Smart city became another buzz word these years but we are going to be hearing a lot more of in the coming years.
Let’s start with smart city landscape to see the trend and then look at absolutely amazing smart city projects, that may change our life, make it better! I think now we really reached the point when everyone cares about the planet and when everyone is conscious about environmental and social problems we have. I really hope that this article will inspire others to do something for the planet, for the cities and citizens and at the same time earn money! I will also give you a list of big players & key startups that work on the smart city projects the most. And also I am sure that you are interested in knowing top smart cities in the world, we will look at it also. I found some interesting facts!
Smart city landscape
Smart cities are no longer the wave of the future. They are here now and growing quickly as the Internet of Things expands and impacts municipal services around the globe.
By 2050, about 86 percent of people in developed countries and 64 percent of people in developing countries are expected to live in cities. This is a huge change and in a very short period of time! Now it is crucial to use resources more efficiently and come up with new ways of how to live smarter.
Smart cities currently have a very strong positive image around the world. Even in the third world countries, where they have other problems and lack of support, people are willing to contribute to do something good for the planet. They just need tools and resources for it. Globally, regardless of the country smart cities are buzzing.
Cities all around the world work with big data specialists, developers, designers, strategic thinkers and innovators to make city living better, whether it’s improving the timing of traffic lights or creating a useful app, which becomes more powerful as smartphone penetration continues to increase. Cities worldwide can become smarter by using technology to make public transport more efficient, sustainable, and effective at meeting the mobility needs of their residents. Apps and other smart technology can help governments save money and, be more efficient.
Large companies such as Cisco and IBM are working with universities and civic planning authorities to develop data-driven systems for transport, waste management, law enforcement, and energy use to make them more efficient and improve the lives of citizens.
Smart city projects can definitely help municipal governments operate more efficiently and improve quality of life for residents. Public safety and public services are key elements of a smart city and if you attend one of the smart city events, you will be impressed by what has been already done and what projects are in the development stage now.
List of top startups & technologies every smart city should have
Schneider Electric, Siemens, Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, Ericsson, Toshiba, Oracle and many other big companies work on smart city projects. But let’s take a look at promising startups that revolutionize the way we live, making this world better place to live.
Let’s start with companies that work on waste management as nowadays every city has this issue on their priority list.
Bigbelly is a smart waste and recycling system that has been implemented in main cities of the US and in more than 50 countries around the globe. Bigbelly provides a solar-powered compacting waste bin that allows for up to five times the amount of waste as in a traditional bin. What is also good about it and I would say the best and the most demanded feature of it is that it alerts the appropriate city department when it needs to be emptied. This means that the number of trash bins in a city can be reduced by 70-80%, which makes the streets more aesthetically appealing. Also it reduces traffic jams and ensures that the cars take full rubbish bins instead of coming twice for half-full bins.
Another interesting company that also works on waste management is Zerocycle, which collects and analyzes garbage and recycling data to determine recycling rates for each neighborhood in a city. The company shares those insights in customized Neighborhood Waste Reports, which are sent to every household in the service area. Personally I think this is a greate initiative because it motivates others to pay more attention to recycling.
ShotSpotter is a company that works on reducing the criminal rate in the cities. Gunfire is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous aspects of urban life. When a gunshot is heard, it’s not always reported because people get scared or not sure if this is a gunshot or something else. But sound sensors, whether standalone, from a company such as ShotSpotter, or added to a smart streetlight, can detect gunshots and automatically report it to a policy department without depending on citizen involvement. The software can also determine how many shots were fired, and how many shooters are present, which can really help police officers who respond to the call.
Now we live in a world where almost everything can be controlled by phone and now we don’t want to waste our time standing on a queue to get tourism information. We can just use our phones and google it or find some info on Tripadvisor, Foursquare, etc. But sometimes we have problems with the battery or we don’t want to spend too much time on a research or sometimes we just have unexpected trips and digital kiosks on the streets with information about the city are always a good idea.
