Application of Big Data to Smart Cities for a Sustainable Future
A smart city is a way of organizing and facilitating secure, sustainable, and flourishing life for large numbers of people. Ideally, smart cities will enable a blissful life for all, in complete alignment with all the laws of nature. A city can make itself smarter by making its key infrastructure components – such as health, education, transportation, utilities, and other essential services – more efficient and responsive through integrated design and electronic governance (e-governance) using information and communications technologies (ICT). It can also become smarter by offering environments to flourish in and thus attract more smart people. Smart engaged citizens would actively monitor that the technology works for them, and not the other way around, as they seek a free and flourishing life. This chapter offers a smart services framework and discusses about the ten types of smart services. It will then demonstrate examples of successful smart city transitions, in particular Barcelona and Amsterdam, along with the solutions they used to become smarter. We will finally include specific examples of the use of big data to analyze the receptivity of bike rental services in Chicago. We will also examine why the use of big data can invoke the specter of Big Brother, and thus there is a need for sensitivity to human needs and privacy. Finally, we will examine a few implications of big data for smart cities and citizens.
KeywordsSustainability Flourishing Natural living Smart city Big data Information and communications technologies Internet of Things
Smart cities ideally mean enabling the things that make human life flourish. Smart city has however taken an Internet of Things (IoT) image, where collecting and analyzing large amounts of data helps uncover service usage patterns to design better services and experiences (Dameri 2017). Smart cities are thus digital governance and service delivery platforms that responsively and interactively serve a superior living experience to their citizens (Peris-Ortiz et al. 2016). However, there is an imperative need to understand the smart city phenomenon from multiple points of view, including freedom and privacy. The smart city must be created not only for citizens but also in collaboration with them.
Smart cities are emerging around the world. Barcelona is the poster child for a well-done smart city. India has targeted many cities to become smarter through electronic governance (e-governance). Many American cities have smart city initiatives well underway. McKinsey estimates that the worldwide market for smart city technologies will reach $400 billion by 2020. Other estimates go as high as $1.5 trillion (Singh 2014). Through innovative design of living and public spaces, smart cities can bring together ecosystems of skills to enable new waves of innovation and creation. Many communities devastated by natural disasters are rebuilding their infrastructure using the best principles of sustainable and smarter living. Bicycle highways in Denmark reduce congestion, energy consumption, and air pollution while at the same time enhance citizen health through exercise and fresh air. Chicago has developed a bicycle rental system for commuting and leisure. This chapter will include a brief analysis of Chicago bike rental data to discover patterns and deeper insights into the needs and usage patterns of the smart citizens. A instrumented and integrated city with pervasive data gathering and analysis, however, also raises the specter of Big Brother , the perceived loss of individual liberty.
A city is an old concept of a place to live, to work, to earn, and to connect. The production of an agricultural surplus created the context for the creation of cities in the Mesopotamia region around 4500 BCE. Many cities lay claim to the title of “first city,” including currently thriving cities such as Jericho, Damascus, Aleppo, Jerusalem, Athens, and Varanasi. Most ancient cities had only modest populations, often under 5,000 persons. Probably no city in antiquity had a population of much more than a million inhabitants, not even Rome. There is a near-perfect correlation between urbanization and prosperity across societies (Gleaser 2012). The rise of technologies and engineering continues to increase the attraction of cities.
Cities offer resources and services to attract people. Cities differentiate themselves on the basis of their unique activities and services, for which they often develop a reputation (Scientific American Editors 2014). Around the world there has been a mass migration to large cities. Companies find skilled people, and people find enough good employers. Smaller cities and towns find it difficult to retain their young and ambitious people. They have been losing young people in large droves to the larger cities for employment and excitement. Large cities thus keep on getting even bigger. The number of people living in large cities will rise from 55% now to about 80% by mid-century. Larger cities offer bigger problems though. Tokyo is a home to 36 million people, and there are many cities with populations of more than 10 million each. Large cities are congested, polluted, and expensive. The cost of urban living typically rises about 15% for every doubling of the size of the city. The contemporary urban challenge is to make the quality of life similar to that of small town living while still enjoying the higher standard of living of larger cities. This is the major driver for the concept of smart cities.
