"Smart city" became another buzzword in recent times, but we are going to be hearing a lot more in the coming years. By 2020, we will be spending $400 billion a year building smart cities.
Let’s start with the smart city landscape to see the trend and then look at the absolutely amazing smart city projects that may change our life, make it better! I think we've really reached the point where most everyone cares about the planet and where most everyone is conscious about the environmental and social problems we have. I really hope that this article will inspire others to do something for the planet, for the cities, and citizens, and at the same time earn money! I will also give you a list of big players and key startups that work on smart city projects the most.
Smart City Landscape
Smart cities are no longer the wave of the future. They are here now and growing quickly as the Internet of Things expands and impacts municipal services around the globe.
The smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities worldwide. These cities are expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025, according to McKinsey research. By 2050, about 86 percent of people in developed countries and 64 percent of people in developing countries are expected to live in cities. This is a huge change and in a very short period of time! Now it is crucial to use resources more efficiently and come up with new ways of how to live smarter.
Smart cities currently have a very strong positive image around the world. Even in the third world countries, where they have other problems and lack of support, people are willing to contribute to do something good for the planet. They just need tools and resources for it. Globally, regardless of the country, smart cities are buzzing.
Cities all around the world work with big data specialists, developers, strategic thinkers, and innovators to make city living better, whether it’s improving the timing of traffic lights or creating a useful app, which becomes more powerful as smartphone penetration continues to increase. Cities worldwide can become smarter by using technology to make public transport more efficient, sustainable, and effective at meeting the mobility needs of their residents. Apps and other smart technology can help governments save money and, be more efficient.
Large companies such as Cisco and IBM are working with universities and civic planning authorities to develop data-driven systems for transport, waste management, law enforcement, and energy use to make them more efficient and improve the lives of citizens.
Smart city projects can definitely help municipal governments operate more efficiently and improve quality of life for residents. Public safety and public services are key elements of a smart city, and if you attend a smart city event, you will be impressed by what has been already done and what projects are in the development stage now.
Here are some of the inspiring smart city projects that are used in smart cities around the world and that will be vital in 2017.
List of Top Startups and Technologies Every Smart City Should Have
Schneider Electric, Siemens, Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, Ericsson, Toshiba, Oracle and many other big companies work on smart city projects. But let’s take a look at promising startups that revolutionize the way we live, making this world better place to live.
Let’s start with companies that work on waste management as nowadays every city has this issue on their priority list.
Bigbelly is a smart waste and recycling system that has been implemented in main cities of the US and in more than 50 countries around the globe. Bigbelly provides a solar-powered compacting waste bin that allows for up to five times the amount of waste as a traditional bin. What is also good about it, and I would say the best and the most demanded feature of it, is that it alerts the appropriate city department when it needs to be emptied. This means that the number of trash bins in a city can be reduced by 70-80%, which makes the streets more aesthetically appealing. Also, it reduces traffic jams and ensures that the cars take full rubbish bins instead of coming twice for half-full bins.
Another interesting company that also works on waste management is Zerocycle, which collects and analyzes garbage and recycling data to determine recycling rates for each neighborhood in a city. The company shares those insights in customized Neighborhood Waste Reports, which are sent to every household in the service area. Personally, I think this is a great initiative because it motivates others to pay more attention to recycling.
ShotSpotter is a company that works on reducing the crime rate in the cities. Gunfire is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous aspects of urban life. When a gunshot is heard, it’s not always reported because people get scared or are not sure if this is a gunshot or something else. But sound sensors, whether standalone, from a company such as ShotSpotter, or added to a smart streetlight, can detect gunshots and automatically report it to a police department without depending on citizen involvement. The software can also determine how many shots were fired, and how many shooters are present, which can really help police officers who respond to the call.
Now we live in a world where almost everything can be controlled by phone and we don’t want to waste our time standing in a queue to get tourism information. We can just use our phones and Google it or find some info on Tripadvisor, Foursquare, etc. But sometimes, we have problems with the battery or we don’t want to spend too much time on a research or sometimes we just have unexpected trips and digital kiosks on the streets with information about the city are always a good idea.
Digital kiosks give information about restaurants, retail stores, and events in the immediate area. It also provides mapping for visitors, and can sync with a mobile phone to give additional data as needed. For example, Citymapper pulls in public transport information and provides multi-modal transport options to get users to their chosen destinations. It really saves time and makes it easy for travelers to find information without actually reading many articles and visiting many sites.
LED streetlights have numerous benefits. One of the main benefits is reduced crime, because the lights automatically brighten when there are multiple people in the area, and dim when no one is around. ROI and savings is another important point, with the LED lights just in few years you get ROI and then notice monthly savings on street lighting. Just to give you an example, In Los Angeles, the city saves nearly $9 million annually on utility costs as a result of its decision to spend $57 million to convert nearly 80% of its 215,000 old sodium-vapor streetlights to LED versions.
There are other benefits of LED streetlights, for example Danish company DOLL – new platform for developing future LED-lighting solutions aims to create energy efficiency and intelligent indoor and outdoor lighting solutions and to generate jobs.
DOLL supports municipalities, regions, and private companies, in cooperation with scientists, with the development of new and improved lighting solutions. It is a promising technology that leads to cost reductions; focusing on quality, the end-user, and energy efficiency.
If you live in a city, you probably experience problems with parking. Now, a lot of companies actually work on solutions that would simplify our process of parking a car. Nowadays, mobile apps became very popular in this question. They tell you when a parking spot is available, using parking sensors.
European cities were early adopters of this technology. For example, in Paris, France, the average resident spends four years of their life looking for a parking spot, according to Cisco. With widespread use of parking sensors, traffic in Paris has dropped dramatically.
This technology really simplifies our lives by indicating the nearest available parking spot. It saves time, gas, emissions, and money while also easing the flow of traffic and overall satisfaction of living in a city where it is actually convenient to live.
If we talk about companies that work on these solutions, the first company that comes to my mind is ParkWhiz, which aims to help anyone find a parking spot from a web browser or mobile phone. Public and private parking garages list available spaces and pricing on ParkWhiz. This app also allows people to instantly reserve a spot with a credit card. Very convenient!
Open Data Initiatives
Every city should support open data initiatives and hackathons. In New York City, they organize BigApps competition, which produces useful and resource-saving apps to improve cities and keep citizens informed. Things like air quality, restaurant sanitation scores, building inspection scores and impending legislation should be readily available for all citizens.
Air Quality Sensor
Unfortunately now living in a city has some side effects like for example problems with health, etc. Living in a city means having a lot of stress and rarely breath fresh air. TZOA uses internal sensors to measure your air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light, and UV – all in one wearable device. In other words, TZOA is a wearable enviro-tracker that helps you stay healthy and explore your environment. It takes data from your environment in real-time and turns it into actionable recommendations to keep you healthy. Having data and a smartphone app, you can know if you need to open a window in your home, take a bike and choose a different route to work, or get more or less sun. These recommendations help to change behaviors and improve your quality of life.
EverImpact discovers the origins of greenhouse gas emissions in your city. It is the climate monitoring app for cities, which measures and monetizes Cities’ CO2 emission by combining Satellites and Ground Sensors’ data. Cities get a real-time map of their emissions at street and building level. It really helps to control the environmental situation in the cities.
A success story of digital services developed from open data in Helsinki is the mobile GPS app BlindSquare that helps the blind and visually impaired people navigate through the city by describing the environment, announcing points of interest and street intersections to users, and telling them where to go.