Smart Cities

What Is a Smart City?

A Smart City is a municipality that uses computing, digital technology, and ubiquitous high-speed communications to optimize functions. The goal is to improve citizens' lives and streamline shared spaces' public governance.

Benefits of a Smart City?

Central to a Smart City is the collection of data to generate insights that can be used to optimize services. For example, the flow of road vehicles can be monitored, and the timings of traffic lights can be varied to keep this flow as smooth as possible. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can be deployed on surveillance camera data to detect suspicious behavior from vehicles, pedestrians, and other road users in real-time, notifying security services if necessary.

Automotive functions are some of the chief recipients of Smart City benefits based on Smart Mobility technology and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communications. Real-time traffic information can help drivers avoid urban jams. Connected Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) can further improve safety with the help of data from a Smart City.

Urban areas can be zoned, and payments leveraged automatically when vehicles signal that they have moved into premium areas, such as low-traffic neighborhoods or parking lots. Connected vehicles can communicate directly with Smart City infrastructure, supplying their data to improve conditions for all residents.

Smart City technology can also make autonomous vehicles safer and more efficient. A self-driving car can leverage data from urban surveillance cameras to detect traffic that has suddenly halted or an accident blocking the road, even if these are hidden around a blind corner. The autonomous vehicle can then reduce speed and drive with greater caution.

Smart City sensors can detect a potential emergency or gunfire automatically so that incidents can be investigated. The appropriate municipal services, such as the fire brigade, police forces or ambulances, can then be dispatched to deal with the situation. For example, during the Covid pandemic, Barcelona used street cameras to monitor public health.

Aggregated transportation data can inform zoning and development plans, enabling new amenities to be built in the most appropriate places.

Together, all these features improve living conditions, promote economic growth, and enhance job opportunities.

Features of a Smart City

A Smart City comprises a collection of features rather than a fixed set of capabilities. However, the primary capabilities include the following:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices
  • Edge computing alongside IoT devices
  • Centralized cloud analytics of collected data employing AI/ML for improved insights
  • Vehicles equipped with ultra-fast mobile data and V2X technology
  • Intelligent transport systems, including shared mobility
  • Robust security of data collection and compliance with prevailing local privacy legislation
  • Community involvement, both automated and participatory

How Smart Cities Work

A Smart City deploys IoT devices to collect data. This includes sensors such as surveillance cameras on streets, audio detection, temperature measurement, pollution evaluation, or even environmental assessment such as wind, sunlight, and rainfall levels.

With the number of IoT devices expected to more than double by 2025 compared to 2020, the volume of data available for a Smart City is set to increase dramatically. Centrally coordinated features such as traffic lights, street lighting, digital signage, and barriers also become part of the Smart City provision.

A key enabling technology for a Smart City is ubiquitous mobile data, particularly 5G and its successors. The 5G mobile data standard was designed to deliver high bandwidth and low latency to enable real-time Smart City functions.

Connected vehicles with secure V2X technology can be mobile contributors to the Smart City, relaying their sensor information, speed and location via mobile data, particularly 5G.

Initial processing of data collected by IoT devices can be performed by edge computing. Further insights are delivered by centralized cloud analytics of aggregated data, deploying AI/ML to provide richer, actionable results.

Smart City vs. Normal City

Cities have been acquiring data collection technologies for decades, which have been deployed to improve urban services. While there is no clear cut-off point between this and a Smart City, the latter will have a much more prevalent, ubiquitous provision of IoT devices.

For example, lampposts might be equipped with sensors, enabling them to dim if they detect no pedestrians or moving vehicles nearby to reduce power consumption. The city of Barcelona implemented this system, saving 30 percent of its energy usage in tandem with a switch to LED lighting.

Another key difference is how vehicles with V2X technology are harnessed to streamline transportation. This can improve public and shared mobility and enhance the experience for private vehicle users.

A Smart City engages its citizens and adapts to their needs in a much more dynamic and responsive way than a regular city. It optimizes energy efficiency and the environment while reducing costs.

Traffic operations centers, mobility providers, automakers and fleet providers are all offering inputs and collecting data, thus creating a complex system of systems that includes vehicles, V2X communications, traffic signals, shared mobility models, and payment systems.

But how is that data moved, managed, and secured?

BlackBerry offers a secure communications platform for creating and deploying software solutions, with high security, anywhere in the world. It leverages the rich BlackBerry portfolio of product offerings already available as stand-alone products to simplify the challenges of the mobility ecosystem.

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