There are many books for the new science of the smart cities. They agree that achieving triple bottom line of profit, people, and planet is the chief objective of smart cities (Song et al. 2017). Winkless (2016) describes how new building materials help to construct the tallest skyscrapers in Dubai, how New Yorkers use light to treat their drinking water, and how Tokyo commuters’ footsteps power gates in train stations. Batty (2013) suggests that cities should be viewed not simply as places in space but as complex systems of networks and flows designed for collective action., i.e., the relations between objects that comprise the system of the city. Defining the central flows and their networks can help understand different aspects of city structure. For example, this could help optimize land-use policies, the size of cities, their internal order, and their transport routes.
These days people and cities survive based upon their ability to innovate. Cities need to continually evolve, or they can decline and die due to certain exigencies such as natural calamities or man-made policies and events. In the USA, coastal cities of Seattle and Portland have been growing, while Midwestern cities like Cleveland and St Louis have been declining. New York City saw a decline from being a manufacturing hub and reemerged as a financial and fashion capital (Jacobs 1985). New York is considered more open to immigrants and ideas. Young people pay exorbitant rents for housing just to be in New York City, with greater hopes of fulfilling career ambitions and finding desirable life partners.
Large cities speed up innovation and collaboration by connecting their smart inhabitants to one another. However, the alienation produced from large commutes and distances within the suburbs of the cities has reduced civic cooperation and participation. Also, the wealth and thus the greater availability of resources under personal control have promoted self-absorption and egotistic behavior. Thus, there is a need for a smarter city where people can feel more connected and can flourish.
Smart and Flourishing
The word smart has many meanings. Smart can mean being rational and intelligent. Smart can also mean being wise and flourishing, aligned with long-term, and supporting what truly matters.
To flourish means to live a joyful, productive, prosperous, and fulfilling life. The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness , says Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1963). It means waking up to one’s true nature and also growing up to live up to one’s full potential (Wilber 2000). From a flourishing perspective, smart means being wise, in tune with nature, and being self-sufficient and happy in the long term. From an urban planning perspective, it can mean creating a longer-term plan that anticipates growth, new needs, and opportunities. A smart city thus naturally evolves with the times and in tune with what makes people happy. It means being creative, productive, and playful. A flourishing life means being present every moment and open to possibilities. A flourishing city would focus on higher-level work, which is creative and fulfilling. It could also be different kinds of evolutionary work, as new artificially intelligence technologies become available in the marketplace. The intellect would be valued, but so also would be other forms of being and doing. Creative design and expression will be of the essence. Powers (2014) offers a delightful yearlong experiment of learning to live with less in New York City. Through smart work, with long weekends, he could free up time to pursue his creative passions. Permaculture is another positive approach to seek solutions for environmental and social challenges confronting us. The nature-based approach for growing local healthy nourishing food – can help meet many of our other needs including a close-knit community (Hemenway 2015).
The concept of a smart city has largely been the creation of marketing campaigns by global ICT companies. In 2005, Cisco invented the concept of connected communities. In 2009, IBM coined the term smarter planet. The concept of a smart city has resonated with citizens, governments, and businesses alike. This moniker came in handy for cities that were devastated by the financial crisis of 2008 and wanted a new label to redefine and reenergize themselves. The emerging ICT technologies offered a new basis to reimagine and reinvent cities. ICT industry promotes ubiquitous connectivity and data-analytic approach to smart city. This view represents the goal of high efficiency in resource usage and delivery of services, thereby also maximizing profit for the service delivery organizations.
Smart city thus relies mostly on a materialist, object-oriented view of the world, where everything is a unique resource or service that has a technological and economic value associated with it. A smart city system could gather data about the demands and supply of every type of resources and services, from all providers and consumers, and then help deliver them in the most efficient way. Data would be continually and automatically gathered from instruments and sensors placed everywhere in the city, to track every object and activity. Optimizing mechanisms will then be used to deliver the needed services in a prioritized manner. A smart city thus conceived would deliver the largest quantity and range of services speedily and at low cost. The ideal citizen of such a smart city will be tech-savvy and nerdy.
Not everyone agrees with the technological Utopian view of a smart city though. Anderson and Pold (2012) highlight and critique the profit motive of the ICT companies in pushing the idea of more technology, more data, and more cybernetic control. These companies have a history of working with the powers-that-be, and do not always care how the technology is used, for the good or the bad of the citizens. The narrative of smart cities has been marketed as value-neutral and promoting greater happiness , though a city has always been a contested space for ideas and resources. A homogenized and standardized view of life in such a smart city takes away some of the richness and variety of the human experience.
