Bright lights, big city and smart sensors

Posted March 03, 2017

As a city grows, it also needs more resources.
Since resources are limited, we need to get smart about the urbanisation.
Ecology, technology and sociology are now fusing to create the sustainable city.

According to UN, the largest immigration, 95 per cent, is taking place in developing countries, but western countries are quickly becoming more urbanised. People want to make a living for themselves and their families while partaking in the city’s possibilities. Smart cities must handle vastly more people sustainably and without glitches in the everyday flow for the population.

Barcelona and Amsterdam are known to be the first smart cities.
In Sweden, there are smart city projects popping up everywhere. One of them is the project “IoT Lund”, a part of Vinnova initiatives Strategic Innovation program for the Internet of Things (IoT).
The project team is led by Research Institute of Sweden (RISE) and consists of the municipalities of Malmö and Lund, representatives from Lund University, Malmö University and Mobile Heights, as well as several prominent companies with a local presence. It aims to improve the process of how public agencies get new IoT solutions into their operations.

The human perspective
But what exactly is a smart city?
It could involve novel technological solutions to handle waste management and transportation or to build sustainable homes and connect people through wireless Internet everywhere, using Internet of things (IoT). However, a smart city is not based solely on technology.
– The technology is a tool, says Victoria Percovich-Gutierrez, sustainability strategist at White Architects.
– It can help us to make cities equitable. Separate parts of a city can display more than ten years of difference in life expectancy. A smarter transportation infrastructure can for example enable people all over a city to gain access to culture, sports, and nature – culture is the glue that unifies different parts of a city.
– We work to give people ownership over the whole city. White Architects’ overall work is being conducted with a much larger perspective in mind than just drawing houses.

Sensors will be the integral technology in the smart city

Gunters Alce, augmented reality/IoT-researcher in Ergonomics and Aerosol Technolgy group at Lund University, says that sensors are an integral part of the technology in a smart city.
– Example of sensors connected to the Internet are microphones, cameras, bluetooth low energy beacons used for positioning and detection and air sensors.

Sensors are sophisticated devices that are frequently used to detect and respond to electrical or optical signals. Examples of sensors used in smart cities are bluetooth low energy beacons, pressure sensors, cameras and air sensors that pick up particles in the air.
The sensors generate piles of big data that can be used intelligently at its best, and invading our integrity at worst. Sweco Smart City Task Force says in their blog that the technology can be used to increase our knowledge of the physical environment, how it affects behaviour and commerce.

Sensor-based knowledge could aid the large infrastructures such as transportation and energy production/consumption in the city, to stay tuned to needs and visions. Victoria Percovich-Gutierrez says that White Architects have the direction the society is moving in in mind. She gives an example of sustainability in today´s and the future’s cities:
– Let us use buildings that we already have, and use them – and let’s be smart about it. There is no need to tear down and build again just for the sake of it. We can still design smart cities, and we can do it sustainably.

Read more here and here (Swedish).

Photo: Amsterdan by Moyan Brenn, CC BY 2.0