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With a focus on sustainable urban development, the concept of smart city has never been quite as prevalent or as compelling as it is right now, says Nelson Thomas, Associate Director, Pace

The concept of a smart city has progressed with frequent innovations in ICT and an ever-increasing number of devices that now connect to the internet.

Data collected from such devices across all sources are stored in the cloud or on servers and used by government and private firms to improve quality of life and of course for commercial gain.

IT infrastructure plays a key role in the implementation of a smart network within a city.

Network speed, redundancy, ease of connectivity, and the flexibility to upscale in the future are critical factors of a city’s ability to enhance the quality of life of its wider population. The planning of a ‘new’ city takes place from the very beginning.

However, the more mature a city is, the more challenges erupt while incorporating smart systems into existing infrastructure.

Whilst the benefits of smart cities are universally circulated within the construction industry, the discussion on the challenges of investments being made are not overly widespread.

Retaining privacy

Being recorded by security cameras is now part of our daily lives. But we’re starting to ask more questions about our loss of privacy and anonymity and the benefit and reward of being always recognised. Technologies such as facial recognition can detect criminals and alert authorities.

The balance of protecting personal control over your actions, movements, thought processes, and more will continue long into the future. It’s a balance that will become increasingly important in public dialogue.

Impact of cybercrime

The threat of cybercrime is, without doubt, the greatest risk of the digitalisation of smart city infrastructures. It can create havoc upon millions of lives. Public perception and mistrust heighten intensely around this matter and lead to devastating repercussions.

By their very being, smart cities offer a connected network that can be used as a soft target for organised cybercrime, and those protecting against it must ensure preventative technologies are continuously evolving. Using strong and updated security suites can prevent unauthorised activities.

Ensuring strict cybersecurity laws and regulations and alerting the authorities against any incidence is now the way to minimise consequences.

Data misuse, control, tackling data bias

Smart cities have increased the risk of citizens’ data being misused. Access to data is the entry point for potential data misuse. But how can the issue be controlled?

There must be a mandatory requirement of data encryption which scrambles data by rendering it useless and unreadable in the wrong hands – plus insisting that multi-factor authentication is demanded of users. Without decryption keys, criminals cannot gain access or get clarity to sensitive data.

It seems a sensible idea, but assigning a dedicated team to monitor data traffic and search anomalies is not always part of every company’s programme.

The combination of people and security software can automatically analyse bulk data and scout for risk indicators by isolating issues.

Smart cities bring together countless networks, systems, software, and environments. A single comprehensive security system needs to be decided upon and implemented to ensure every security element is covered.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Funding smart cities is an expensive process that requires billions of dollars of investment to get off the ground.

The costs can often outweigh the benefits for developing countries that are reviewing the opportunity in real-time. Authorities within these countries need to conduct detailed feasibility studies that clearly assess ROI periods in order to justify the capital and running expenditures for attracting investment.

Smart cities are enabled through a corridor of fibre optic backbone and the right selection of IoT devices.

For an existing city, creating the network connections and providing the necessary WiFi access to enable services is always a challenge. Investments need to be made to ensure this infrastructure is not only created but also robust.

Autonomy to technology

Is there a point when a smart city becomes entirely dependent on electronics and networks?

If a city loses its autonomy in decision making, what happens when the network is not functioning? How do leaders make tough decisions? To mitigate this, smart city investments must plan for a scenario where the tools are not available. Experienced decision-makers must be in key positions to make any decisions during any system failure – with the right advice.

Providing uninterrupted power to every connected device every day presents the challenge of a continuous sustainable source of power. The only truly lasting solution is renewable energy sources. Solar or wind-powered smart lamp poles with integrated battery storage, for example, can be used to provide WiFi access.

Being intermittent sources, the idea of integrating piezoelectricity from pressure and heat sources could reduce the emphasis on solar and wind power and improve the overall efficiency of charging batteries. Lithium batteries are superior to other batteries for this application with respect to the tolerance they have to higher temperatures, their life expectancy of 98%, the depth of discharge (DOD) up to 95%.

A regular street light pole can be transformed into a sustainable smart infrastructure component capable of housing multiple added value services like 5G/LTE small cell, public WiFi, security cameras, EV charging, IoT sensors/gateways, and even an integrated audio device for public communication.

This solution has the added benefit of being extremely resilient and can continue to fulfil its basic functions of providing lighting, surveillance, and other services during grid outages through its integrated battery storage.

Another potential alternative may be to use wireless power devices. A few companies have already developed the capability to use radio waves to transmit energy. This could be an ideal solution for the future.

Future of a smart city

In the timeline of a city’s progression, the development of smart infrastructure to sustain a smart city is part of the inevitable.

The most successful cities to go about this transformation will be those that will manage to secure the data of its citizens, invest in the diversification of sustainable power sources, and develop a robust digital defence system – all while maintaining the autonomy, identity, and essence of their cities.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Nelson Thomas

Quelle/Source: Construction Week, 11.12.2021

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