Digital kiosks give information about restaurants, retail stores, and events in the immediate area. It also provides mapping for visitors, and can sync with a mobile phone to give additional data as needed. For example, Citymapper pulls in public transport information and provides multi-modal transport options to get users to their chosen destinations. It really saves time and make it easy for travellers to find information without actually reading many articles and visiting many sites.
LED streetlights have numerous benefits. One of the main benefits is reduced crime, because the lights automatically brighten when there are multiple people in the area, and dim when no one is around. ROI and savings is another important point, with the LED lights just in few years you get ROI and then notice monthly savings on street lighting. Just to give you an example, In Los Angeles, the city saves nearly $9 million annually on utility costs as a result of its decision to spend $57 million to convert nearly 80% of its 215,000 old sodium-vapor streetlights to LED versions.
There are other benefits of LED streetlights, for example Danish company DOLL – new platform for developing future LED-lighting solutions aims to create energy efficiency and intelligent indoor and outdoor lighting solutions and to generate jobs.
DOLL supports municipalities, regions, and private companies, in cooperation with scientists, with the development of new and improved lighting solutions. It is a promising technology which leads to cost reductions; focusing on quality, the end-user, and energy efficiency.
If you live in a city, you probably experience problems with parking. Now, a lot of companies actually work on solutions that would simplify our process of parking a car. Nowadays, mobile apps became very popular in this question. They tell you when a parking spot is available, using parking sensors.
European cities were early adopters of this technology. For example, in Paris, France, the average resident spends four years of their life looking for a parking spot, according to Cisco. With widespread use of parking sensors, traffic in Paris has dropped dramatically.
This technology really simplifies our lives, by indicating the nearest available parking spot. It saves time, gas, emissions and money, while also easing the flow of traffic and overall satisfaction of living in a city where it is actually convenient to live.
If we talk about companies that work on these solutions, the first company that comes to my mind is ParkWhiz, which aims to help anyone find a parking spot from a web browser or mobile phone. Public and private parking garages list available spaces and pricing on ParkWhiz. This app also allows people to instantly reserve a spot with a credit card. Very convenient!
Every city should support open data initiatives and hackathons, like in New York City they organize BigApps competition, which produce useful and resource-saving apps to improve cities and keep citizens informed. Things like air quality, restaurant sanitation scores, building inspection scores and impending legislation should be readily available for all citizens.
Unfortunately now living in a city has some side effects like for example problems with health, etc. Living in a city means having a lot of stress and rarely breath fresh air. TZOA uses internal sensors to measure your air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light and UV – all in one wearable device. In other words, TZOA is a wearable enviro-tracker that helps you stay healthy and explore your environment. It takes data from your environment in real-time and turns it into actionable recommendations to keep you healthy. Having data and a smartphone app, you can know if you need to open a window in your home, take a bike and choose different route to work, or get more or less of sun. These recommendations help to change behaviors and improve your quality of life.
EverImpact discover the origins of greenhouse gas emissions in your city. It is the climate monitoring app for cities, which measures and monetizes Cities’ CO2 emission by combining Satellites and Ground Sensors’ data. Cities get a real-time map of their emissions at street and building level. It really helps to control the environmental situation in the cities.
A success story of digital services developed from open data in Helsinki is the mobile GPS app BlindSquare that helps the blind and visually impaired people navigate through the city by describing the environment, announcing points of interest and street intersections to users, and telling them where to go.
Top smart cities in the world
Now let’s look at the cities that are the most active in contributing to the smart city projects development. These cities are smart, these cities are known for their initiatives and projects, for their ecosystem that makes them better place to live.
The population in Helsinki is projected to rise from 626,000 to nearly two million in 2050. Government of Finland couldn’t ignore this issue and started to support initiatives of startups regarding building a smart city.
