Traffic control and digital dolphins: 6 amazing smart city projects
When people talk about smart cities, that can include an enormous range of technologies and applications—from energy-efficient streetlights that also measure air quality to microphones that listen for gunshots and dispatch police to potential crimes in progress.
But what makes a city truly smart is how it uses technology to deliver better services to its citizens. Here are six practical, yet innovative examples of how technology is improving the lives of urban dwellers around the globe.
Big Apple, big data
Cities don't run on just electricity and the collective energy of their inhabitants; they also run on data. What's the noisiest neighborhood in New York City? Which borough has the most complaints about rodents? What crosstown routes are blocked by roadwork? BoardStat pulls data from 311 calls and presents it in a searchable dashboard that can be broken down hundreds of ways. Virtually the only information missing from BoardStat is where you can find the best pizza slice in the city.
Want to get more cars off city streets? Make it easier for them to find parking. Drivers crawling the congested lanes of Singapore can use an app that locates the nearest available spot and then collects fees automatically. Beeline, the city's public-private shuttle service, allows commuters to crowdsource new routes, while driverless buses now operate across the western half of the city. Singapore's smart mobility solutions are a big reason why it has been named "the smartest city in the world."
Digital dolphins to the rescue
Every year, 140,000 vessels, some more than four football fields long, pass through the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. To speed cargo transfer, the port has deployed so-called digital dolphins, sensor-equipped buoys that measure weather and water conditions and can tell ships the best times and places to dock. With the help of IoT and artificial intelligence, Europe's largest port plans to host fully autonomous vessels by 2030.
In Bhopal, India, IoT sensors embedded in light poles, traffic cams, emergency vehicles, waste management facilities, and more feed data into an integrated command and control center. From the ICCC, dispatchers can identify which city trash containers are nearly full and send trucks to empty those first. They can view traffic data and then route ambulances around congestion, saving lives in the process. The city is even using the ICCC to consolidate information on COVID-19 outbreaks, deploying analytics to predict where the disease may spread.
A breath of fresh air
According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of people living in urban areas are breathing unhealthy air. Enter the CityTree, a 13-foot-tall air purifier that sucks in pollutants and filters them through moss, absorbing as much particulate matter as 275 full-grown trees. Each solar-powered structure can improve air quality within a 164-foot radius. CityTrees have already been installed in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Oslo, and a dozen other cities around the world, helping inhabitants breathe a little easier.
The happiest place on earth?
It may not have flying cars or robocops (yet), but Dubai might be the most technologically advanced municipality on the planet. By 2021, it plans to conduct all license renewals, bill payments, and more than 60 other government services digitally via the blockchain, eliminating 100 million paper documents. The UAE capital launched its own Happiness Index to measure the impact of its smart city agenda on citizens, and it has even installed AI-powered cameras that analyze citizens' facial expressions so city workers can come to the aid of people who look unhappy. Imagine having that at your local DMV.
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