Smart Cities – the future is now: What are Smart Cities and how will the adoption of them change the future of society for the better?
Smart phones, smart watches, smart houses, and smart cars – it seems that the world now revolves around smart technologies and is in a race to find the next big smart innovation. When considering the possibilities that smart technologies have and can provide, most think of ways to make things easier for the individual user, but in some cases, such as in the case of Smart Cities, the benefits are much greater than just an easier ride or internet on your phone. Smart Cities can make the difference between better infrastructure, faster services, and a better way of life for all in developing countries, and, at the other end of the spectrum, smart solutions for cities within developing countries are required as a result of increasing urbanization. Smart Cities are able to utilize the best in smart technology innovations from smart watches to smart buildings to enhance the city and drive increasing value to residents by integrating smart technologies for smart governments, transportation, health services, financial services and human services to name a few. What exactly are Smart Cities and why is it so critical that cities worldwide start adopting smart technologies?
Smart Cities in Progress and Practice
There may definitions of what a smart city is and the various smart solutions that can and are being implemented, however generally a common theme for smart cities is that each Smart City is driven by Government direction and policy. A basic requirement is that there needs to be adequate communications infrastructure to support a Smart City and investment in that infrastructure is determined by Government's policy. Hong Kong is an example of a city working towards that goal. Hong Kong has specifically focused on developing its infrastructure to meet its Smart City goals, specifically GPON and wireless connectivity driven both by Government policy and by commercial requirements. Today over 85% of businesses and residents are connecting by 10G-PON, and with multiple services being delivered to meet current and future customer needs. Physical city infrastructure such as transportation, energy allocation, water supply, telecommunications, and waste management can be coordinated by smart devices, applications, and even artificial intelligence (AI) to enable a Smart City. In other words, using IoT together with AI, machine learning, big data, sensors, and networks enable city planners to access real-time information for fast, cheap, and better decision-making.
HKT is on the forefront of some of the most innovative Smart City transformations and as a result of our world-recognized experience, cities looking for support turn to us to aid in joint strategic “Smart City” project development, the introduction of new services and technology, and meeting their long-term technology goals. Safer roads are a primary focus of Hong Kong’s Smart City developments. V2X (Vehicle-to-everything) is a great example of a solution that provides increased road safety. Smart Transport, is a service that will integrate the best in public and private transportation solutions to improve how cities move. V2X is a wireless technology aimed at enabling data exchanges between a vehicle and its surroundings. The primary goal being that if these technologies can reduce deaths by car accident in HK by 50% there will be a public benefit preventing the need to build two new hospitals. This and other Smart Vehicle Technology will eventually allow "in-vehicle units" (IVUs) to allow motorists to receive real-time traffic information, paying tunnel fees and tolls by remote means, without toll booths, autonomous vehicles, and much more! In fact, many of the major car companies have not only committed to development of smart, connected vehicles, they have become major players in the planning and creation of Smart City designs and innovations globally.
The impact of new and innovative smart technologies clearly show that the dividing line between business/government sectors and industries is shifting and becoming blurred. For example, automakers are able to expand into insurance by collecting, aggregating, and analyzing driving data. Disintermediation, or the removal of the middleman, will emerge allowing combined data to become a product of its own. Tesla is already selling car insurance with its vehicles in Australia and Hong Kong as part of an overall vision to one day include insurance in the final price of all its cars. These innovations have already allowed many current Smart Cities including Trikala, Greece, Hong Kong, Bristol, UK, Honolulu, Hawaii, to name a few, to strengthen their regions, provide regeneration in urban environments, provide economic development, and strengthen health services, among other advancement, with no end in sight to where it can go in the future. Mobility, government, environment, quality of life, society, and economy all benefit from the growth that the ITC infrastructure in Smart Cities provides.
From education to voting, health care to catching a train, innovations in smart technologies are making a lasting impact on the world. As these technologies continue to mature and new innovations, use cases, and possibilities emerge, there is no telling how innovations in Smart technologies will continue to improve day-to-day life globally. As we continue to explore Smart Cities in this series, we will look at the building blocks for a Smart City Blue Print, and focus on how emerging markets like Africa are primed to utilize the best in Smart City advancements for a brighter future.