The concept of smart cities is something that has been around for a long time but still continues to rise. Large cities increasingly require more solutions that contribute to a real efficient management and provide value to the citizen.
A city is smart when people actively work to solve the difficulties that the citizen can face in a broad sense – from pollution, to traffic management, or tax collection – through the implementation of systems that are mostly based on information collected by sensors distributed throughout the city. Having solutions based on that real information, you can understand why smartcity works better.
Today we are going to analyze how this efficiency of smart cities is translated into more specific benefits, such as energy saving, the reduction of environmental impact and greater connectivity.
In its very own concept of intelligent city, efficiency is included as a headstone. CharbelAoun, senior vice president of Smart Cities, defines it as “a community that is efficient, livable and sustainable”. Any city that wants to be more intelligent should promote these three qualities, oriented to a benefit for the citizen and the environment.
This efficiency has to be reflected in electricity networks, gas and water distribution systems, in waste management, public and private transport, etcetera. These are all elements of the pillar that form smart cities.
Energy saving is one of those advantages that arise from the efficiency advocated by smart cities. In a context of economic crisis, this seems even more necessary. This saving depends on the innovation in the technology and also on the use habits of the people, so it is necessary to offer them tools so that they adapt.
There are smartgrids (as they are known in English) in smart cities. What these networks allow is to adapt to the needs of the user, offering a sustainable and efficient energy system, with low losses and high levels of quality.
Smart networks have the ability to receive information in real time, which is another feature that has a smartcity in general, which helps to work more effectively and to adapt to the needs at the time, without waiting to receive reports that take days to arrive.
One of the examples of this energy saving is found in our own country, in the city of Malaga. In the Smart City Málaga project, the latest technologies for remote control, digitalization and network automation were introduced. This resulted in reduced electricity consumption by 25%, as well as other achievements, such as the reduction of CO2 emissions.
If before we discussed the context of the economic crisis, we can’t forget the importance of concern for the environment and the danger of climate change. Smart Cities also work in this aspect and seeks to reduce the impact our activity has on the rest of the planet.
The human impact reduction is achieved through various forms in smart cities. For example, the most efficient management of the city’s traffic system can help to have a lower amount of polluting gases emission.
In Utah, a series of sensors, cameras, signals and traffic stations have been installed to adjust the time of the traffic lights. Something that seems so simple and that can’t have a huge impact, has achieved a significant decrease in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, in addition to a more efficient, fast and secure traffic management.
It is not only in traffic that this purpose is achieved. In Stockholm, 75% of household waste is reused for heating and that remaining quarter is recycled. The solar panels assume half the cost of the hot water and the residual water is used for the creation of biogas, which is the fuel of public transport. Thus, they have managed to reduce the emission of CO2 by 25%.
During all these lines, we are emphasising on the system concept. By definition, a system is a set of elements that are interconnected with each other. That connection is another feature of smart cities that makes them more efficient.
At the end of the day, a smart city is a tremendously complex system in which everything is interconnected. The thousands of sensors installed throughout the geography provide a large amount of information from different sources (electrical system, traffic, waste management …) which, analyzed as a whole, offers new information.
For the management of all this information applications like Urbo is needed, which allow you to display the data in a visual way. Therefore greater efficiency will be achieved when it comes to finding latent problems and find the best solutions.
At the level of the user on foot, this connectivity allows, for example, to attend a large crowds event such as a football game or a concert and to know in real time what the availability of parking places is, and, in addition, to know the traffic conditions to get to the place thanks to the sensors placed on the roads.
All these facilities depend on having a good Internet connection, so cities also have to worry about creating large networks. Companies as important as Facebook are aware of the importance of this and they collaborate with cities such as San José in Seattle to increase the Internet access network in more disadvantaged areas.
This review of the virtues of smart cities pretend primarily to highlight the importance of efficiency and the repercussion it has on such diverse aspects of daily life, such as energy saving or helping to decongest traffic.
In a context of economic and environmental crisis it is even more necessary to reinforce the importance of the commitment to smart cities, which only want to improve many aspects of our lives, doing everything in a more efficient way. Here in Spain, it is the Spanish network that is responsible for the automatic and efficient management of infrastructures and urban services.