What is a Smart City and How Do I Live There?

Although you might assume the growth and development of a Smart City would be precise and exact, Smart City growth is inherently organic. Because living in a Smart City is ultimately the result of human choices to build and utilize technology, there is no perfect path forward into the city of the future.

Smart Cities utilize information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to make services more efficient and resident more secure. Electricity use is a great, basic example. In a Smart City, streetlights are triggered by motion detectors. When someone is in the neighborhood, the street lights are on. Otherwise, they are off, saving the city’s limited power and financial resources.

But if you think in broader terms, imagine a garbage collection app that allows city workers and citizens to request special services such as large item removal. And that system then integrates well with an automated routing system that continuously reroutes garbage trucks ensuring the most efficient path based on current traffic conditions. Now the Smart City is saving money with lower fuel costs, reduced man hours, and fewer miles on garbage trucks.

Ultimately, a Smart City connects citizens with city services to provide better use of tax dollars for a safer, more interconnect existence. But the road towards a Smart City isn’t an easy one.

To start, the more portals of connectivity, the more opportunity hackers have to access city functions and citizen information. If a Smart City’s stop light system is sensitive to time of day, traffic patterns, and special events, then a black hat hacker could dive in and muck up the lights for the sake of chaos – or for the sake of a larger, more sinister plan. (It’s the stuff of movie and TV show plots.)

And the possibilities of ways to connect are endless – almost every aspect of city living can be measured and communicated. But what are the best ways to improve a city through Smart Technology? And what are the ramifications? For example, a pothole app could detect how frequently passengers pass over potholes, and then pass that information along to city officials. But adding a pothole app requires buy-in from citizens with sufficient money to buy and use the technology. So while the pothole app helps everyone uptown, the less fortunate residents downtown get ignored. And so a Smart City initiative suddenly becomes a social issue benefitting the most privileged.

So will creating an safe and equitable Smart City be a bumpy road (pun intended)? Yes. But progress is rarely smooth and generally moves forward. So if you are lucky enough to be in a city with such an initiative (San Diego, San Francisco, Houston… among others) jump into the fray and find out what apps are available. Download and help push our cities towards a safer, smarter place to call home.