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What is a Smart City and What Benefits do they Offer?

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: November 1st, 2022·5.4 min read·

Smart cities are all around us. In fact, you may already live in a smart city without even knowing. But exactly what is a smart city and how do they differ from regular cities?

What is a smart city?

The concept of smart cities has been around since the 1960s. As technology has evolved, more and more cities today are implementing connected solutions. Smart cities work by gathering data through strategically-placed IoT devices throughout the city such as sensors and cameras. The data collected from these connected devices is then processed and analyzed to improve operational efficiency, public safety, and quality of life.

Although the concept of smart cities has been around for decades, technology is constantly evolving and bringing new possibilities and benefits to cities all around the world.

Benefits of smart cities

Smart cities offer many benefits over less connected public spaces. Some of the biggest ways smart solutions can help to improve city operations include public safety, reduced environmental footprint, and operational efficiency, all of which can contribute to cost savings.

Public safety

A few of the ways smart technology can help to keep communities safe include:

  • Monitoring the safety of buildings: Through the use of sensors, buildings can be monitored for structural damage. If a building is damaged or structurally unsound, the sensors can detect these changes and alert the proper officials so a solution can be implemented.
  • Gunshot detection: Using a distributed array of microphones, acoustic gunshot detection systems (AGDS) can quickly identify gunshots. This form of smart technology can also alert authorities to the location of the gunfire as well as the number of possible shooters, helping to improve response time and preparedness for the situation.
  • Natural disaster early warning systems: Many cities are located in areas that are prone to fires, flooding, landslides, hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions. Smart city systems can help to predict these events by analyzing real-time data and can alert officials to the potential danger, allowing for a quicker response time. For an example of an emergency and mass notification solution, check out our Singlewire customer story.

Improved transportation

Photo of a traffic light and cctv camera in a smart city

Smart city technologies are helping to streamline operational processes. For example:

  • Smart city traffic control: On-site devices like cameras and sensors can control the timing of traffic lights based on factors like how heavy traffic is, the time of day, and weather conditions. Through the use of smart traffic technology, a streamlined traffic system can be created, helping to prevent congestion and traffic-related accidents. This technology also limits the need to widen roads by making the most of the space available.
  • Transportation efficiency: With the help of cameras and sensors placed at bus stops as well as inside buses, cities are better able to gauge how many people are boarding each bus and at what times. Using this data, smart cities can optimize transportation systems and make the most of bus capacity.

Reduced environmental impact

Along with improving the quality and safety of day-to-day life, smart cities are also helping us to think more about our future.

  • Energy conservation: With smart technology, cities can reduce energy usage by employing sensors on street lights that light up and dim based on real-time data. These sensors can be programmed to detect movement, turning on when motion is detected on roadways and dimming when roads are clear.
  • Transition to renewable energy sources: Like all grids, smart grid solutions connect all the energy producers and consumers and even other factors such as real-time data from the electricity market and weather forecasts  to enable a flexible response to supply and demand. As the future of energy supply becomes increasingly decentralized this will become more and more important. Check out our customer story on how neoom is creating Internet of Energy (IoE) solutions to enable the transition to green energy.
  • Water waste: Water leaks can waste significant amounts of water, cause environmental damage, and lead to costly downtime while the pipe is being repaired. With smart sensors, leaks in pipes can be detected at an earlier stage, allowing for quicker repairs.
  • Air pollution: Smart sensors continuously monitor air quality to measure levels of pollution and determine the source. Using the data gathered from these sensors, cities can better identify high-pollution areas and plan accordingly on how to reduce airborne contaminants in those areas.

Smart city challenges

As smart city technologies continue to evolve, there are growing concerns surrounding connectivity. Because so many smart functions within cities rely on internet-connected devices like sensors, meters, lights, and cameras, reliable connectivity is a necessity. This is especially important when it comes to public safety. 

If a smart sensor placed in a building fails to relay information about damage to infrastructure due to connectivity issues, this would put individuals in and around the building in harm’s way. When implementing smart solutions, reliable connectivity should be at the forefront of considerations.

Another significant challenge of smart cities lies in the evaluation and testing of smart city solutions. This process often proves to be very difficult. So much of IoT is emerging tech, so it’s often expensive and hasn’t had a lot of practical testing in many other cities. Because of this, smart cities usually end up trying several solutions and sometimes don’t end up finding one that works with their budget or applications.

Cyber attacks can also pose a threat to the safety of citizens if hackers are able to gain control of critical functions like water, gas, and electricity. When it comes to keeping smart cities secure, much of the responsibility falls to implementing diligent software security measures. However, there are a few hardware features that can help provide an added layer of security, such as TPM and Intel® PTT (Platform Trust Technology). OnLogic embedded computers with PTT are ideal for smart city applications.

Hardware for smart cities

Picture of the Karbon 804 from OnLogic

The Karbon 804 from OnLogic offers the configurability and capabilities needed for smart city applications.

The integration of technology into cities can be complicated, but offers many benefits. In order to successfully implement a smart solution for your city, you need reliable hardware that offers flexible connectivity. OnLogic computers for smart city and building automation applications are highly configurable and can be used in a variety of challenging environments.

Need help implementing smart city technology? Reach out to the experts at OnLogic for help with your smart city solution today.

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About the Author: Claireice Mathai

Claireice Mathai is a content creator for OnLogic. When not writing, she enjoys playing piano and guitar.