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Kyle DeWitt

How Integrating Tech Can Transform Cities

From increased safety to enhanced connectivity, smart cities offer endless possibilities for governments and municipalities, as well as the partners who supply the solutions that make them possible. An interwoven grid on a scale unlike anything we’ve seen before will become the norm as cities recognize and capitalize on the plethora of possibilities and cost-saving potential smart cities offer.

While there’s not necessarily a set definition of a smart city, one’s underlining function is to utilize automation and interconnected solutions to increase efficiency, savings and security. Whether it’s AI-powered predictive traffic control systems, fleet management of public transportation or weather-adaptive LED lights, your city may soon resemble something that even the Jetsons would envy, short of the flying cars.

Take the typical trash bin as an example. For many of us, waste management services come to pick up our trash on set days of the week. Some days the containers are overflowing with rubbish – requiring additional time from collectors to empty it into a truck – while other times a collection wasn’t yet necessary. By equipping bins with IoT devices such as low data rate sensors, the receptacles can “talk” to waste management services, notifying them when a collection is needed or when their time can be better spent elsewhere, saving the government, and taxpayers, money.

Another prime example – and certainly a more glamorous one – is the use of drones with low-latency, high-bandwidth cameras that can be used for a variety of purposes, a few being improvement of traffic conditions and commute times. Intelligent cameras along the interstate can detect changes in traffic flow, and when a disruption in traffic is identified, a drone can automatically be deployed within seconds to “investigate” the source. If it’s merely a fender bender, a single officer may be dispatched to help return the flow of traffic back to normal while DOT workers and clean-up crews respond and work in tandem to clear wreckage. Quicker response and clean up times lead to lower emissions and less wear and tear on city roads.

When it comes to mass transit – such as buses and trains – smart cities can provide monitoring from a myriad of data points, including GPS location, orientation, capacity, and health of the various subsystems like drivetrain, doors, and wheels. When certain criteria are met, information can instantly be sent to appropriate parties to take action. For example, if a train derails, fire, EMS, and police can immediately be alerted, hospitals can be notified of possible incoming patients, and even the aforementioned drone can get early eyes on the incident to more accurately determine the needed resources. A city’s efficiencies and allocation of resources would see drastic improvement almost immediately after deploying this type of technology.

It goes without saying that some of these things are closer on the horizon than others. Smart lighting and traffic control are among the components of a smart city we’ll likely see more of soon. Mission-critical operations, however, including the use of drones, will rely more heavily on the widespread availability of 5G – something we’re already starting to see tested in select locations nationwide. Regardless of how they take shape, smart cities are about creating efficiency through automation and ensuring that time and resources are used in the best way possible – all to create a better “customer” experience for local citizens and visitors.