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Smart Cities and the Utility of the Future

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Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is...

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Smart cities are going to be part of our future

 

In this article we look at developments in the interplay between consumer and energy supplier, looking at how these may work in the future.

Cities consume 70 per cent of the world’s energy today and by 2050 urban areas are set to be occupied by 6.5 billion people worldwide, or 2.5 billion more than live there now. Improving city dwelling whilst reducing our carbon footprint is essential, and that is where smart cities come in.

Here are five technologies which are essential to smart city development:

 

1. Smart energy

 

Residential, industrial and commercial buildings in smart cities will be more efficient, using less energy than previously. Smart grids are integral to the development of a smart city, and smart streetlights are an easy winner for many cities, since LED lights save money and pay for themselves within a few years.

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We need light everywhere – when we are working, and when we are at leisure. When all energy use is analyzed and data collected, then savings can be made, benefiting the consumer, but also utilities who have many goals to attain, in terms of reducing carbon and ensuring there is sufficient power available when needed.

As well as implementing smart meters, the upsurge of home solar power systems and electric vehicles (EVs), plus better technology will enable better grid management, optimization of power production through numerous sources and distributed energy production. This will ultimately lead to lower pollution and greater efficiency.

 

2. Smart transportation

 

A smart city supports varied kinds transportation, smart traffic lights and smart parking. Digitally connecting buses to traffic lights, bicycle lanes, and instantly-hireable vehicles, together with homeworking, will make the gridlocked commute in single-occupier cars a thing of the past.

 

3. Smart data

 

Big data needs big computing power to mine it effectively. That is now available. City planners will be able to react to changing circumstances using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to streamline management of these great urban centers. Predictive analytics ensures city managers filter and translate data into relevant and actionable information that makes life for citizens better, easier, and more productive. For example – street lighting: dark streets are threatening, but leaving lights on is wasteful. Sensors and traffic analysis will crunch the numbers and come up with an optimal solution.

 

4. Smart infrastructure

 

By using a smart city's ability to analyze large amounts of data, pro-active maintenance will be enabled and future demand can be anticipated. Utilities will exchange this data in real time, and be better able to manage supply and demand on a moment-by-moment basis. Openness of data is also important: so citizens can for example, see that their water quality is being regularly tested. Air pollution is a serous problem in many cities – this is another area where advanced sensing will meet mobile devices – for example your smartphone's GPS system, coupled with pollution reports, would warn you that you were about to walk into an area of poor air quality, so you could avoid it.

 

5. Internet of Things (IoT)

 

Tying this all together is the IoT. Smart appliances in homes will be as necessary as bathrooms. One of the most energy-intensive devices is, of course, the washing machine. If it is a smart device, all you will have to do is load it with clothes and soap. The machine itself will communicate with the utility, and we can imagine a dialogue of machines like this: “We've got spare capacity – start washing now and you will receive a discount on the electricity you use.” “Right, starting up now.”

This demand management will benefit the consumer, but also enable the utility to optimize their power generation much more than is presently possible.

 

The Connected City of  the Future

 

Smart cities are connected cities, and they will work in conjunction with everything from IoT, sensors and data collection, together with smart power systems to provide superior services and a better quality of life for citizens.

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