IoT for Smart Cities around the World

Venus (Image from NASA)

In 2014 the UN reported 54 percent of the global population lived in cities. They project two thirds of the world will consist of urban populations by 2050. To handle that traffic, cities have begun getting much smarter.

Fortunately, this process has already begun. There are early stage smart city developments on every continent. Converging trends in flexible PCBs for wearables, High-Density Interconnect (HDI) PCBs for manufacturing, and next generation wireless networks have accelerated the adoption of smart city tech all over the planet. Here’s a breakdown by landmass of how far cities have come into achieving smart city objectives using the Internet of Things (IoT).

North America
Amid the nation’s many smart city experiments, Washington, D.C., earned the title of North America’s first “Lighthouse City” in October. It joins international IoT testing hubs in populous location, including Adelaide, Australia; Barcelona, Spain; and Jaipur, India. In D.C., phase one of the Lighthouse initiative kicks off with 71 smart streetlights with IoT sensors to adjust brightness based on ambient light and pedestrian traffic. Phase two will deploy soil sensors to conserve water and trash sensors to optimize sanitation. Phase three plans involve total control over the city’s transportation network, with self-driving vehicles and traffic flow modulation.

Soil sensors may sound familiar because they have been instrumental in water conservation for California’s East Bay area. As IoT applications become more affordable and accessible, expect a rapid expansion of practical tech like this rolling out in smaller communities across the nation. The White House announced it has made $80 million in Federal funds available for smart city initiatives, on top of the $160 million for R&D released last year. This also doesn’t include the $40 million that the Dept. of Transportation awarded to transform Columbus, OH, into a prototype for the future of urban transport.

Meanwhile, the government Center for Technology has produced a framework for smart city service integration in cities like Quebec City, Canada, and the urban areas surrounding Mexico City.

South America
This past summer’s Olympic Games spotlighted the tech upgrades to the city of Rio de Janeiro. The crush of visitors worked as a de facto stress test on city services and offered the world a vision of things to come. One of the most successful deployments was the backend video analysis of camera feeds that recorded real time data on climate, crime and traffic.

Out of the spotlight, the city of Santiago in neighboring Chile emerged as the top Latin American city for the adoption of a mobile device ecosystem. They also reported on smart city initiatives in Montevideo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Bogota, Columbia. In those three cities, special emphasis has been put on education to address the global shortage in tech labor that is rapidly approaching a crisis level.

Singapore, Taipei and Shanghai ranked as the world’s top urban regions in IDC’s 2016 Smart City Development Index. However, some of the most exciting developments can be found in other cities.

The city of Songdo, South Korea, is a newly-created smart city that was built from the ground up with embedded IoT infrastructure. Cisco’s chief globalization officer Anil Menon, described what this means: “There are no wires; it’s all underground. There are no garbage trucks. All garbage is sent underground through a pneumatic process. In homes, parents can connect to schools and talk to teachers through telepresence.”

South Africa is the most economically developed nation on the continent, with active smart city initiatives in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but the big story is in and around the Sub-Saharan region. The Transform Africa Summit is seeking partners to help leapfrog current technology in underdeveloped countries like the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Uganda, Senegal, South Sudan, Chad, Angola, Rwanda and Burkina Faso. Sweden’s Ericsson is one of the high tech leaders working with the Summit to develop innovative approaches to city-wide Wi-Fi, transportation grids, and cashless payment systems.

European countries face a greater challenge transforming into global smart cities. Many of these cities operate with service infrastructures built on deeply entrenched legacy systems that don’t integrate well. Smart city initiatives have faced delays due in part to the hundreds of conflicting interests on each project. The brightest light in this picture is the explosive market growth of integrated circuits for wireless tech.

One city taking the maximum advantage of IoT growth is the Port of Hamburg in Germany. It is projecting a 70 percent reduction in the city’s operational expenses by 2023. Machine to machine (M2M) wireless communications are restructuring port logistics, reducing accidents by 30 percent and addressing environmental impacts before they become disasters.

Circuit Boards and Connectivity
Right now is a perfect time to be an innovative startup in the IoT space with a disruptive business model and a desire to save the world. Smart cities have the funding and the political backing to push changes through. Practical circuit design and connectivity have finally caught up with the advantages of using IoT. Now it has become a race against urban population growth to make cities livable for the future.

Related Articles