What Smart Cities of the Future Will Look Like

With plenty of incentives for cities to embrace the tech future, here are the trends in the emerging social and digital arena

The emergence of Internet of Things technology is driving the development of smart cities in many booming metropolitan areas around the world. The visions that planners have for these cities are bold—from autonomous buses and free Wi-Fi throughout Barcelona to LED streetlights in Los Angeles that have sensors to monitor their conditions.

The best part? Tangible benefits are all falling into place, like security, savings and sustainability, as well as attracting residents and businesses that want to capitalize on lower operating costs and position themselves at the forefront of the smart city revolution.

With plenty of incentives for cities to embrace the tech future, here are the trends in the emerging social and digital arena.

Making smart synonymous with secure

As IoT-connected devices become more commonplace, security becomes an increasingly important challenge. While it’s unlikely that hackers would target your new robotic vacuum, blacking out a city that utilizes smart lights or shutting down automated transit systems could grind vital infrastructure to a halt.

For decades, hackers have exploited the security weaknesses of IP addresses, but Ingenu, a machine-to-machine connectivity solutions provider, has created an IoT solution with innovative security features that shift away from IP-addressed devices to bypass that security risk and make IoT connectivity a viable option.

Smart-connected means everything is connected, included your social profiles. And although that offers incredibly tailored targeting for marketers, it offers incredibly tailored targeting for hackers, too.

Saving money through efficiency

Much of the driving force behind everything “online” revolves around the bottom line, and improvements in efficiency lead to a solid reduction in needless spending.

While upgrading all 160,000 streetlights in Los Angeles with remote monitoring and smart controls will cost about $14 million, the city is saving $8 million per year by switching to more energy-efficient LED bulbs, according to CNN Money. The technology alerts city employees when bulbs are out, but eventually, it may gather reams of valuable information about air quality, traffic patterns and more pertinent information for improving the city’s quality of life.

And then there are smart windows that react to changes in sunlight intensity to reduce heating, cooling and electricity consumption. Much like transition lenses in sunglasses, these windows can become lighter or darker depending on the need, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found a 19 percent to 26 percent savings on cooling and 48 percent to 67 percent on lighting.

With data from smart buildings, individuals and businesses, cities can reduce energy consumption, especially during peak hours, and see substantial savings in energy costs with the added benefit of reduced environmental impact. And it’s all about environment impact when thinking long-term.

Driving innovation through conservation

A fortunate side effect of reducing wasteful spending tends to be conserving important resources. Saving water, for instance, is always a laudable goal, but to certain communities in drought-ravaged California, preserving the resource is a much higher priority than saving a few dollars on a water bill.

To this end, cities have employed Sensus smart water technology to help procure water usage data and enforce reduction mandates, as well as identify water leaks and other easily eliminated sources of waste. In Fountain Valley, Calif., the network helped the city reduce water consumption by more than 20 percent.

And imagine the further impact these technologies can make and how fast awareness of their existence can spread via social? Imagine taking the top hashtag activism campaigns you’ve seen and adding a component for powering change beyond those tweets—a way to help those affected by droughts and other disasters crowdsource solutions, have access to activities already in place in their local community and be part of the further expansion of developing technologies that manage these threats. That’s just one way a smart-connected city will function—one way of many.

As Ingenu CEO John Horn notes:

A smart city delivers much more than wireless connectivity—it intelligently utilizes its collected data to create intelligent applications that improve residents’ lives.

Those apps will only grow more powerful, enabling cities of the future that are more secure, cost-effective and environmentally friendly than ever before. And that is something to tweet about.

Image courtesy of chombosan/iStock.

@MaryCLong maryclong@digitalmediaghost.com Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.