Top 10 Smart Solutions For The Cities Of Future

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Everyone is talking about smart cities these days. But do you actually know what the concept of a smart city comprises? We bring you the top ten smart solutions which will definitely change the lives of people living in urban areas. Imagine having a Wi-Fi connection wherever you go, always having a free parking spot, or never being in a traffic jam again? Or maybe power your entire building solely with sun or wind energy?

Sounds almost impossible? Well, almost!

1. Green Buildings and Rooftop Wind Turbines

One Angel Square

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Since sustainability is one of the main principles which promote the concept of a smart city, it is no wonder that green buildings get more and more popular. According to the World Green Building Council, green buildings are specifically “designed to reduce or eliminate negative impacts on our climate and natural environment.” Some of the features which can make a certain building “green” include:

  • Renewable energy, e.g. solar panels
  • Use of non-toxic, sustainable materials
  • High-quality indoor air circulation
  • Water efficiency in form of rainwater utilization systems

An interesting fact about green buildings is that they actually cost less (e.g. water and electricity consumption is minimal) while the property’s value increases. One of the best examples of green buildings is One Angel Square in Manchester, UK. This building has a double-skin façade that reduces heat during summer and isolates the building during winter. The power in the building runs on rapeseed oil which provides electricity and heat. All these features combined are proven to bring between 40 and 60% less overall energy consumption. Amazing, right?

In the years to come, experts predict a wider use of rooftop wind turbines. Wind power costs less than solar power and it is more effective. However, wind turbines are still not quite affordable to everyone. For example, one would have to pay around €8000 for a 1.5kW turbine.

2. Smart Traffic Control and Real-Time Updates

Traffic jams are, without a doubt, one of the leading problems of modern cities. They cause stress, time and money loss, and on top of all, additional CO2 is emitted into our atmosphere. But what if we told you there’s a technology that could forever end traffic jams? This innovative technology is based on smart control of traffic lights.

The secret is in real-time updates.

What does that mean? Current traffic management systems are limited when it comes to the timing adjustment to real-time traffic conditions. Traditional traffic lights system cannot recognize when there’s a disturbance in traffic (e.g. a car accident) and for that reason, an intelligent traffic management system should help cities manage traffic flow more easily. Real-time updates are based on accurate time predictions, traffic insights and to detect the number of vehicles waiting for the green light, giving priority to public transportation approaching junctions. This “futuristic” traffic management system has already been in use in Pittsburgh, USA since 2016. Since then, travel time in the city was cut down by 25% and traffic jams dropped by 40% thanks to sensors and cameras on every traffic light. The data pulled from the sensors is used by AI to optimize traffic in the most intelligent way, using real-time information.

3. Smart Automatic Parking

Parklio Barrier

According to the research conducted by European Automobile Manufacturers Association, there are 589 passenger cars in 1000 people (valid for the EU residents). This means that 1 out of 2 people in the EU has their own vehicle. The number is constantly growing and that means - we need more parking spaces!

However, building more parking spaces is not always possible, especially in big cities and greater urban areas. That’s why there’s a need for a smart parking system. With Parklio Smart Parking platform, people can easily secure their parking spaces and avoid the never-ending search for a free space. Other than spending less time searching for parking spaces, smart parking will bring less pollution and CO2 emission and overall less fuel consumption. The future of parking lots is just around the corner - with real-time tracking of free parking spaces, flow control of vehicles will be easy and simple. And there will be fewer traffic jams!

Imagine this - you are coming home from work and there are no traffic jams because you have real-time updates and you know there’s a parking space waiting just for you. Sounds dream-like, right? Well, these dreams are already a reality!

4. Full Wi-Fi Coverage

One of the key factors for the success of the IoT and the future of smart cities is, without a doubt, a Wi-Fi connection. More than half of the world’s population is already living in large cities, and that number will keep growing. It is expected that by 2050 more than 2,5 billion people will have inhabited urban areas. With these numbers in mind, it is just a matter of time until all cities introduce wireless connections.

With a stable Wi-Fi connection, smart cities will be easier to manage and maintain. And not only that - wireless internet will increase citizens’ productivity, lives and reduce their costs. For example, there will be no need for mobile internet data. Free Wi-Fi in the cities will help bridge the digital divide and ensure convenient access to information for those who don't have access to the internet and help those who have a poor connection as well.

According to industry forecasts, 34 billion devices will be connected to the internet in the next three years. Planners are exploring how to use technology to build communities where everything is seamlessly linked into one manageable system. Some cities like Barcelona and Osaka already have almost 100% Wi-Fi coverage.

5. Electric Transport and Vehicles

Renault’s Zoe

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Although electric cars are more part of the present instead of being a mere concept of the future, they are still not fully adapted in our society. There are several reasons for this: high price, long battery car charging, and low range of kilometers on one charge (usually between 150 and 200 km). To give an illustration, let’s say you want to travel from Marseille to Amsterdam by car. You would have to stop 6-7 times to fully charge your EV which would prolong your journey for extra 37 hours! Not that tempting, right?

But, of course, these issues are not non-solvable. By the end of 2040, experts predict 58% of global passenger vehicle sales. The prices will probably drop and the production of EVs and car model variety will be significantly higher. With zero carbon dioxide emission and low-cost maintenance, these cars will make an everyday ride in the big cities far more enjoyable. On top of that, EVs that are produced today already have a regenerative braking system. Simply explained - every time a driver hits the break, a part of the electricity “returns” back into the battery. And did you know that Tesla is not actually the most-selling EV manufacturer? Renault’s Zoe is actually the best-selling plug-in electric vehicle model in Europe, according to the statistics from 2020. Its kilometer range on one charge goes up to impressive 395 km!

