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Smart Cities - What is a Smart city and is the Hype justified?

Imagine that one day when you go to hail an Uber, you don’t find yourself scanning a sea of automobiles hoping to catch sight of your ride. Instead, traffic flows silently with mathematical precision, and your Uber appears in seconds by where you are on the sidewalk.

Now imagine driving through a congestion, litter, and pollution-free city, without a single cellular service blackspot. Unless you haven’t guessed yet, you are riding through a smart city. Or at least, that’s how the idea of smart cities like to market themselves.

What is a Smart City?

To some, a city where everything is automated sounds unsettling. However, smart city planners say that smart cities will transform city living in several beneficial ways.

l Smart cities will be healthier thanks to reduced pollution and real-time monitoring of city air quality.

- Cities of tomorrow will be safer, thanks to 24/7 real-time surveillance of all pedestrian areas.

- The efficiency of public transportation in smart cities will dispense with the need for private car ownership.

- Smart cities will have a lower impact on the environment, by being more energy efficient and by better managing city resources.

How Do Smart Cities work?

Even today in 2019, smart cities sound like something right out of an Isaac Asimov science fiction novel. This is especially true when future city planners mention how important AI will become in managing city resources and infrastructure. However, the technologies needed to make smart cities a reality already exist.

Smart Cities and the Upcoming 5G Revolution

Smart cities of the future will depend more on big data collection and real-time data analysis than they do robots. (At least, for now.)

In effect, a smart city is a city just like a city you might live in already. The only difference is that in a smart city, every object is connected to the Internet. This means that sensors and RFID technology are present in everything from automobiles to fast food packaging.

As it stands, modern vehicles are already equipped with wifi and other sensors. Moreover, in places like Shenzhen in China, self-service grocery stores already exist, where groceries are tagged with nearly invisible RFID stickers. These prevent theft of stock and allow city officials to identify people who dispose of litter irresponsibly.

All that is needed to bring smart city technologies we already have online, is cellular and wifi networks which benefit from ubiquitous coverage. This is why many world governments are racing to roll out 5G next-generation cellular networks.

How Will Smart Cities Effect Everyday Livability?

Smart cities promise to exponentially improve quality of life in urban areas. Smarter management of city resources will reduce waste, and result in cleaner, greener living. Residents will also have improved access to healthcare services, as well as enjoy access to cashless 24/7 self-service supermarkets. However, some people are just as concerned about smart cities as others are excited.

In China, technologies similar to those used to manage smart city public transportation networks, are already used to limit the free movement of some individuals. By nature, smart cities also have to be surveillance cities. Interconnected smart sensors will, therefore, have the ability to track all city residents in real-time.

Because smart cities will track peoples movements and behavior, some argue that smart cities will signal an end to individual privacy as we know it. All that remains to be seen, is whether the health, wellness, and efficiency promises of smart cities, will counter privacy concerns in the long term.

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