Key components of smart city infrastructure – An overview

smart city

The world is at an unprecedented level of urbanization today. The trajectory of the urban population growth requires a demanding imperative for sustainable development and better livability.

This rapid urbanization brings about various challenges, including waste management, scarcity of resources, air pollution, human health concerns, traffic congestion, and inadequate, deteriorating, and aging infrastructures.

To prevent rapid urbanization from becoming a crisis is to operate cities innovatively. Making a city smart is emerging as a new approach in urban development to solve tangled and wicked problems inherited in rapid urbanization. Innovation for a smart city entails opportunities and risks at the same time.

The smart city is an idea of future cities, connecting the physical, IT, social, and business infrastructures to make use of the collective intelligence of the city. It refers to a city that monitors and integrates all of its critical infrastructures, including city administration, healthcare, education, public safety, real estate, transportation, and utilities, using Smart Computing technologies.

It combines information and communication technologies (ICT) and Web 2.0 with other organizational, design, and planning to speed up bureaucratic processes and identify innovative solutions to city management complexity to improve sustainability and livability. A smart city ensures that it meets the needs of present and future generations concerning economic, social, environmental, and cultural aspects.

Most new smart technologies and social innovations are disruptive on their own. The combination of them is even more powerful and creates a ‘perfect storm of disruption. Smart technology refers to a product, condition, or motion of technology that possesses the ability to be aware of current circumstances and react—in an intelligent way—to changes in its environment. Those technologies can, for example, adapt their functionalities to enhance performance, efficiency, endurance or reduce operating costs.

A city is made up of various infrastructure verticals that work together to form a system of systems. Such city infrastructure elements, on the other hand, usually operate in isolation. To fully utilize the potential of smart infrastructure, smart cities require an integrated approach. One common approach is to bring all of a city’s data streams together in an operations center under one roof. These centers could serve as nerve centers, assisting in the dismantling of administrative silos. Another way to achieve integrated smart city development is to co-locate different infrastructure components.

The key themes associated with a smart city include smart people, smart mobility, smart economy, smart living, smart governance, and smart environment, and are built on top of smart infrastructure. Most of these components have one thing in common: they are connected and generate data, which can be used intelligently to ensure the best use of resources and improve performance. Let’s find out some key components of smart city infrastructure.

1. Smart buildings

A smart building intelligently integrates the various physical systems present to ensure that they all work together in an optimized and efficient manner. Smart building management systems can boost energy efficiency, reduce waste, and ensure optimal water usage while increasing operational efficiency and occupant satisfaction. Estimates predict that implementing smart building solutions could save up to 30% of water and 40% of energy while also lowering overall building maintenance costs by 10% to 30%.

2. Smart mobility

Smart mobility is best described as an approach that reduces congestion and fosters greener, cheaper and faster transportation options. Most smart mobility systems use big data collected from various mobility patterns to help holistically optimize traffic conditions. Smart mobility systems include mass transit systems and individual mobility systems that feature bicycle sharing, ride-sharing (or carpooling), vehicle sharing, etc.

To quantify the impact of all such models on traffic congestion, we need more researches. Intelligent transportation systems efficiently integrate a city’s entire multimodal transportation options, including individual mobility and mass transit. A network of sensors, GPS-tracked public transportation, dynamic traffic lights, passenger information panels, automatic vehicle registration plate readers, closed-circuit television systems, navigation facilities, signaling systems, and, most importantly, the ability to integrate live data from most of these sources are typical components of modern intelligent transportation systems. Safety, network management, traffic congestion, environmental performance, accessibility, convenience, and public perception can all be affected. Poznan, Poland, for example, has a modern intelligent transportation system in place. A shortage of skilled personnel, interoperability issues, and unexpected delays in constructing hard infrastructure components were among the challenges encountered during the project’s implementation.

3. Smart energy

Sensors, advanced meters, renewable energy sources, digital controls, and analytic tools are used in smart energy management systems to automate, monitor, and optimize energy distribution and usage. Such systems balance the needs of various stakeholders, such as consumers, producers, and providers, to optimize grid operation and usage. Examples of smart energy infrastructure innovations include distributed renewable generation, microgrids, smart grid technologies, energy storage, automated demand response, virtual power plants, etc. Such innovations enable community-based energy monitoring programs and improve building energy efficiency by extending a network of intelligent energy devices across a city and providing a detailed view of energy consumption patterns. Smart grids are an important part of smart energy infrastructure. A smart grid is defined as an “electricity delivery system from generation to consumption that is integrated with ICT for improved grid operations, customer services, and environmental benefits.” Smart grids are being implemented in both developed and developing countries all over the world.

4. Smart water

Cities are constantly attempting to address water scarcity issues through innovative technologies and better water management. A good water distribution system requires improved metering and flow management. A smart water management system uses digital technology to help save water, cut costs, and improve water distribution reliability and transparency. Data and information networks are layered on top of physical pipe networks. To better manage water flow, the system typically analyses available flow and pressure data in real-time to detect anomalies (such as leaks). Customers may be given real-time water situation updates and relevant information to help them conserve water, resulting in lower water bills.

5. Smart waste management

The rate of waste generation outpaces the rate of urbanization today. Cities are finding it increasingly difficult to source, separate, and use various types of waste that can potentially be returned to the consumer life cycle. Monitoring, collection, transport, processing, recycling, and waste disposal are all part of waste management. Smart waste management systems reduce waste, categorize waste types at the source, and develop waste-handling methods. Closed-loop economies can be created by converting waste into a resource using such systems. Their main advantages are increasing the efficiency of waste collection, separation, reuse, and recycling. The inability to predict when waste will be collected is one of the most inefficient aspects of waste management; trucks are frequently dispatched to collect waste when bins are not full. Sensors, connectivity, and the Internet of Things all offer ways to cut down on the extra costs that come with inefficiency. Smart waste management systems make it possible to track the movement of various types of waste.

6. Smart health

The well-being of city dwellers is a big concern in the long-term viability of urban areas and their supporting ecosystems. Smart cities can improve their ability to use big data to make predictions or identify population health hotspots (such as epidemics or health impacts during extreme weather events). Digital health records, home health services, remote diagnoses, treatment, and patient monitoring systems are all examples of smart healthcare management that turn health-related data into clinical and business insights. It also facilitates the provision of health care through intelligent and networked technologies that aid in monitoring citizens’ health conditions. It enables a shift in focus to prevention instead of cures, with a broader view of overall care, healthy living, and wellness management. Smart healthcare systems have a lot of potential in developed countries’ aging societies, and they could help reduce healthcare disparities between high- and low-income groups.