They put a goal for themselves to completely overhaul its public transport network and reduce private car use by 2025. One of the projects companies in Helsinki are working on is using a smartphone, you input your location and destination, then dedicated app plans your journey, offering you a range of options with differing methods, journey times and prices. By merging private transport options, like Uber and cycle companies with the city’s bus, tram, train, metro into one unified network, people from Helsinki will have a quick, easy, one-stop shop for all their transport needs. They could buy it with one click on their phone.
Other projects include an automated waste collection system that reduces garbage truck traffic by 80-90%, smart grids and real-time energy monitoring to reduce energy consumption by 15%, and parking spaces with electric car charging.
Government together with private companies work on food waste problems and implement sensors in refrigerators at homes, using apps to reminds residents about expiration dates and suggests how the foods can be used rather than thrown away.
Another key goal of Helsinki’s Smart City activities is to harness the innovative capabilities of the entire urban community by promoting cooperation between application developers, and the rest of the city’s ICT ecosystem. Helsinki is very strong in the field of open data innovation, numerous hackathons and organized on a regular basis and open app competitions are held annually. Helsinki’s schools are known for their forward-looking education systems, shifting away from traditional education to an inquiry-based learning approach.
Singapore is taking the “Smart City” to a new level. Singapore is deploying an undetermined number of sensors and cameras across the island city-state that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle. 5.4 million people squeezing onto 446 square miles of island makes Singapore one of the world’s most densely populated cities. And rapid growth over the last few decades has meant that demands placed on the city’s transport network have rocketed. Nowadays, the city invests a lot in road sensors, phased traffic lights, and smart parking. The city-state’s leadership in transportation is not surprising if we take into account that the system has a long history of using information technology to improve traffic.
Through smart applications, the sensors provide residents with feedback on their behavior, helping them to use less water, electricity, etc. reducing the household costs. The government, in turn, is able to aggregate this data, using analytics and computer simulation to improve the planning, design and maintenance of public housing estates.
The tech hub of Spain, Barcelona also uses sensors to help monitor and manage traffic. Barcelona remodels the flow, to reduce the traffic by 21%. The city has installed smart parking technology as well as smart streetlights, and sensors for monitoring air quality and noise. It is also expanding a network of free Wi-Fi in public spaces.
Barcelona hosts the annual Smart City Expo World Congress and invests a lot in advancing in this subject. It has more than 100 active smart city projects ranging from electric cars to smart waste management.
The city is a global leader in its extensive use of IoT. Smart LED streetlamps activate only when movement is detected, producing 30% energy savings, and are equipped with sensors to collect data from the environment. Sensors monitor rain and humidity to determine how much water is needed to irrigate parks. Municipal smart bins monitor waste levels and are cleared only when they are full, optimizing waste collection operations. Digital bus stops provide bus arrival times, free Wi-Fi and USB charging ports, while a smart parking system guides vehicles to available parking spaces, reducing congestion and emissions.
In transportation, Barcelona advanced a lot, promoting the use of electric cars and bike sharing.
Also Barcelona made it possible for the citizens to use Bústia Ciutadana and make complaints, file reports of city problems such as a broken street light, or make suggestions. Data is sent to a central location, and officials respond to the the user promptly.
Since the early 20th century, the bicycle has been a symbol of freedom for people in Denmark. Government of Copenhagen planned and balanced very well spaces given to cars, bikes, public transport and pedestrians. Today, around half of the people who live in Copenhagen ride a bicycle to work. It’s not just the culture that encourages this, but an infrastructure plays a critical role here. Traffic lights are timed for bicycle speeds. And in terms of urban design for bikes, Copenhagen’s 240-mile network is impressive.
Considered to be the greenest capital city in the world, Copenhagen is a centre for clean technology innovation and is committed to being carbon neutral by 2025.
Also, there are other initiatives that improve the quality of life of the citizens, for example Copenhagen sends less than 2% of its waste to landfills. Half of the waste is recycled and most of the waste is used to generate heat for the city’s district heating network.
London plays crucial part in the smart cities world.
