Smart watch, smart TV, smart car… In an age where everything is smart, it’s only normal for cities to also slowly move towards becoming smart cities. The Smart Cities Council defines a smart city as “one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions”. This includes eight elements: smart governance, smart citizens, smart healthcare, smart energy, smart technology (of course), smart mobility, smart building and finally, smart infrastructure.
What makes a smart city? The most important elements include the adoption of smart grid technologies, intelligent lighting and the use of information technology to improve traffic, WiFi access points, smartphone penetration, the app landscape and the use of energy. It’s generally accepted that smart city technology is closely related to the Internet of Things.
Getting around in a smart city
But how will this technology affect our approach to transportation? Well, if you have ever used Google Maps to check the traffic on the route you’re taking, you will already have a sense of how it works. If the route you want to take is congested, then that route will show up as red. Google knows when there are many drivers on that road because it can monitor the number of people using the road via their phones.
An important element of smart cities is that they aim to improve the lives of their citizens by using technology. So the next step in this scenario would be to connect the information we have on the vehicles to improve the traffic flow by making traffic lights more responsive and diverting traffic away from congested areas. This can also be done by digital signboarding or messages sent out on radio broadcasts.
Find out more about smart cities in this podcast from the BBC.
Smart transport systems in smart cities
In smart cities, technology can provide information that improves the quality of life (based on data from various sensors, computers, smartphones, drones and other devices) to inform citizens about the availability of public transport or counteracting pollution or noise.
There are many ways in which new technology is being used to improve transport systems in smart cities. For instance, energy saved by installing smart street lights can be redirected and reused. Citizens can also become involved in making smart cities better by submitting information to municipalities, for example, by sending details about potholes so their repairs can be prioritised. This kind of technology will certainly make a big difference to service delivery in South Africa.
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