Two viewpoints on a smart city
Efficiency, scale, speed
Joy, fulfilling life
Instruments, rational logic
Human spirit, creativity
Resources, deliver services
Safe and easy access to nature
Big data, instrumented, integrated, intelligent
Openness, freedom, spontaneity
Many cities have launched projects to become incrementally smarter. They use public-private partnerships to try to get the best of both worlds – individual ownership and contribution and state support and reliability.
Smart citizens are self-aware, educated, motivated, informed, and active owners of their life. Smart citizens take their civic responsibilities seriously even as they want to flourish in areas of their own personal interests. Smart citizens will need to make trade-offs, such as between the centrality and size of smart spaces, with the cost and time of smart transportation, and affordability. Smart cities need smart citizens to smartly guide the deployment of smart technologies! It is important to nurture the aspirations and growth of smart citizens who don’t simply use the smart technology but play an active part in developing and implementing these tools for their city. One can imagine a new noncommercial organization which provides the same basic capabilities as Facebook, but with automatic shared ownership, where all have a stake. Smart people will connect and share extensively to create sharing cities (McLaren and Agyeman 2015). People willingly contribute their time, connections, knowledge, pictures, etc. to Facebook, for example, for free. The unified ocean of human consciousness is infinite and can accomplish anything. Existing technologies of consciousness can help align the spiritual forces of people around the world.
Smart Services for a Smart City
Smart services framework – infrastructure and flourishing
Smart city services
Disease-free, long life, pain-free body
Healthy, whole, joyful
Efficient, on-demand, online, just-in-time learning
Self-awareness, broad-based, consciousness development
Multimodal, smart grid
Renewable sources, local
Fast, efficient, integrated, multimodal, low pollution, nonpolluting, inexpensive
Bicycles , walking trails, healthy
Efficient, hygienic, maximum packing
Open spaces, encourage community, aligned with nature
Efficient garbage collection and processing
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Fast, ubiquitous, secure Internet access
Mix of face-to-face and remote meetings
Quality of treated water, monitoring consumption
Natural flowing spring water
Intellectual work, integrated and efficient
Creative design and expression, aligned with nature
Smart Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Infrastructure
Smart cities have been fundamentally defined by the ICT infrastructure. The entire concept was popularized by the ICT companies as a framework to sell their wares. For example, Dameri (2017) analyzes the concept and theory of the recent smart city phenomenon and highlights the role of ICT as a prime enabler for smart cities. ICT provides computational power, data storage, network connectivity, mobile access, data analytics, and visualization capability, for billions of transactions and activities happening simultaneously. For example, cloud computing services provide efficient ICT services to individuals, corporations, and governments to deploy their own specific solutions. Publicly available privately owned smart networks such as Facebook connect two billion people into one giant network and facilitate community building, commerce, and more. ICT will continue to be enhanced with related technological advances in quantum computing and nanotechnology. There will be embedded nanodevices almost everywhere including inside the human body. Artificial intelligence systems will improve the capability of systems, from regular monitoring to analysis of needs, and deliver the relevant services. Intelligent voice-enabled user interfaces such as Siri by Apple and Alexa by Amazon will be integrated in all aspects of the ICT infrastructure. Robotic systems will improve efficiency and will save humans from hazards of highly inconvenient work.
Smart health means delivering healthcare services efficiently and reducing pain and suffering. This means optimizing the use of available skilled healthcare resources to match the needs and demands for those services. A smart health system would free up the healthcare practitioners to focus on patient care, while the administrative system will take care of the rest. Optimizing the location and staffing of clinical centers would be important. Telemedicine would be an efficient delivery method. Web-based delivery of essential medication information would be an important part. Electronic health record (EHR) systems will store all health history and make relevant data instantly securely available to health service providers. The system will be designed to open standards such as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource) so any provider can access those resources in a secure manner. Flexible health insurance solutions could be customized to the needs of every person. Smart health also means a range of personalized self-monitoring devices such as a smart watch that would gather data and provide reminders and preliminary advice. Efficiently gathering data for e-clinical trials would help quickly discover or invent pharmaceutical solutions for emerging public diseases. Genetic approaches to disease identification, prevention, and curation would also be included for personalized care. Smart health would allow a combination of private and public ownership for reliability, excellence, and profit. Smart public health would include tracking using systems like Google Flu Trends system. This would enable public health initiatives to prevent diseases from happening.
