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Cities are growing rapidly. Here’s how they can continue providing adequate public safety, emergency response and other critical services while prioritizing energy resilience.

Cities everywhere are growing – and feeling the strain. Some 55% of the world's population(1) lives in urban areas today, and that number is expected to reach 68% by 2050 – which means 2.5 billion(2) more people living in cities. In the nearer future, by 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants each. Cities of the future are expected to account for 75% of global energy consumption and, as soon as 2025, many cities across the developing world are likely to suffer energy shortages.(3)

Keeping up with this staggering growth poses formidable challenges for municipal and community leaders: How can they continue providing adequate public safety, emergency response, traffic control, waste management and other critical services? Or build energy resilience and sustainability in the face of climate change and grid instability?

Data drives the bus in smart cities

In response, municipalities worldwide are embracing “smart city” concepts and tools. Technology specialists such as Honeywell apply the latest generation of data-driven analytics to develop software that provides the insight, agility and automation to help coordinate city management efforts and streamline delivery of services – during everyday operations as well as emergency situations.

At the heart of such solutions, a city-scale software platform – enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) – can act as a Smart City operating system to effectively interconnect and coordinate city systems, aggregating and analyzing data from across departments to enable better decision making and remove data siloes. This automated operations center serves as a command-and-control hub, allowing operators to monitor and deliver services more efficiently, orchestrate a coordinated response to incidents and engage more effectively with residents.

An incident management application, for example, provides computer-aided dispatch for police, fire and medical emergencies. Residents can use voice, text, email, social media or a mobile app to report an incident, and GIS-enabled intelligence enables faster location of the incident on an on-screen map. A mobile dispatch solution navigates first-responders to the scene and enables them to send event status updates and capture photo and video documentation.

Keep people moving – but not speeding

Several mobility solutions can be integrated into the smart city platform to help improve peak-hour traffic flow. At the same time, they increase compliance with traffic laws, so people can get to their destinations faster and more safely. Speed and red-light violation detection and automated license plate recognition identify the vehicle owner, enabling the backend system to generate a citation. Wrong-way driving detection helps avoid traffic incidents – but when they do occur, a recording system captures incident data, provides accident trend analysis, and automatically generates reports.

The smart city platform can manage public transport as well by automating bus scheduling and dispatching, using map-based visualization and near real-time tracking to optimize vehicle use. A networked video system helps increase passenger safety with in-bus video and alert management. An automated fare collection system handles ticket vending and commuter card usage, helping to save time, reduce revenue leakage and simplify driver responsibilities.

Smart cities are also using new technologies that help them better engage with residents and measure their attitudes. An interactive web portal integrated into the central platform automates communication of data directly to residents. The portal also allows them to submit grievances and offer feedback to city administrators using voice, text, email or social media. It enables them to register their identity and download a mobile app to further streamline interactions.

Manage power and demand to boost resilience

Energy resilience is another pressing concern of city decision makers as rising energy costs, complicated utility billing and aging grid infrastructure pose increasing concerns. Making a community more resilient also helps assure continuity of operations in both the public and private sectors as extreme weather events and geopolitical uncertainties add to these risks.

Across the United States alone, approximately 83% of major power outages reported between 2000 and 2021 were attributed to weather-related events. During the latter half of this period, the annual number of weather-related outages increased by an eye-opening 78% over the prior decade.(4)

Fortunately, smart city software developers recently incorporated power and demand management solutions that can help cities deliver comprehensive energy resilience. These tools enable a city to ‘island’ itself from the grid when necessary and effectively operate as a microgrid powered by local distributed energy resources such as solar arrays and battery energy storage systems. Islanding can keep critical city systems operating during grid outages and other service disruptions.

A power and demand management application can also use AI to track and optimize energy consumption across a city’s portfolio of buildings. It analyzes this data alongside such factors as building occupancy, current and forecasted weather, and utility pricing formulas to avoid drawing energy from the grid during costly peak demand periods. This can further augment operational savings by enabling market participation through automated demand response, which monetizes surplus power by selling it back into the grid at optimal times.

Bankrolling a smart city

As a result of the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed into law in 2021, there will be more than $1.2 trillion in funding (5) available to help cities and communities build a range of smart city projects. They can use it to install electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, transition municipal fleet to EVs, improve public transit, convert to clean energy and pursue energy resilience projects, among other possibilities.

Federal funding can only go so far, though. The success of any smart city initiative will depend on viable public-private partnerships. Much of the work to create and maintain data and analytics-driven city management should be supported by local firms that have the relevant skills and products. Convincing the private sector that it has a vested interest in supporting smart city implementation – which will tangibly contribute to economic growth – will go a long way towards an initiative’s success.

  1. McKinsey Report, Thriving amid turbulence: Imagining the cities of the future, Joe Frem et al., October 11, 2018. [Accessed June 28, 2023]
  2. United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN, May 16, 2018. [Accessed June 28, 2023]
  3. International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group, Annual Report 2022. [Accessed June 28, 2023]
  4. Climate Central, Surging weather-related power outages, September 14, 2022. [Accessed June 28, 2023]
  5. Government Finance Officers Association, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) implementation resources. [Accessed June 30, 2023]

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Matthew Britt

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 18.08.2023

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