By 2050, some 68% of the global population will live in cities, so despite a temporary decline in some countries due to the pandemic we’re still more likely to be moving into a city than out of one in years to come. This presents a myriad of challenges for society, from possible freshwater shortages and piles of garbage in the streets to the ever-growing concerns around traffic and air pollution. In response we need to make urban environments more efficient, cleaner, safer and more comfortable to live in and to do that we have to harness the benefits of the latest technology. And the more sophisticated it gets, the more effective it will be. The solution – or at least one – is likely to come from the development of smart cities, with tech-driven buildings and utilities focused on improving quality of life for residents and reducing the use of resources.
How to make smart cities smart
Five key areas have been identified where AIoT is likely to play a central role in these new connected cities. First, a smart infrastructure is a must. Energy efficiency and sustainability will be enhanced with the integration of more intelligent systems – street lighting power, for example, can be monitored and controlled according to necessity, while the growing use of electric cars and other EVs (electric vehicles) will help to reduce CO2 emissions considerably.
Air pollution is already a major issue in cities around the world and will become even more critical as cities grow. Air management tools using AI software will work together with sensors that measure pollution levels at any given time and will be able to predict how those levels will change.
The road to improvement
Traffic is a critical issue, both in terms of personal vehicles as well as the infrastructure to help keep cities on the move in our future smart connected cities. A good example of how things could work is in Los Angeles, where sensors embedded in pavements send real-time updates on the levels of congestion to a central system that can then analyze it and adjust traffic lights automatically. Smart parking will also help keep traffic flowing. Today, some 30% of traffic in city centers is apparently caused by people just driving around looking for car parking spaces.
But what if our cars could find a space and park themselves? Here, Bosch has been involved in a project at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, where we have installed a state-of-the-art self-parking solution. Ralf Mårtensson, Business Development Manager, Nordic, explains.
“Sensors in the car (cameras, ultra-sonic sensors) exchange information with a software solution in the car park. A driver’s app starts the operation, giving the car park access to the car. Software then calculates the route through the car park and uses information from the sensors in the car and from those in the car park to safely drive the car hands free to the pre-planned slot.”
Elsewhere in state-of-the-art cities, charging docks will communicate with cars via apps and lead drivers to vacant parking spots, while safety should also be improved thanks to crash detection software for cars, motorcycles and bicycles – In some countries if you are involved in an accident, software will be capable of automatically calling the emergency services for you if necessary.
Fresher air and an enhanced environment will also be dependent on improved waste management. AIoT technology will help improve the efficiency of this vital part of the infrastructure. Again, sensors will be at the heart of the operation. Placed in domestic and industrial waste bins they will send messages to collectors when full, while at the same time the unnecessary collection and emptying of bins that aren’t full can also be eliminated. Hopefully the sight of piles of garbage on city streets will be a thing of the past.
There is no denying the increasingly urgent need to furnish our urban environments with smart connected technology focused on improving life for those who live and work in them. “When traffic flow can be optimized for the transportation of both people and goods, and air quality and other infrastructure improvements made, there will be more space for the individual to move in and around,” concludes Mårtensson. “And the smart city really will be more accessible and open for its citizens.”