Smart health would include preventive healthcare, including diet and exercise suggestions. It would be holistic, and inclusive of western and the holistic eastern medical systems, such as Ayurveda and acupuncture, to provide the right set of preventive and curative health services to every person. It would include building running and hiking trails alongside natural beauty to encourage healthy living. It would include incentives for exercise and meditation and for shedding unhealthy habits.
Smart education describes learning in the digital age. Education literally means “to draw out” or develop. Smart education means rethinking and reimagining the content and process of education. The idea of a classroom-based and grade-based teaching system is an outdated, industrial-era invention. Educators now need to think of how best to truly produce lifelong learners and children in the information and cognitive era where artificial intelligence and robots will do amazing range of work. Human creativity and imagination are at least as, if not more, important as rote learning. For example, Albert Einstein was a laggard and hated his schools and could not get a good job; yet he produced four remarkable research papers in 1 year at the age of 25. Formal teaching is likely to diminish in the coming years, and self-motivated, self-paced learning will take its place. A few interesting initiatives are listed below.
Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques in Education (SMART) is a program to support teachers and staff for personal renewal. It helps reconnect to personal and professional meaning and purpose and develop emotional intelligence which has been found to be a great predictor of leadership capabilities.
SMART Education is the abbreviation for self-directed, motivated, adaptive, resource-enriched, and technology-embedded education. It can be considered an educational paradigm shift for digital natives. Teachers cannot imagine what the future will be like after 20–30 years; they should simply facilitate the students inventing the future.
“Flipped classrooms” is an increasing popular educational technique. Students listen to video lectures at home and then use the classroom time to do exercises and solve problems in collaboration with teachers and fellow students.
Massively open online courses (MOOCs) are an on-demand, self-paced, and achieved at a fraction of the cost of in-person training. Most universities have already started offering MOOCs to supplement on-campus training. Many companies such as Coursera provide technological platforms for universities to deliver such education.
Teachers need to develop a new Twenty-First-Century Learner Skills Framework. They need to analyze their schools’ and students’ SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and select the best future course of action. A smart pedagogical framework will include a mix of class-based instruction, group-based collaboration, individual-based generativity, and mass-based learning. A vibrant public-private-community partnership is likely to help achieve a smartly educated populace.
Finally, smart education would develop students’ creativity. Teaching for creativity requires encouraging and supporting spontaneity, intrinsic motivation, and autonomy. Thus, students will work on what, when, and however they will choose to work (Runco 2014).
Smart energy is nonpolluting, renewable, inexpensive, abundant, and efficient. Smart energy is distributed through a smart grid that can match energy production to energy consumption and include energy storage systems.
Energy is the backbone of the modern economy; it is central to reducing drudgery. Energy is used for agriculture, manufacturing, homes, offices, shops, transportation, data centers, and almost all aspects of life. Fossil fuels (coal, oil), hydro, and nuclear energy have been the mainstays of current energy production systems. Control of fossil fuel resources is the cause for many of the nastiest wars in the world. The shift to clean, renewable, low-cost energy production has immense geopolitical consequences.
Solar and wind energy are two of the fastest-growing renewable means of producing energy. Large solar farms of as much as 1 GW capacity are coming up fast. The cost of solar installation per unit is falling exponentially, and the cost of solar energy is already competitive with the cost of fossil fuel sources of energy production. Wind turbines are coming up in many parts of the world. China has about 15 GW worth of wind energy installed capacity, double that of the USA. A smart city can set up a policy and incentive structure to encourage the move to renewable sources of energy. It can encourage installation of solar panels, windmills, and other renewable modes of producing energy. Tesla Motors has been producing electric cars that reduce noise and pollution. Solar recharging stations for electric car batteries reduce the cost of transportation. Both residential and commercial buildings in smart cities would be more efficient in using energy, and their energy consumption data would be gathered and analyzed. A smart home can be energy-efficient through better insulation and need-based usage. Providing real-time access to energy consumption data alone can motivate consumers to reduce their consumption by about 10%.
Smart street lighting is an easy entry point for cities since LED lights save money and pay for themselves within a few years. By implementing sensor-equipped streetlights, urban centers can save money on energy efficiency, and they can also able to capture useful data on how citizens use public spaces and where more (or less) lighting is needed. Smart lighting also makes the streets more secure.
