Research shows that only 10% of Poles associate the term “smart city” and 40% of them associate it only with intelligent lighting. Meanwhile, the term “smart city” turns out to be much more meaningful than it might seem. With the revolution of the global Internet of Things (IoT), the authorities of individual cities are paying more and more attention to the automation, facilities and creation of new solutions to make inhabitants life easier. The subject of smart city touches upon such strategic aspects as management of urban service systems, transport, energy or security. It also takes into account sustainable development initiatives related to environmental protection, education and even gender equality. All this in an integrated environment that can be managed in a coordinated way – achieving the intended synergies, efficiency and economic objectives. At FIBARO, we have been looking back on this phenomenon for years and we can clearly see how important role smart home solutions manufacturers – including us – will play in the creation of smart cities.
Sustainable New York, the leader for years
Every year, the authors of the prestigious IESE Cities in Motion Index report point New York as the leading city in the field of smart city. Laurels of priority are awarded here not only for high achievements in implementing advanced technologies (leading cities such as Dubai and Taipei), or for extensive public investment (the city’s budget for 2018 is $163 billion), including education and social equality. First of all, the involvement of local communities is appreciated, which thanks to the continuous support of the authorities contribute to the creation of a friendly place to live. However, for this to happen, the conditions need to be in place for a bottom-up initiative and for a number of seemingly independent processes to be synchronised.
New York is a vibrant academic and economic center, a start-up area and the headquarters of many global corporations. The efforts of the magistrate are accompanied by private entrepreneurship that make more and more households are becoming smart. Building a smart city is a two way process involving public institutions, business and the general public. Beginning with the traffic management systems through the multitude of cyclists with Uber Eats backpacks, to the famous Juilliard School of Music and its concert hall management app, New York, like no other city in the world, perfectly pictures the complexity of smart city.
The modern dimensions of smart cities
A true smart city of the future will be based primarily on the sustainable management of all aspects of urban life. This is to be facilitated by integrated systems allowing ongoing monitoring of system condition, as well as enabling all residents and stakeholders to have efficient access to common services and data. From a transport system that allows you to travel agile, to smart traffic and building control, to a sustainable and efficient energy system. All these aspects will start to take an integrated form in the future. This process is already under way in the world’s leading metropolitan areas. Smart urban services made available to citizens through apps or infrastructure adapted to the requirements of mobile society are connected with a long process, which depending on the case, may take from several to even several dozen years.
The same threats to the development of Smart Cities as for IoT?
According to the authors of the report, the process of consolidation of modern technologies, services and places can be stopped by many factors – of course the lack of funds is one of them. Development of smart cities also slows down the same aspects that may hamper the growth of the IoT industry. As I wrote in the previous article, these can be technical issues: the insecurity of systems, the lack of an adequate level of data privacy and difficulties in integrating technologies and systems. Social aspects are also important here – smart city is created not only by technology, but also by people, so it is necessary to provide society with an appropriate level of education (measured by Cities in Motion), equality and access to digital services for all. Let us remember that current demographic trends show a trend towards an ageing population, so it may turn out that the users of the new digital cities will mostly be the elderly. In my opinion, the key factor currently holding back the development of smart city is the need to create long-term investment and development strategies. Smart city initiatives should be designed within a few or even several dozen years. Unfortunately, current policy trends show that this can be a huge barrier.
The local perspective
If the smart city concept was to be translated into Polish reality, it would turn out that the most attention in Poland is paid to transport issues. On the one hand, these are undertakings such as investments in agglomeration railways, and on the other hand, measures aimed at e.g. saving electricity. More and more resources are being invested in green modes of transportation, including hybrid and electric buses. Another example is investment in alternative transport – city bikes or car sharing. The latter perfectly show the important role of society in creating a smart environment. This is because the city can be improved technologically without necessarily involving the authorities. An example is the initiatives of low electro mobility services (electric scooters) and the mentioned bike sharing, which for an European scale is growing the fastest in Poland.
It is a fact that investing in environmental issues allows us to generate significant savings. One of the positive examples is Wrocław city that has implemented a SmartFlow system for monitoring leaks in the city’s water supply system. Thanks to the applied solution, the time of their detection has been shortened from 30 to 3 days, and the system itself is a good example of the benefits of modern remote service systems.
We can start investing in environmental protection ourselves by investing in modern IoT tools. Devices supplied by FIBARO allow, among other things, to monitor electricity consumption and reduce heating expenditures. Just like in New York, the implementation of the smart city concept starts with the individual user.
In Poland, it is already possible to use a whole range of public services via the Internet. There is no problem to report as a Social Insurance Institution payor, check any timetable or use the government’s warning system. The problem is that all these services remain scattered and each constitutes a separate information silo. Integration of all services, both public and private, is a huge challenge for smart cities.
A good example in this area is Dubai, which has implemented smart government solutions and enabled access to all public services from the level of one app.
The DubaiNow app gives the user the opportunity to check, among other things, the schedule of any bus, the court judgement, file a visa application or pay the bill. It enables you to arrange a car inspection, buy insurance and obtain a transport card, valid at the entire motor zone. In the end, more than 50 public services were integrated into the country, out of 22 government units. It is even possible to report the disappearance of documents by Facebook in Dubai.
Efforts of many professionals around the world will aim to integrate as many services as possible and enable users to manage all of them from their smartphones. Direction of FIBARO devices development is in line with this trend. Our aim is to develop solutions that in the future will enable our users to fit in with their homes in a wider context of smart cities.
The smart generation and information exchange
The smooth exchange of information between the cells of the urban organism will create a unique potential for improving the living conditions of its future inhabitants. Data on downtown traffic, the number of treadmills occupied at the gym and the number of free parking spaces in the area will be available immediately and will be treated as a common good. Knowledge of human habits will allow you to search for savings and optimize energy consumption. This will come from renewable sources and will stop destroying the environment outside our windows. With our smart homes, we are becoming the sensors of a new information exchange system. A system that through integrated urban elements, will be able to meet the next challenges of the future and create a better place to live for next generations.