SMART CITIES

- The Key To Bet­ter Ur­ban Liv­ing

Fiji Sun - - Tech Talanoa -

As time goes on, more and more peo­ple grav­i­tate to­wards liv­ing and work­ing in ur­ban ar­eas.

While ur­ban life comes with a lot of ben­e­fits, there are also a lot of chal­lenges, which any­one liv­ing in a city can at­test to.

This week, we look into the con­cept of smart cities and explore how this could be use­ful in our mod­ern Fi­jian so­ci­ety, which has al­ready be­come quite advanced in the past few years. So, what is a smart city?

Imag­ine liv­ing in a city where ev­ery­thing runs like clock­work. Traf­fic flows smoothly, trash col­lec­tion is done with pre­ci­sion and you can ac­cess WIFI any­where in the city. Road works are done when the area is least busy, pub­lic trans­porta­tion fre­quency matches de­mand and crime is at an all-time low.

It may seem like a far fetched fan­tasy, but with the help of tech­nol­ogy, the smart city con­cept may very well make this “fan­tasy” be­come re­al­ity in our near fu­ture.

A smart city is a city that uses the un­der­ly­ing tech­nol­ogy of the In­ter­net of Things (as dis­cussed in Tech Talanoa, 26 July!) like smart de­vices and sen­sors, digi­ti­sa­tion of pub­lic and gov­ern­ment ser­vices, mon­i­tor­ing and data col­lec­tion, all geared

to­wards mak­ing life bet­ter.

To put it an­other way, smart cities de­pend highly on col­lect­ing, analysing and then acting on data about them­selves and the peo­ple liv­ing in them, to im­prove man­age­ment and op­er­a­tions.

When it comes to con­struct­ing and man­ag­ing a smart city, data is para­mount.

For ex­am­ple, in­te­grat­ing sen­sors and cam­eras into traf­fic lights and street lights that then tie into the in­ter­net can al­low for re­mote mon­i­tor­ing of dan­ger­ous or con­gested stretches and ad­just traf­fic lights to re­spond in favour of buses to smooth the pro­gres­sion of pub­lic trans­port.

This data can be an­a­lysed by Po­lice to make more in­formed de­ci­sions when it comes to pre­vent­ing fu­ture road ac­ci­dents and or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Land Trans­port Author­ity to in­form driv­ers and trans­porta­tion ser­vice providers about traf­fic con­di­tions via apps.

City-cen­tric apps like this can be in­stru­men­tal in in­form­ing res­i­dents of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion.

There is even po­ten­tial use in as­sist­ing per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties as in­for­ma­tion like this can in­te­grate into nav­i­ga­tion apps and pro­vide real-time in­for­ma­tion to as­sist the vis­ually im­paired.

Ways in which Smart Cities can make Life bet­ter

Smart cities can make life bet­ter for many of its cit­i­zens and the timely flow of in­for­ma­tion is key to achiev­ing this. Ser­vices can be syn­chro­nised to the move­ments and habits of res­i­dents, with im­prove­ment as the pri­mary aim. Let’s go through some of the ways in which this can be very use­ful to Fi­jians.

TrAF­fiC MAN­AGE­MENt

This is the most com­mon ex­am­ple of a smart city fea­ture al­ready be­ing im­ple­mented in mul­ti­ple coun­tries around the world, smart traf­fic mea­sure­ment is be­ing con­ducted on a mass scale for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of spe­cific, lo­cal traf­fic pat­terns. This in­for­ma­tion is an­a­lysed to re­duce hin­drances like traf­fic jams as well as pre­vent­ing ac­ci­dents and en­sur­ing pri­ori­tised move­ment of pub­lic trans­port and es­sen­tial ser­vices like am­bu­lances.

MON­I­tOr­ING CrIME

Due to the pop­u­la­tion sat­u­ra­tion, one of the more trou­bling as­pects of ur­ban life can be the level of crime. By hav­ing bet­ter mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems that utilise smart tech, live video can be shared with the po­lice to al­low for faster de­ploy­ment of of­fi­cers to re­quired ar­eas. View­ing past footage can also as­sess high­risk ar­eas with more im­par­tial­ity than eye-wit­ness ac­counts or anec­dotes.

MON­I­tOr­ING wEAtHEr

The first thing that springs to mind when it comes to mon­i­tor­ing weather is how the data can be used to track cli­mate change ef­fects, but there are ben­e­fits on a lo­cal level as well. Projects or events that may be sen­si­tive to in­clement weather can be planned bet­ter to avoid such con­di­tions. It also ties into road and traf­fic man­age­ment as bad weather can slow down traf­fic, make driv­ing dan­ger­ous or pre­vent road works. Travel be­tween our is­lands can be planned bet­ter with smart mon­i­tor­ing.

Im­proved city ser­vices and pub­lic works

Road works and other sim­i­lar con­struc­tion projects can be planned bet­ter since there is a wealth of in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing traf­fic pat­terns and weather.

Bet­ter ac­cess to Gov­ern­ment ser­vices

Peo­ple of­ten re­quire ac­cess to Gov­ern­ment ser­vices that take time due to lim­ited re­sources and man­power. A smart city can speed up this process by mak­ing a lot of these ser­vices dig­i­tal and ac­ces­si­ble via apps. In fact, right here in Fiji, the Gov­ern­ment’s dig­i­talFiji ini­tia­tive be­ing un­der­taken to digi­tise gov­ern­ment ser­vices is a per­fect ex­am­ple of a re­quired com­po­nent for a smart city.

Bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity

One of the most im­por­tant as­pects of hav­ing a smart city is en­sur­ing con­nec­tiv­ity. This means a strong ICT in­fra­struc­ture. A side ben­e­fit of this is bet­ter in­ter­net for the res­i­dents and city-wide WIFI is com­monly of­fered in smart cities as this is an im­por­tant com­po­nent be­hind why smart cities work. Free WIFI is al­ready of­fered for one hour daily at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions around Fiji. These are just a few of the ways in which smart cities can im­prove life for its in­hab­i­tants, both in day to day as well as long term as­pects. As tech­nol­ogy cost and im­ple­men­ta­tion im­prove, we will come up with new ways to ben­e­fit from this emer­gent tech­nol­ogy.

Smart Cities: the fu­ture of set­tle­ments

Around the globe, a lot of coun­tries are start­ing to trans­form their cities into smart cities, with Euro­pean cities tak­ing the lead, in terms of early adoption, fol­lowed closely by the United States of Amer­ica and Asian coun­tries (This is for wide­spread im­ple­men­ta­tion. A lot of coun­tries have pro­to­typ­i­cal projects that serve as a place to tweak and fine-tune what works best for their coun­try).

For Fiji, the foun­da­tion is al­ready laid for our largest metropoli­tan area. We al­ready have an ex­ten­sive fi­bre net­work around our two main is­lands and Gi­ga­bit in­ter­net. This ICT in­fra­struc­ture can stand on par with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. The Gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent ef­forts at dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, to­gether with tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ment, is set­ting the tone for this cur­rent Fi­jian dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion. The day is not too far away when a city like Suva can stand as a tech­no­log­i­cal bea­con of what a smart city is in the Pa­cific re­gion.

We hope to catch you again as we de­mys­tify an­other tech con­cept and broaden your horizons on what Fiji can achieve.

If you have sug­ges­tions on what we should write about, let us know here: bit.ly/tech­ta­lanoa.

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