Smart transportation will be fast, efficient, safe, multimodal, pollution-free, and personalized. A smart city will support multimodal transportation, smart traffic management, and smart parking. Sensors and surveys can help collect data for demand and supply data to feed into transportation planning. Integrated transport hubs can seamlessly connect multiple modes of transportation like private cars, bus system, metro system, boat, helicopter, bike, walking, etc. Multimodal coordination and fare integration can help citizens reach their destinations faster and without hassle. Smart traffic management can reduce traffic jams and speed up traffic flow. Smart parking can allow a clear picture of where available parking spaces can be found while providing an overview of improper usage of any non-parking areas. Traffic management and adaptive light management can light up the roads and sidewalks for safe movement of people and vehicles. Smart cities would install surveillance mechanisms for monitoring of traffic flows and for providing security, especially at dark hours or locations.
Cars brought mass-produced affordable opulent housing to middle class in cities around the world. Car-based transport however imposes great environmental costs. Smart carpooling and car sharing services can link drivers and passengers in real time, thus enabling shared rides and lower costs and pollution. Electric cars can reduce pollution. Self-driving cars can reduce driver stress on the road and thus result in fewer accidents and happier people. Smart parking can save time and improve parking space utilization. Dynamic road-use charges can optimize the use of scarce road resources and reduce congestion on the roads. Smart toll systems can reduce delays and errors. Traffic lights can be coordinated to ensure smooth flow of traffic. Smart GPS-based systems can provide congestion reports along with best rerouting options. Emergency vehicle notification systems can provide information about any accidents and send help promptly.
Special bicycle lanes can improve security and comfort of travel. A bike rental system helps commuters and leisure users use the bicycle on a short-term basis for a small fee. It reduces congestion and pollution. Smart citizens can use mobile access features to quickly notify the correct department about roadway damage, injured wildlife, or illegal dumping. This would help foster a sense of collaboration and cooperation among citizens, in turn creating cleaner and safer places to live.
Smart spaces for living and working would be health- and wealth-giving; they would maximize openness and liveliness. Smart common spaces will help build vibrant communities. Smart playgrounds will bring joy and fun to life. Proper planning and design gives home and office spaces a professional and aesthetic look and feel. Smart spaces are designed using special pattern languages (Alexander 1977) in tune with natural law. Smart buildings will be functional, efficient, and yet aesthetic and encouraging community formation.
Smart healthy spaces should be designed around Vastu principles. Maharishi Vastu (maharishivastu.org) is a set of architectural and planning principles assembled by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi based on ancient Vedic texts. It infuses the living spaces with solar energy. The most important factor is the entrance, which must be either due east or due north. The slope and shape of the plot, exposure to the rising sun, location of nearby bodies of water, and the other buildings or activities in the nearby environment are also important considerations. Vastu also emphasizes the use of natural or green building materials such as wood, bricks, adobe, rammed earth, clay, stucco, and marble. Other natural fibers such as wood, paper, cotton, and wool are used in the interior. Nontoxic materials reduce the exposure to chemicals and allergens that can impact the joy of living.
A sustainable or green building design and construction is a method of wisely using resources to create high-quality, healthier, and more energy-efficient spaces for homes and offices. An environmentally friendly design is about finding that balance between high-quality construction and low environmental impact. Green building combines both materials and processes to maximize efficiency, durability, and savings. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a voluntary national certification process that helps industry experts develop high-performance, sustainable residential and commercial buildings.
Smart cities will need to balance expandability of spaces with maintaining the aesthetic character of the city. Smart cities may need permit increase in heights of buildings to generate enough smart spaces for newcomers to move into the city.
Smart sanitation will be efficient, nonpolluting, health-giving, and cost-effective. The absence of efficient waste management can cause serious environmental problems and cost issues. Incinerating the waste can release toxic gases in the air. Leeching of garbage in landfills also releases toxic chemicals that can mix with water supply. There are two major functions of smart waste management: operational efficiency and waste reduction, i.e., reduce the amount of time and energy required to provide waste management services and reduce the amount of waste created. Recycling is a way of waste reduction. Many smart cities such as Barcelona have already deployed smart sanitation systems.
