Technology and big data have driven much of the innovation in business over the past few decades. Now, builders and city planners are using these same tools to improve how people live. Smart City & Smart Neighborhood Technology are growing in popularity because of the numerous benefits they offer residents and city officials.
Smart City Trends
Both smart city and smart neighborhood technology efforts have emerged in recent years. They employ energy-efficient supplies and materials, data-driven processes, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve cities and neighborhoods
IoT, which involves a system of sensors placed on objects in the real world that transmit information back to a data center and to each other, has been especially important in expanding technology in areas such as autonomous cars and monitoring traffic patterns.
The following offer some of the most recent examples in innovative technology.
In some areas, neighborhood planners and developers have teamed together to put innovative technology to work.
One example comes from Atlanta. According to Smart Cities Dive, utility company Georgia Power and home builders PulteGroup have teamed up to build the city’s first smart neighborhood. Homes will have rooftop solar panels, battery energy storage and LED lighting. Each home also will come equipped with IoT innovations such as smart locks and voice-control features for many of the home’s systems. The first phase of the project – 46 townhomes – is expected to open later this year.
In 2017, Microsoft founder Bill Gates invested $80 million into building a smart neighborhood in the Phoenix area. The plans are ambitious. They include the building of roadways to allow for easier use of autonomous cars, high-speed Internet networks and data centers. The idea is to create a smart city with advanced infrastructure from scratch, rather than trying to retrofit it into a new neighborhood. Plans calls for the area to have more than 100,000 people. The idea is to use technology to create a more walkable, safer and cleaner neighborhood.
Traffic congestion plagues cities all around the world. Some have started to use technology to address the issue.
In Chicago, sensors placed around the city gather data on current traffic as well as other issues, including air quality. The sensors, which are primarily affixed to lamp posts, give real-time data on traffic to help city residents avoid congested areas. It also will eventually gather enough data to help city leaders make decisions on the best use of money for improving traffic conditions.
Officials in Israel also are experiment with IoT. They have placed sensors that detect traffic congestion. When traffic becomes especially heavy, “fast lanes” are opened at a lower fee to encourage more cars to get out of the heavy traffic flow during peak hours.
The Energy Grid
In Hoover, Alabama, a new smart neighborhood of 62 homes will function off its own micro-energy grid. Each home in the neighborhood will feature energy-efficient technologies, as well as building materials and appliances. The Alabama neighborhood will offer both a place for people to live and serve as an experiment. Monitoring energy use in each home will help planners to determine how future neighborhoods might function, as well as give insight into what energy-efficient services can be offered to meet those needs.
Leaders from government, businesses and nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh have teamed together on The Breathe Project. High resolution cameras placed around the city monitor air pollution and provide a panoramic view that covers the city. Citizens who sign onto the network online can zoom in on potential pollution sources.
Officials in Louisville, Ken., have taken an unusual path. Rather than place sensors around the city, they have given specially equipped inhalers to those who suffer from asthma. These inhalers have sensors that track their geographic location and monitor how much they are used. In that way, they identify areas of the city where air quality is especially bad and use that information to guide city policy on dealing with the issue.
Smart cities and smart neighborhoods are the wave of the future. As innovative builders and entrepreneurs move forward with these ideas, a clearer picture should form in the coming decade of how this technology will be put to use.