What Are Smart Cities?

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While the idea of ‘Smart Cities’ isn’t new, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what they are. Shrouded in a mist of technological jargon and taking forward thinking to the extreme, it’s not a simple subject to get your head around. But at their most basic level they’re simply cities that utilise technology and data to improve the lives of their residents.

But what makes a city smart and what does this mean for mobility? Read on to find out all this and more.

What makes a city ‘smart’?

Technological advancements have seen an ever increasing production of internet connected devices over the years and these in turn create an endless sea of data. It’s this fusion of technology and data that makes a city smart.

Data can be used to control waste management, water consumption, electricity usage, security, parking, transportation, identification and myriad other elements of city life.

Traffic Jam

How are smart cities affecting mobility?

Mobility is a hot topic when it comes to smart cities and there are three core ways that technology is can improve transportation. These are an increase in efficiency, accessibility and safety.

1. Efficiency

A city can improve the efficiency of its transportation system by using data to make automated and intelligent decisions. Through the use of smartphone applications, city authorities can notify its residents when it’s best to travel, which routes to take, which routes to avoid and how busy its public transport services are.

What’s more is that through automation and autonomy, public transport is set to serve more passengers and provide a more reliable schedule as it minimises the impact of delays.

It’s also believed that a further developed public transport system will decrease the number of cars and therefore traffic in the city. Because of this, motoring problems such as finding parking and congestion are mitigated.

2. Accessibility

Intelligent mobility also provides a more accessible service. Mobility-as-a-Service providers like Toyota’s Kinto offering will revolutionise the car hire market as well as the taxi and delivery industry. Concept vehicles like the Toyota e-Palette will offer dynamic services limited only by imagination, like mobile bicycle repairs and mobile shops.

Autonomy also opens up driving for everyone regardless of whether or not they are able bodied or know how to drive. This freedom of mobility is heavily linked to the mission statement of smart cities, that hope to improve the quality of life of their residents.

3. Safety

Smart cities are expected to improve overall safety out on the roads. With a decrease in the number of vehicles on the road and an increase in autonomy, there is less of a risk of collisions with other vehicles and pedestrians as autonomous cars can react automatically.

Furthermore, greener transport will also reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide and pollution produced. This leads to better air quality and a potential reduction in pollution-related illnesses.

The UK’s standing on smart cities

Advancements in technology and an abundance of data is making the idea of a sci-fi like smart city both more realistic and enticing, but research from Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) suggests that the UK is taking a more people-centric approach rather than a technology-centric one.

Officials from 14 UK cities were surveyed as part of the research and the responses suggest that the UK should focus on improving the everyday experience of individuals through the need for a more effective and efficient city transport infrastructure.

Interestingly rather than focussing on ground-breaking technology like autonomous vehicles, officials believe that public transport and personal vehicles are more important in the short term at least until 2025. Three of the most important modes of transport identified by the research were public transport, car-sharing and biking.

However, from 2025 to 2040 it is more likely that the stance will shift towards a more technological approach as upfront costs drop and the methods prove reliable. As well as artificial intelligence, other technology likely to be further introduced during this period includes wearable tech, virtual reality and drones/robotics.

5 examples of smart cities

Cities all over the world are already using advancements in technology to further improve the services on offer and to provide greener living that enhances the quality of life of residents. Here are five examples of smart cities.

1. Paris

Paris is heavily developing its current transportation offerings to bring them into the modern age. Part of the city’s plans include the development of the Grand Paris Express and replacing their entire 4,500 fleet of buses with eco-friendly alternatives.

What makes this a smart city initiative, is the emphasis of automation and sustainability. For example, the Grand Paris Express involves the development of 200km of new railway lines, 68 new stations and a 100% automated metro system that will serve an expected 2 million daily passengers with trains every two to three minutes.

Bus station

2. New York City

Currently recognised as one of the most developed smart cities in the world, New York City relies on technology for managing water use to tackling homelessness. Examples of the city’s initiatives include the ‘Midtown in Motion’ project and the ‘Lowline’.

The ‘Midtown in Motion’ project aims to combat congestion and gridlock through the use of a combination of traffic sensors, cameras and pass readers to control traffic throughout the city. To date its estimated that the project has helped reduced travel time by around 10%.

Expected in 2021, the ‘Lowline’ is an attempt to create the world’s first underground park. The project just goes to show how unorthodox and forward thinking city planners are being in regards to urban development and smart cities. Solar panels on the surface will generate power that will then be funnelled to the park below to power innovative lighting and skylight technology will filter sunlight underground to enable the growth of plants.

3. Singapore

Singapore is also investing in its mobility services in order to provide more accurate traffic reports and help residents find suitable parking.

The ‘One Monitoring’ transportation system provides residents with access to traffic reports thanks to cameras installed on roads and in taxis as well as GPS location services, while the Parking Guidance System provides drivers with real-time information on parking availability.

4. Reykjavik

As part of Reykjavik’s environmental initiatives, the city is encouraging more members of the public to use the city’s well established public transport. A mobile app and an accompanying website called Strætó was produced by the city to encourage users to travel by bus and has been downloaded over 85,000 times.

The service uses built-in maps and GPS to show live positions of each of the city’s buses and bus stops. Users can select anywhere on the map to get step by step directions using the available bus services including which stops to walk to, where to get off and any necessary changes.

Strætó
Credit: Strætó

5. Tokyo

Home of the next olympics, Tokyo will use its global stage to trial Toyota’s e-Palette as a robo-taxi and autonomous shuttle bus, transporting athletes and guests from place to place.

This coupled with plans to potentially expand the city’s rail infrastructure with six brand new lines and the city’s existing sustainability initiatives sees Tokyo as one of the most developed cities in the Asian Pacific.

While smart cities are fast approaching, current city mobility doesn’t quite yet matchup with the sense of freedom of driving your own vehicle. So if you’re in the market for a brand-new car, then check out our latest lease deals.

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