Automated bins can be located at regular street corners of the city, and they would be controlled by a centralized control room. The IoT-embedded bins would notify the levels of garbage in the dumpsters, and the municipal control room would be automatically informed after 80% filling, thus triggering a collection request. The bins would also have sensors that would sense the temperature of the bin and the presence of any harmful, poisonous, flammable articles that should be removed immediately. Self- cleaning technology would ensure that the bin is cleaned itself after being emptied every time. A smart dumpster (with sensors and software) has shown to cut waste management costs by up to 50%.
In the USA, consumers waste about 30% or 133 billion pounds of food each year! An experiment in Korea using an IoT-based smart garbage system showed that the average amount of food waste could be reduced by 33%. Food is wasted only if one cannot do something smart about it. Smart recycling carts provide an efficient solution for storing and transporting wet waste. Finished compost can be returned to local farms and community organizations that support a local, pesticide-free food culture.
For more efficient recycling, there could be smart garbage sorting systems where consumers dispose their recyclable garbage into a single recycling bin, and the smart garbage bin sorts them into appropriate categories automatically at the point of disposal. Every recyclable product can be tagged with a low-cost noninvasive RFID tag at the manufacturing stage. These tags will be noninvasive and could be printed on any surface and can hold little but enough information about the type and recyclability of each product. This will prevent human error and contamination of wastes. Education programs can bring awareness of the importance of garbage reduction and reducing their landfill footprint. For example, by reinventing their packaging system, companies can significantly reduce their cardboard waste footprint.
Smart connectivity means fast, ubiquitous, mobile, secure connectivity over the Internet and other means. A smart planet is predicated upon the digital era. Without online access and the use of information and communications technologies, managing cities can become even more complex. Connectivity is a precondition of the smart cities and the smarter planet. A vast wireless Internet access network is being deployed in many cities, and a minimum level of access is being provided free of charge to all citizens. Data collection and analysis is a key component in predicting future demand for services. A multi-tier IoT architecture would gather and store data from all devices and then process it to generate actionable information in real time.
Water is essential for life. Water is considered the blue gold. In developing countries the availability of fresh water for drinking and cooking purposes is limited. It is said that by 2075, major wars will be fought over fresh water. Smart water would not be contaminated by effluents from all sources, be they nitrates from agricultural lands or excess antibiotics from human metabolism. Evaporation of water could be controlled by shielding the water reservoirs through solar panels which can double up as energy sources. Desalination plants could work from the solar energy generated at location. When the quality of water improves everywhere, there will be little need for bottled water to be brought from places as far as Fiji and the Alps.
There is a big debate going on about the future of work. Work is a source of income and also a source of meaning in life. The concept of a job as we know it is essentially a creation of the industrial era when people were needed to work around machines. A lot of the routine work could now be done by machines, including robots.
Traditionally, work and management has been centered around the human desires to acquire and defend resources. However, smart humanistic work will support the additional needs to bond with others and comprehend the world and their own place in it. Smart work should support the human dignity by providing opportunity for all four drives (Pirson 2017).
Smart work is that which produces the most amount of joy for the least amount of work. Smart work will be creative and fulfilling and in tune with the rapidly evolving needs of the community. Many people are experimenting with slow life, including a 2-day workday and a 5-day weekend, to live joyfully and stress-free.
Smart governance implies being responsive, innovative, and efficient in serving the needs and concerns of the citizens (Goldsmith and Crawford 2014). Smart governance will include electronic governance (or e-governance) which is the application of information and communications technologies for delivering government services, exchange of information, and business transactions, between government, business, and citizens. E-governance is also predicated upon gathering of data and dissemination of information electronically. It will require modifying and transforming existing rules and processes. Many developing countries are taking advantage of mobile and Internet connectivity to completely leapfrog generations of old systems and processes and deliver responsive governance of the city. Through e-governance, government services will be made available to citizens in a convenient, efficient, and transparent manner.
Smart City Examples
Dozens of cities have done self-transformation to make themselves smarter. We examine a couple of shining examples.
This large European city was hit very hard by the global financial crisis of 2008. They had to do something different to get out of the funk. Barcelona clearly understood the huge potential of the Internet of Things. Starting in 2012, the city deployed responsive technologies across urban systems including public transit, parking, street lighting, and waste management. These innovations yielded significant cost savings, improved the quality of life for residents, and made the city a center for the young IoT industry. “Smart City Barcelona” initiative identified 12 areas for intervention, including transportation, water, energy, waste, and open government, and initiated 22 programs, encompassing 83 distinct projects across urban systems.
