What is the meaning of Smart Cities? What are the features of a Smart City?

Smart Cities intend to provide better services to the people populating them. It is a network of smart devices that connect using the Internet. There can be private networks too (based on the Internet) so that only a few people know about its existence. Let’s see some frequently answered questions about smart cities.

Digital or Smart Cities are not the next big thing. They’ve arrived in many countries already and is currently helping places like NY, LA,  in the US and Amravati in India. Amravati is a city which is under re-construction. Its designers have included Digital City Plan into the city architecture plan. For other already standing cities, like LA, it doesn’t take much to turn them into smart cities.

Smart Cities

What are Smart Cities

There are many definitions of smart cities available on the Internet. I would define it as follows:

Smart cities are a set of artifacts connected to each other via the Internet. The aim of the smart cities to make life easy for people who reside in or visit such cities.

How can the government create such huge networks without disturbing the existent structure of Smart Cities?

The city infrastructure is already there. The government, or municipality, already provides for networking. Each city, be is huge or small, has a network of street lights. The street light poles are already in existence. The government of the city simply need to set up a network by mounting smart data routers or something similar. You can see that the very basic foundation of smart cities is already there, in the form of street light networks.

Who is creating Smart Cities?

The government usually invites tenders from different business-oriented entities. It then selects one or two of such businesses from among those who bid for smart cities. The government lays out its requirements. The profit-making businesses then design a plan. This plan is the result of brainstorming among its top-level executives of the company that was selected to build smart cities. Planning, Implementation, and maintenance of such digital cities by for-profit businesses also mean lesser overhead on the local governments.

Why do governments need third-party business houses for Smart Cities?

The main reason is that since they are profit-making entities, the companies selected to build smart cities will come up with a budget that is fit for building a network to avoid losses. Such for-profit companies will come up with plans to keep the costs low so that they (the business and the government) don’t fail. It is also feasible to have the private bodies operate and maintain smart networks because it reduces the overhead (costs) of municipalities or local governments.

The government might not want another team of coders, mechanics, and researchers at the cost of tax-payers’ money. Besides, outsourcing to such a business helps in timely implementations of smart cities’ plans.

Who operates Smart Cities – local governments or profit-making businesses?

The operating and maintenance part of smart cities lies with the profit-making business so that costs don’t go high. Building and operating such digital cities might mean employing more talent. The for-profit companies reduce the load by using already existing employees and thereby taking the load off the governments. A major task of the operating the smart devices of digital cities lies with the third-party companies while the government could just manage and individual data.

What is smart in Smart Cities?

Like discussed above, the street light infra can be used to keep costs low. While there, the developers can create self-operating city lights, install smart devices like CCTV that auto records different areas, and such things. Imagine a network of connected hospitals. That would save a lot of work when a patient is transferred from one hospital to other. The bio-history of each patient can be transferred within seconds to whoever wants it. Thus, the smart in smart cities are smart devices.

What are Smart Devices?

A device that can create (collect) data, process it individually, and create reports from the same is a smart device. The entire smart cities thing is planned based on the smart devices that can connect to other smart devices. Any device that can talk to other devices, create or build data, process it on own, and creates reports using that same device are smart devices. A collection of smart devices, connected to other smart devices, is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Internet of Things is the base of any smart city.

Smart Cities are planned to integrate Smart Devices into the existing structure.

Who benefits from Smart Cities?

Every person living in a smart city is benefitted directly or indirectly benefitted. Imagine a place where there are interconnected CCTVs, ample lighting, and ability to call emergency phone numbers or sending SOS message to police along with GPS coordinates will keep people safer. Imagine a house that heats up on own, depending on the number of people in the room! It is not just about employing smart devices. It is more like a city coming to life with the ability to report or communicate with humans controlling it.

Suppose a city that can send commuting data in real time. All that saves time, money, and energy of people residing in that city. Thus, everyone benefits from smart cities. India planned 100 smart cities by the year 2020. The current PM launched the project and ministry of urban planning is handling the project since 2015.

What about rural areas? Will they be left out?

If you look at the current situation, almost everything depends on the Internet. With the pace by which urbanization of rural areas is going, it won’t be long before even semi-urban areas are converted into smart cities. As long as an area can get Internet, it is bound to become a smart city in the course of time. Also, some are betting on satellite phones (radio waves) for providing rural areas with Internet access.

What are some examples of Smart Cities?

The most basic application of IoT (smart cities) is street lighting. These have sensors that can switch them on and off. Maybe they can also go a step further and incorporate a light adjustment to use minimum power! Among other smart cities – examples are live updates about traffic, and weather. There can be apps that connect to the smart cities to help you with heating or cooling your home, based on the weather outside.

The above were some of the smart city FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). No question list is complete ever. If you have any doubts and need answers about smart cities, just post in the comments section below.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN

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