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Answers to Three Common Smart City Questions

smart city initiatives

Smart city initiatives are a way for communities to respond to challenges of sustainability and efficiency. With the world’s population expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 60% of this population living in urban areas, cities are facing unprecedented pressures. Smart cities have implemented tech in innovative ways to overcome these challenges.

1. What do smart city initiatives include?

At the heart of all smart city initiatives is the desire for city governments to break free of traditional, bureaucratic silos and use innovation to serve their citizens in a more sustainable and efficient manner. Initiatives help municipalities respond dynamically and cross-functionally to the constantly evolving challenges of the real world.

According to McKinsey Global Institute’s Smart Cities: Digital Solutions For A More Livable Future Report, smart cities use a technology framework built upon three layers.

  1. Internet of Things (IoT) devices
    Intelligent sensors are at the core of this framework. They transmit data to the cloud over wireless networks. These devices can be used to gather data about water, waste, weather, traffic, power, libraries, hospitals, police, fire, schools, and other elements of a city’s infrastructure and services.
  2. Applications
    Once information is gathered, applications help cities take action based on what they’ve learned.
  3. People
    The data gathered and applications analyzing this data can’t make an impact without city employees, contractors, and citizens implementing a course of action or executing a plan.

2. What’s the history of smart cities?

The iteration of a smart city as we know it today didn’t come around until the late 2000s with European early pioneers.

In 2009, the EU Electricity Directive required EU states to install smart meters to 80% of consumers by 2020. Major initiatives launched in Japan, China, and India followed. By the mid-2010s, initiatives were global. A significant milestone in the U.S. was the 2015 U.S. Department of Transportation Smart Cities Challenge. This program was aimed at mid-sized cities and Columbus, Ohio took home the $50M grant.

Europe’s 2009 edict foreshadowed one of the most widely adopted (and earliest) smart city initiatives, the smart grid. Smart grids are used by the world’s megacities and small cities alike. For example, in 2018, Schenectady, NY, launched an advanced street lighting program

A smart grid is an electrical grid that includes efficiency elements such as smart meters and appliances. The launching of a city’s smart grid often corresponds with switching conventional street lamps to LEDs.

Next, public transit and traffic management initiatives are popular. Connected transportation systems have some of the greatest potential to drastically enhance efficiencies throughout a city. For example, Barcelona launched a program where smart traffic lights optimize public bus routes and respond to emergency vehicles.

3. Why should cities care?

A smart city framework can help make a city more effective and efficient. When a city is able to deploy sensors into the real-world environment, leaders can gather meaningful, actionable insights.

These real-time insights empower a city to respond to the needs of its citizens quickly, with the tools they need, and where they need them. In short, they are able to do their jobs better.

Additionally, smart city initiatives can help create a more equitable environment for citizens. For example, in London, Bluetooth beacons and an audio app is helping visually impaired citizens navigate the Underground.

Getting started

As even the most cutting-edge smart cities on the planet are still at the beginning of their transformation, there’s still a lot to learn. As a leading IoT managed service provider, MetTel is in a unique position of having a front-row-seat to successful programs across the U.S. Read the white paper to learn how one pioneering metropolis has implemented smart city initiatives.

Want to learn more about Smart City initiatives? 

Read our white paper, Three Lessons from Smart City Pioneers. 


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