot of complaints because of people, being people, tended to block bike lanes by double parking or other offenses. The city implemented a plan to give itself millions of eyes and ears. It enlisted the help of its residents to report any bike lane offenses by snapping pictures and sending them in. Think of the KGB on steroids! By analyzing the number of offenses in a given area and at a given time, the city had the information they needed, to know where and when to focus their law enforcement efforts. The result was that everyone was happy. The residents were happy because they felt like the city listened to their needs. The city was happy because they were able to restore efficiency to their infrastructure and keep people safe.
A city that’s very big on reducing air pollution, Singapore is always looking for ways to increase efficiency with its infrastructure.
Let’s examine parking. What are some of the challenges with parking garages? Think about rush hour. Everyone is trying to park at the same time and leave at the same time. There are only so many entrances and exits to the building. It gets worse. As the parking lot starts to fill up, people start to slowly circle areas looking for spots, resulting in congestion, idling vehicles, unnecessary stress, and tons of air pollution annually .
By utilizing highly sophisticated smart cameras, among other technologies, Singapore is looking to solve all of these problems by building smart parking garages. Here is how it will work. When you wake up in the morning, you will send a WhatsApp message to the Singapore municipal services gateway with your destination address, arrival and departure times. The system will reserve a parking spot for you in the nearest parking garage that matches your requirements (i.e. parking price, vehicle size, distance to destination, etc.). It will send you an itinerary with a real-time dynamic map of the most efficient route to the parking garage, taking into account traffic and weather conditions.
Since one of the biggest challenges with parking garages during rush hour is congestion from everyone wanting to enter or exit at the same time, the smart garage staggers entry and exit times in order to enable people the most efficient access to the facilities. Therefore, you will also receive a window for the optimal time to leave your house, as well as the best time to head back to the garage to pick up your car!
Think of the California freeways, how at certain times only one car is allowed to enter the highway at a time. Once you arrive at the garage, smart cameras track your vehicle as LED lights guide you to your very own parking spot. By playing a game of parking Tetris, the city will help significantly cut down air pollution, decrease a major source of frustration among city dwellers (finding parking and congestion), and increase the efficiency of the city’s existing parking infrastructure, saving taxpayers money.
In conclusion, while everything these days now seems to be “smart,” the stories listed above are just a few examples of how the most innovative global leaders are using smart, IoT technologies to increase revenues, decrease costs, increase quality, increase efficiency, reduce waste, serve their citizens, reduce injuries, and save lives.
My question for you is, what are some of your ideas for how a city can utilize smart technology to make a positive impact on people’s lives?
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