- The Key To Better Urban Living
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.