Can smart cities be sustainable?

The buzz around smart cities seems to be growing like never before. But what exactly are smart cities? Well, smart cities, amongst other things, deploy digital technologies like the Internet-of-Things and big data analytics to improve performance in areas like transportation, healthcare, water and waste management, space utilization, and so on. And why do smart cities do that? Well, to improve the standard and quality of life for its occupants, streamline urban operations, and foster economic competitiveness. But is sustainability also on the goal sheet for these smart cities? And can smart cities be sustainable?

Yes, smart cities can be sustainable!!

Urban areas are centers of economic growth and opportunity. To achieve the economic benefit optimally, urban municipal bodies are embracing a data-driven approach. Additionally, the approach also enables cities to become resilient and sustainable. Here’s how data-driven smart cities can become sustainable too:

  • Intelligent garbage and waste management solution

The Internet-of-Things is one technology that urban planners can leverage to resolve the problem of unorganized waste collection and disposal.

Dry and wet waste should be segregated into different dumpsters to effectively manage waste. But as manually monitoring each garbage bin is nearly impossible, the city planners embed different types of sensors to set up an automated monitoring mechanism. For instance, the moisture sensors help track wet waste. If by any chance, the wet waste is deposited in the dry waste container, the concerned person will automatically receive an alert message. Likewise, by using ultrasonic sensors, the personnel can determine whether the bins are filled to their full capacity or not. This way, the urban development authorities can promote financial growth while also ensuring sustainability.

  • Sustainable mobility

Smart city mobility services enable city dwellers to travel with comfort while ensuring sustainability. Data from heterogeneous sources is collected from within the urban environment to achieve real and collective transport-related intelligence. The intelligence is then utilized by authorities to offer information-enriched transport services, which also fosters sustainability.

Currently, in the process of building a smart, sustainable urban transport system, data from various sources like satellite navigation, GPS, floating car data, parking tickets, road accidents, CCTV cameras, microblogging, passenger card, and social media is gathered. The sourced data is then analyzed by energy-efficient algorithms. Analytics tools help authorities glean meaningful insights on traffic jams, resident activity, parked vehicles, weather conditions, and air quality data. Based on the insights drawn, optimal decisions can be taken with regard to a city’s transportation system, on a day-to-day basis. An AI-powered analytics tool learns from real-time updates and provides continuous feedback for adjustments to be made as per the situation. For example, smart city operators can send alerts to commuters, notifying them about the traffic conditions, vacant parking slots, best routing path, and so on. This way, smart city mobility enables better allocation of resources while not compromising on inhabitants’ lifestyle.

  • Sustainable homes

The smart home environment comprises of numerous electronic devices that interact and share information with each other to provide personalized, comforting, and energy-efficient services to its occupants. Smart home components include automated temperature control, smart home appliances, sensitive lighting control, smart energy meters, smart medical services, and smart door locks. Each of these components not only transmits data to homeowners and elicit a timely reaction but also independently ensure zero resource wastage.

For example, in a smart home’s gardening system, owners can take care of their plants even remotely. The smart system will monitor the moisture content of the soil and the ambient light. If the soil moisture content goes below normal, the system will automatically switch on the sprinkler. And if the light falling on the plants is less than required, the system will use artificial lights. Sustainable homes, therefore, add not just convenience to their owner’s life but also help achieve ecological sustainability with effective resource utilization.

Transforming cities to become resilient and sustainable requires not only redesigning but also alterations in patterns of production, resource consumption, and waste utilization. Digital and sustainable technologies lend an incredible chance to develop connected and eco-friendly urban systems where ecological impacts are minimized and quality of life is enhanced for all.

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