6. Smart Street Lighting

According to researches over the past few years, between 18 and 38% of energy bills go to street lighting. The classic street lighting system works only on two options (ON and OFF) which is not effective. Why? It can lead to power outages due to continued peak voltage. On top of that, the lighting is distributed equally in all areas (both high and low footfall), causing heavy energy wastage. But how to optimize smart street light networks without compromising citizen safety?

Easily! The answer lies in a prototype designed to monitor street lights. The idea is to integrate a system that would detect human presence and accordingly adjust the light intensity. The lights would be monitored remotely and that way it would be easier to identify power outages across the city. This kind of smart system is already being implemented in the Netherlands. Tvilight is a Dutch company that specializes in street light sensors, wireless street lighting controls, and connected street lighting management software. By now, they have placed motion sensors in more than 100 train stations in the Netherlands. Another exciting innovation is the GeoLight mobile app (available in the App Store) which gives the citizens the ability to control the intensity of the streetlights from their smartphones. This allows them to increase lighting which will gradually decrease as they pass the streetlights. Brilliant, right?

7. Waste Management

Smart Waste Bin Prague

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One of the central problems which follow the creation of smart cities is waste management. With the population increase in the last decade, it can get quite challenging to keep the streets clean. Some cities, like Singapore, successfully battle this issue. Over 7000 public waste bins are installed across the city. Here are some of their “smart features”:

  • An internal compactor for rubbish grinding
  • Able to handle 5x more trash than regular bins
  • Scavengers and pests prevention
  • Wireless connection for easier monitoring
  • Solar panels for battery charging

With these smart bins, it is easier to monitor the capacity of the bins, and effectively avoid overstuffing them. But this only solves the problem of municipal solid waste. A smart-city project in Spain called Urbo, has come up with an excellent solution to this problem. They have a smart management system that shows real-time data about different-purpose bins across the city. This way, they always know which bin to empty and when!

And what about waste segregation? By now, modern households should have implemented waste separation in their houses. But as we all know, it will probably take years until that becomes a daily routine. If you are still not sure how to separate your trash at home, here are few tips on how you should separate your trash:

  • Separate returnable plastic bottles and cans - they can be recycled and you can earn some money as well!
  • Dry waste (e.g. paper, glass, and recyclable plastic) usually has specific colored bins where you can safely throw it.
  • Wet waste (e.g. food scraps, fruit peel, eggshells) can be used for homemade compost!

8. Automatic Leakage Management

Did you know that some households can lose around 40 000 liters of water a year due to poorly fixed or undetected leaks? That amount of wasted water could fill a swimming pool in your backyard! And when we add the fact that leakage unnecessarily increases the cost of your utilities - you might think twice next time you overlook that leaking pipe in the kitchen.

What we need as a society is a smartly integrated Water Management System with which we could monitor water usage in real-time. Milan Linate Airport has implemented a good example of this monitoring system. Much like smaller cities, the airports have their own water distribution network. These airport networks, which are used for both industrial and potable water purposes, distribute over a million cubic meters of water each year. With this leakage management, it will be easier to control water consumption, reduce leaks and ultimately, save water and money from being wasted.

9. Building-Integrated Photovoltaics

Solar Settlement Freiburg

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The story of photovoltaics started all the way in the 1970s. The first type of PV were simple aluminum modules, installed on buildings in secluded areas with no electric power. 40 years later, the story is a bit different.

Photovoltaics are not a necessity anymore, but they are getting more attention and are a favorable energy option compared to classic electric power. PV modules are currently available in four forms: flat and pitched roofs, facades, and photovoltaic windows. The most famous building that has integrated photovoltaic cells is without a doubt, Apple Inc. headquarters in Cupertino, California. Also known as Apple Park, this gigantic circle-looking building has 393.3 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity. The solar panels on the roof of the building power the facilities of their headquarters with 100% renewable energy. And on top of that, Apple also has another 25 renewable energy projects around the world. Another great example of solar-cell building integration is the so-called Solar Settlement at Schlierberg. It is a PlusEnergy housing community consisting of 59 homes, located in Freiburg, Germany. The idea behind this “neighborhood of the future” is to have the first community in the world where all the houses will use only renewable energy and be emission-free. The price per watt for solar panels has dropped by 62% in the past decade, so it’s fair to say we can expect even more affordable prices in the future!

10. Perimeter Access Control

Generally defined, perimeter security would be technologies protecting people, facilities, and their grounds by preventing unauthorized physical intrusions around the perimeter. Some types of perimeter access controls include:

  • fences and walls
  • CCTV security system
  • motion sensors
  • fingerprint identification system
  • pedestrian barriers (check automatic Parklio™ Bollard)

For example, motion sensors are essential if a city plans to implement a smart lighting system. And with surveillance cameras, it will be easier to monitor crimes, natural disasters, and other emergencies in big cities. Let’s look at London - more than 600 000 cameras are placed across the city. Studies have shown that CCTV installation in London resulted in a substantial reduction in crime rates, but only in some areas. Crimes committed in parking lots dropped by 51% and those in public transportation by 23%.

Smart cities, like everything involving technology and data, come with their own set of challenges, including security and privacy. Sure, they might sound like a perfect Utopia, but none of the above-listed smart solutions will work if they are not properly secured. Some might say this invades our personal privacy - but aren’t we all too far gone with the Internet already? For that reason, it is necessary to have an effective smart security system for both the virtual and real world.