Their fiber optic network now provides 90% fiber-to-the-home coverage and serves as a backbone for integrated city systems. The fiber network serves as a direct link to the Internet for Barcelona’s residents and visitors. The city draws on the fiber infrastructure to provide citywide Wi-Fi, at a maximum distance of 100 m from point to point.
The city installed smart meters that monitor and optimize energy consumption in targeted areas of the city. In waste management, households deposit waste in municipal smart bins that monitor waste levels and optimize collection routes. These sensors can be further enhanced, and plans have been developed to integrate sensing for hazardous or offensive waste material. In transportation, Barcelona has pursued a multimodal strategy, advancing the use of electric cars and bike sharing while investing heavily in improving the bus and parking systems. For drivers, Barcelona has implemented a sensor system that guides them to available parking spaces. The sensors, embedded in the asphalt, can sense whether or not a vehicle is parked in a given location. By directing drivers to open spaces, the program has reduced congestion and emissions.
Barcelona uses smart technologies to enhance the efficiency and utility of city lampposts. Lampposts had been transitioned to LED, reducing energy consumption. The lampposts sense when pedestrians are in close proximity; when the streets are empty, lights automatically dim to further conserve energy. Cumulatively, the improvements produced 30% energy savings across the urban lighting system. The lampposts are also part of the city’s Wi-Fi network, providing consistent, free Internet access throughout the city. Moreover, the lampposts are equipped with sensors that collect data on air quality, relaying information to city agencies and to the public. The new digital bus stops turn waiting for buses into an interactive experience, with updates on bus location, USB charging stations, free Wi-Fi, and tools to help riders download apps to help them learn more about the city. Kiosks facilitate citizen access information and services and make requests to the government.
The city’s parks remotely sense and control irrigation and water levels in public fountains. Using sensors to monitor rain and humidity, park workers can determine how much irrigation is needed in each area. A system of electro-valves is then remotely controlled to deliver necessary water across the city. The program helped the city achieve a 25% increase in water conservation.
Together, these systems constitute a “network of networks” generating data that can be used by city agencies to improve city operations and by citizens seeking to better understand their local environment. Barcelona’s integrated sensor network is relayed through what is now open source and available for reuse by other governments. Through this platform, data is managed and shared with citizens and city workers. Already, these improvements have saved the city money and reduced the consumption of valuable energy and water.
Through investment in IoT for urban systems, Barcelona has achieved a wide array of benefits. The city’s commitment to producing smarter urban infrastructure is changing the quality of governance and the quality of life for residents, workers, and visitors.
Amsterdam is one of the smartest cities in the world (Fitzgerald 2016). One of the main challenges right now is the balance between economic growth and sustainability. Smart citizen project helps people monitor the air pollution, noise, and light intensity in different neighborhoods to let the community contribute to the city’s open data program. Throughout Amsterdam there are “living labs” or communities that act as petri dishes for ideas and initiatives to be tested before scaling them across the city. Projects like free Wi-Fi and a new fiber network, personalized television and transportation services, and a coworking space allow residents to experiment and test city projects to improve healthcare, environment, and energy programs in the city.
A smart work project created an alternative workspace for people to work remotely rather than commuting into the city center on a regular basis. The facility offers telepresence technology, an inexpensive option for employers who want to enable colleagues to work remotely. An automated traffic density system that can tell residents what the traffic will be like at any point throughout the day. By using traffic data from private and public organizations, the application can automatically tell drivers the quickest route to whatever’s on their mobile calendar. Residents can use such technologies to make managing their homes easier, and with the help of the city’s sustainable energy programs, they are able to use more solar power to do it.
Amsterdam is one of the two European pilot sites for City-Zen, an energy-saving program that will significantly lower the amount of carbon emissions and improve the city’s energy infrastructure. City-Zen stands for “city-zero carbon energy,” and through projects like smart, future-proof energy grids, and retrofitting buildings to be more sustainable, it is expected that Amsterdam will save 60,000 metric tons per year in carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the same impact as removing about 12,000 cards from the road. The Amsterdam Energy Atlas maps the energy use and potential in the city, based on real data. The city can figure out where there is a lot of potential for solar energy on roofs.