Currently Londoners invest a lot in the transportation sector. They have a hate relationship with their underground metro system because at peak times it becomes crazy. It can be so busy that people have to wait for a few trains to pass by before they can even try to get in. So, one of the important projects that Londoners work on is project of NBBJ , which is about replacing trains on the 110-year-old Circle Line with a set of three travelators, just like those you can see in the airports – that would carry commuters to their chosen station. The speed would be low, around 20 km/hour, but still it will be faster than a conventional Tube train because there would be no need to stop at each station.
San Francisco’s current waste diversion rate is 80 percent. Government offers online tools to complement the policies that reduce waste, and increase access to recycling and composting. For example project of RecycleWhere provides the latest and most convenient recycling, reuse, and disposal options for plastics, batteries, fluorescent lights, televisions, couches, and much more! The project uses open source software and an open data model to provide localized and accurate results.
Another issue government of San Francisco is working on is energy management. San Francisco is currently 41 percent renewably powered and in order to reach San Francisco’s goal to become carbon-free by 2030.
To achieve this goal SF Energy Map was created; a tool that tracks the solar and wind installations across the city. Any resident or business can go to the website to see solar potential for their own roof.
Cars and trucks in San Francisco account for about 40 % of our carbon emissions, therefore the government promotes smart commuting, electric transportation, and biofuels to help the city meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. As for the charge points, San Francisco currently tracks the usage and functional status of its charging points, providing real-time status of the chargers and generating long-term reports. Technical tools like the ChargePoint network help the city establish EV charger demand and determine where chargers should be placed in the future.
And of course just like in other smart cities, parking plays an important role, therefore San Francisco also implemented smart parking options that allow drivers to find parking spaces easily.
Oslo is ranked as one of the top ten greenest cities of the world by Green Uptown Magazine. It has few of the issues of overcrowding, pollution, and high energy. But government of the city works on these issues and can be proud of it’s public transportation; underground, tram and bus line systems are really efficient and modern.
Oslo is also the e-car capital of the world, with most electric cars per capita, thanks to different incentives. The city uses information technology to curb energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Like other smart cities, Oslo has installed sensors to help citizens with parking problem. It has also established a network of smart street lighting, which has reduced energy consumption by nearly two-thirds. Oslo’s smart-city approach is typical for Nordic countries, it’s emphasis is on sustainable energy now. Government together with private companies are looking at banning private vehicles by the end of the decade.
Seoul has one of the biggest metro areas in the world, therefore the city heavily invested in this sector. Now the city’s public transportation system and emergency warning system are especially advanced.
South Korea is known for incorporating cutting-edge technology in every aspect of cities life. OLEV (Online electric vehicle technology) was successfully developed and deployed, allowing electric public buses to be charged as they move across road surfaces. Electric cables under the road create magnetic fields which can be converted to electrical energy by OLEV devices installed under vehicles.
For the disabled and elderly citizens, Seoul’s healthcare service provides telehealth check-ups and medical consultation through remote-controlled medical equipment and smart devices.
Another important fact about Seoul is the futuristic city experiment known as Songdo, built from scratch on reclaimed land and equipped with ubiquitous Wi-Fi, sensor networks, eco-buildings and IoT enhanced smart homes. I would call it city in the city.
Songdo’s residential areas are planned so that everyone in the city can walk to work. Songdo has been designed with sensors to monitor temperature, energy use and traffic flow. These sensors can alert you, personally, when your bus is due. Or let the local authority know about any problems. A lot of these innovations are designed with the environment in mind, charging stations for electric cars, for example, or a water-recycling system that prevents clean drinking water being used for office toilets.
The waste disposal system is also impressive, there are no rubbish trucks on the streets or bins around the flats, instead, all household waste is sucked directly from individual kitchens through a vast underground network of tunnels, to waste processing centres, where it’s automatically sorted, deodorised and treated.
I hope it was interesting for you! If you think that other smart cities or other startups that work on smart cities projects should be mentioned here, please feel free to write them in the comments section below! I will be happy to discuss it!
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