Smart cities are no longer a utopian dream of the future. Thanks to a slew of innovative and game-changing technologies, they are already active and growing quickly.
Smart cities could be described as the junction between three main areas, namely digital transformation, environmental sustainability and economic performance. They can be described as a framework made up of connected technologies, designed to address the challenges of rapid urbanisation and promote more sustainable, smarter practices.
And the more urbanisation soars, standards of living sustainability become more than pipe dreams, but rather calls for action.
“It is a moral imperative to look for new solutions and technologies that can have a positive impact on an evolving world,” says Fred Saayman, Huawei brand executive at Pinnacle.
He says an explosion of internet of things devices, sensors, quantum computers, artificial intelligence, and green solutions, cities are rapidly turning into living, breathing organisms, that adapt and respond to the way citizens live and communicate.
And, says Saayman, we have barely scratched the surface. “According to Huawei, over the next ten years, smart cities will completely revolutionise everything about our daily lives, and the way we work, travel, take care of our health and live. Forward-thinking nations are already formulating strategies to turn these visions into reality.”
He cites the example of the UAE, who has been aspiring towards self-sustaining green cities and has invested unprecedented amounts of money in its Vision 2021 plan. “Similarly, sub-initiatives such as Smart Dubai 2021 are forging ahead with AI-equipped government services, driverless car networks, as well as desalination plants to address water shortages.”
Another country that Saayman says is a leader in smart governance is Estonia, which has harnessed the benefits of blockchain, AI, and ultra-high connection speeds to become a leader in smart governance. In fact, 46.7% of Estonians use internet voting, 98% of citizens have an ID-card, and 99% of all services are online. Tallinn yacht harbour is the first smart marina in Northern Europe.
However, perhaps its most revolutionary breakthrough is e-citizenship that it recently introduced.
“With more than 50,000 e-residents from 157 countries, the country issues electronic IDs the very nature of city borders. Although e-residency doesn’t give the holder any citizenship rights, more than 6 000 e-residents have established companies within Estonia’s jurisdiction to date.”
The process takes around three hours from start to finish and ensures data security, offshore benefits, and some of the most efficient taxes on the planet, Saayman says. “Once businesses are registered online, taxes are are almost totally automated, worked out in minutes and sent to the Estonian government.”
“Singapore is one of the best examples of a digital visionary, as it too has forged ahead with complex computational models that have the ability to optimise everything from the capture of rainwater and the routing of the ocean breeze, to urban planning.”
Singapore has also embedded advanced digital models and high-tech solutions in every aspect of government, from urban planning to construction of its housing units. “The city employs sophisticated technology to enabling architects to build environmentally optimised spaces for living and business. It has also employed precision-layered infrastructure to transform essential services, from water and electricity supply, to complex networks for transportation, all below the ground,” he explains.
“On the local front, South Africa is also actively looking at projects to improve the country and develop safer and smarter cities, and several initiatives are currently out to tender,” he adds.
However, all these applications and use cases are barely scratching the surface, he says. “In reality, we have barely begun to realise the possibilities that digital technologies can bring to our cities.”
“Look at smart public services and better urban planning. Urbanisation is on the rise, meaning that smart cities will become the de facto junctions for data acquisition and integration. The UN believes that approximately 43 cities will house over 10 million residents each within the next decade. Flying or autonomous cars, work and education that no longer only takes place on-premise but from wherever an Internet connection exists, and a host of smart devices are transforming cities into interconnected, and intelligently automated ecosystems.”
“Healthcare registries can be run on the blockchain, enabling citizens to own and access their personal health data from anywhere across the globe, including medical history, prescriptions and Xrays, and they would be able to track anyone who accesses their information. The applications and benefits are endless.”
Uniting mega-economies, green city infrastructure, and e-services that eliminate inefficiencies, digital technologies, smart transportation, and other smart services have the potential to totally reshape how we live, says Saayman.
Huawei’s Smart City solution is already doing this. It works much in the same way a human being’s nervous system does, by detecting and reacting to changes in its environment, Saayman says.
“These solutions can sense, process and deliver informed decisions that better the environment for all citizens. They employ the latest technologies to build a central nervous system for smart cities, by employing real-time situation reporting and analysis that unites the powers of cloud computing, AI, IoT and big data,” he concludes.