The city’s vehicle-to-grid project is attempting to balance solar energy use and consumption by using the batteries of electric vehicles and boats to store energy generated during the day to be used during peak hours in the evening. Through this program, people could be entirely self-sustainable, relying on stored solar energy to power their homes and appliances. It also helps to reduce investments in the local electricity grid.
Comparing big data with conventional data (Adapted from Maheshwari 2016)
Steady and defined – tank/pool
Flowing and inclusive – stream/ocean
Control and manage operations
Real-time monitoring and analytics, data-based products
Business transactions, documents
Social media, weblogs, sensors
Exabytes (million times more)
High and unpredictable data ingest
Data from business operations
Audio, video, graphs, weblogs, etc.
Varies widely (e.g., fake news)
Commercial databases, SQL
Open-source (Hadoop, Spark), NoSQL
Chicago’s Bike Rental Data Analysis
A few years ago, Chicago used a public-private partnership to set up a bike rental system for commuters and for tourists. This organization released millions of records of their rental data to the public to crowdsource the analysis and visualization of this data, for new ideas and insights. The analysis below is based on almost a million rental records and is a small example of the kind of insights that can be derived from big data.
Data analysis-based profile of subscribers and casual customers
Day of week
Time of day
Peak-hours, morning & evening
Middle of the day
Length of rental
Short (modal rental is 10 min)
Total number of trips
Near train stations
Wider variety of stations
Smart cities can become single points of control in the hands of malicious elements. Cybercriminals can shut down a city’s infrastructure or seriously impair it. Who should own the data? How can the data be protected? Who can mine the data? What kind of patterns will be discovered? How will that knowledge be shared and used? Who will benefit from that knowledge?
Dangers of Big Data in Smart Cities
Data sabotage is a serious security risk for smart cities (Townsend 2014). For example, what would happen if a metropolis running on instrumented, integrated technology suddenly finds itself under the control of cybercriminals ? If the criminals chose to suddenly make every light in a city green at once, there will be a barrage of accidents that would clog up roads. They could also clog up network bandwidth so that other more critical systems could be left unguarded.
Corporations lust after the big data to discover patterns and grow themselves. There is a fear of concentration of power, of Big Brother watching. What kind of foolproof antidotes can be designed for it? All these are very important questions that can have life-and-death consequences for cities and their citizens. Citizens can be manipulated politically, socially, and economically based on an analysis of their data. Politicians can also learn a great deal about their supporters and mobilize them to their advantage. They can also exact vendetta from their perceived enemies using the data.
There are health implications for citizens as connected smart devices such as smart meters for electricity and water emit strong radio signals. These emissions have been known to cause sleep and other health disorders. These devices are software operated and their capabilities can be enhanced without notification to the citizens. These devices can be used to collect personal data about residents of houses. These devices also may break down more often and the costs will be added to the bills of the citizens.
For example, Chicago is a relatively newcomer in the so-called smart city game. The city has begun installing sensor boxes on municipal light poles to monitor air quality, rainwater pools, air temperatures. However, the city’s nascent efforts to collect environmental data are sparking concerns about further erosion of individual privacy in a city already outfitted with police cameras, red light cameras, in-store cameras, and public transit cameras. Many wonder if the collection and analysis of data will lead to meaningful improvements to urban life or just enrich big ICT vendors. It is also a challenge to promote these smart solutions when the city is struggling with funding basic needs such as schools and with creating trust between the police and the citizens.
Implications and Conclusion
Smart cities are a planned way of building intelligence into the infrastructure and services that the city provides to its citizens. These services attract skilled and ambitious people who collaborate to innovate and create prosperity. Cities will differentiate themselves on the basis of quality of services provided to the citizens. The cities however have downsides in terms of their ecological footprint and social fragmentation and anomie. There is also a danger of smart cities being hijacked by cybercriminals and of the citizenry being manipulated by unscrupulous corporations or governments.
Sleepy industrial towns will need to provide smart work opportunities to attract and retain smart work forces. Similarly, smaller towns in rural areas also need to smarten up and be able to set themselves apart on some account or else face decline. In particular, smart cities will need to become places for smart work, so that creative talent may assemble and stay there.
Citizens will need to continually smarten up and use smart education tools to continually improve their skills. They would need to become aware of their consumption patterns. They also need to move between cities based on the match between the evolution of cities and their own evolution of interests and skills. People may need to move across cities more often than in the past.
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