April 5 by Vijay Shah

This is part one of a two part blog series examining how technology can create smart cities and enable smart cities to become even smarter.

The fundamental objective of ‘Smart Cities’ is using technology to improve quality of life for its citizens. This can only be successful if ‘Smart Cities’ have the means to simplify and digitize access of multiple systems into a single access point. Looking at the current smart cities we can easily discover there are many challenges which are yet to be addressed or are overlooked and could be simplified further to make ‘Smart Cities’ smarter.

The first smart city dates to 2000 BC (over 4000 years old) and was found from the excavation of the Indus Valley Civilization sites in modern day India and Pakistan. With a well-designed city layout, sewage systems, water supply systems and a population of over a million, it was certainly the best city on earth to live in at that time. With the passage of time all these amenities became a basic feature of every city and not much changed thereafter except for better planning, and wider scale. Then, as cities and urban areas grew, they became plagued with congestion and inefficient usage of resources. Then came the age of digitization which challenged the concept of the Smart City and old age city planning. Today, with use of technology, we thrive to conserve resources, increase amenities and make cities easier to live in. And yet, the concept of the Smart City was re-coined with different benchmarks and expectations.

Here are just 3 examples of today’s best smart cities:

Singapore:

The smart city (nation) that leads the pack of smart cities across the world with its innovative use of technology. Almost every aspect of the city is monitored through sensors producing astonishing amounts of data. This data is monitored by a program known as Virtual Singapore that enables authorities to find the most effective ways in which to manage the city. Some of Singapore’s key smart city initiatives include:

a. Parking monitors,
b. Efficient lighting,
c. Waste disposal,
d. Monitoring elderly people and sending updates on their movements and health
e. ‘Tele-Health’ for virtual medical help

Barcelona:

Faced with a recession and an aging population, this city has developed a unique way to use technology to improve living there. A few of the initiatives implemented include:

a. Smart parking and traffic systems through digital transport system
b. Large buildings to produce own warm water through solar systems
c. Advanced waste management through pneumatic tubes
d. Promoting cleaner means of transport to citizens
e. App/Web based tools for live traffic updates and complaint processing

San Francisco:

The Silicon Valley hub and world IT capital, is also one of the world’s top smart cities. Plagued with growing congestion and population, age-old techniques are proving inefficient. Technology is being used to give relief to its citizens for:

a. Smart payment methods for public transport
b. Smart parking fares based on usage and availability of parking spaces
c. Clean energy initiates with the highest concentration of LEED certified buildings in the world
d. Compulsory allocation of 15% of roof space for solar panels

There are more cities we could include like New York, London, and Amsterdam, but considering the terrific scope in using technology to make smart cities even smarter, I am sure they too have a lot of ground to cover.

The Next-Generation of the Smart City

The bigger question is, can we develop a model, a comprehensive view for the Smart City managers and citizens?

What if we provide an interactive platform through which:

Citizens –
Determine estimates of monthly usage
Purchase and pay
View historical data
Find average usage by citizen
Post complaints and suggestions

Smart City Managers –
Track all records
View services abuse
Customize offerings based on usage & need
Restrict usage or send notifications for over usage
Charge variably per time, or consumption, or additional variables
Solve customer complaints and maintain records
Have instant access to up-to-date reports and analysis
Maintained on a secure and trusted platform
Introduce transparency and eliminate red tape

 

Is it possible that any citizen can connect from anywhere, such as mobile, , home, office, or any other locations inside or outside the smart city network, all without worrying about security? If we think about currently used technologies, there is one solution which can fulfill all these criteria: Quote-to-Cash. This might sound like some enterprise solution used by corporations, but why can’t this be scaled up to address the need of the minute and make today’s cities smarter?

Watch for our upcoming 2nd post in this series which will detail how Artificial Intelligence enables Quote-to-Cash to create the next generation of smart cities by integrating and reforming the way city managers utilize technology for the betterment of not only the cities, but also the citizens.

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