Smart Cities: Challenges & Opportunities for a Sustainable Environment | Eastern Peak

The Earth’s population is growing, and cities large and small are now a natural habitat for most humans. In the digital age, cities are increasingly embracing smart technologies and innovations.

Obviously, the future of smart cities looks optimistic as local governments begin to rely on smart city initiatives to deal with social issues like healthcare, road infrastructure, public transportation, security, migration and education.

For businesses, smart city technology offers a plethora of opportunities to create brand new products and services. The versatile data obtained by smart systems enables entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas and business models. Smart cities like Singapore, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Barcelona, New York and Dubai, to name a few, are inspiring other urban communities to follow suit.

In this article, we will break down the smart city concept and look at key opportunities and challenges surrounding smart cities. Read on to learn more.

What is a smart city?

So, in more concrete terms, what problems do smart cities solve? Let’s list some of the key components of a smart city to see which aspects of urban life can be improved by smart city initiatives.

The core components of a smart city

Smart manufacturing

Smart transportation

Smart energy systems

Read also: How IoT is Transforming the Energy Industry

Smart healthcare

Smart buildings

Implementing smart building technologies results in improved security and health levels, as well as enhanced convenience of its residents.

Read also: IoT in the Workplace: Smart Office Applications for Better Productivity

Digital citizenship

Digital government

Smart farming

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Open data

The open data concept also implies that all data should be available in convenient readable formats and open for processing and analysis. By accessing open data, businesses can introduce new services and solutions for the benefit of the city.

Key challenges of smart cities

Here is an overview of some of the most pressing problems that stand in the way of smart city development:

Infrastructure

Specifically, to fully deliver their value, IoT sensors that capture various data from air pollution to traffic congestion levels need advanced infrastructure supported by innovative hardware. Most cities in developed countries are already struggling with other infrastructural problems such as water and steam pipes, broadband internet, electricity, etc.

Thus, smart resource allocation, generous funding and full government support are imperative to successful infrastructural changes.

Privacy concerns

Another aspect that many people find disturbing is the amount of personal data collected by IoT smart sensors. Complete transparency as to how the data will be used, and educational initiatives aimed at informing citizens on how smart cities work, should alleviate these concerns, at least in part.

Smart cities security issues

Fortunately, tech companies are creating security solutions based on big data analytics, blockchain and encryption technologies which are designed to handle increasingly more sophisticated cyber-attacks. Smart city developers are investing in these new generation security systems to eliminate threats.

Education for engagement

Such initiatives could include email campaigns, in-person meetings with local government representatives, online educational platforms and printed handouts — anything that could help citizens embrace change and make the transition less unsettling.

Social inclusion

For example, a city may fail to launch a healthcare initiative for elderly citizens because most of them don’t know how to use the technology.

Thus, smart city initiatives should be implemented in a way that fosters social inclusion and speaks to all categories of citizens, not just the well-off and tech- savvy ones.

Smart cities opportunities & how technology is solving challenges for smart cities

Below are some of the most vivid examples of how smart cities are building the future.

Smart traffic management

Smart solutions for traffic management, like the ones implemented in Irvine, California, tackle traffic issues and help eliminate traffic jams. The system monitors traffic and estimates the arrival time for the next group of cars to ensure that the traffic light is green at that moment. Smart traffic management solutions such as the adjusting of traffic lights to real road situations, able the resolution of one of the most vital modern city problems.

In-vehicle systems like are already enabling drivers to share information about traffic situations. Integrating such systems with the city traffic and the road infrastructure database could indeed bring radical improvements.

Public transportation

Parking spaces

Security and taxing

In San Paolo, Brazil, surveillance cameras are monitoring tens of millions of cars for speeding, but also, they are detecting the ones that aren’t up to date on their taxes, and issues fines to those car owners.

All in all, smart city technologies can reveal their potential in a wide range of areas, from transportation to education and healthcare.

Planning and building smart cities

Becoming a smart city, obviously, won’t happen overnight. Building smart cities requires preparation, careful planning and a well-documented strategy supported on all administrative levels, not to mention community approval and acceptance. Below is a step-by-step plan which you can adapt to your current situation.

Every urban community has pain points of its own. From transport congestion to high crime rates, issues may differ in scale and type. As a first step towards smart city development, you can identify the most pressing issues that you want smart city solutions to tackle. Smart cities are, ultimately, not just about the hype: those hi-end technologies should focus on eliminating existing problems, even if their application won’t appear to be so spectacular.

2. Collect data

In a commercial business, revenue is usually the main incentive driving it forward. Smart city projects are targeted towards certain social goals. Identify which goals you want to achieve in your case and phrase them in a positive light: healthier citizens, lower crime rates, a more seamless public transportation system, etc.

3. Work on the financing and budgeting plan

Every smart city project starts with data. Initially, you don’t need complex systems for data collection and processing (although you will at later stages). Focus on retrieving and categorizing the data you already have. The main issue here is that this data is usually stored in disparate databases and systems, so you will have to work on assembling it into integrated data pools. Also, make sure the data is presented in readable and comprehensible formats. You will need this, if you want to make the data available for public access as part of an open data smart city concept.

4. Launch a pilot project

Admittedly, smart city projects are expensive and will demand the city administration to adopt a creative approach to funding. Apart from the city budget, businesses, individual philanthropists, funds like EU Regional Development Fund and government grants may prove to be viable sources of funding. If your projects win enough support from the local community, then perhaps crowdfunding is an option worth pursuing.

Looking for expert advice and guidance on your path to becoming a smart city? Here at Eastern Peak we are ready to share our vision and expertise. Request your free consultation now, and make your first step to building a smart city!

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