The vision for smart cities encompasses a lot of capabilities that the Internet of Things (IoT) can provide. From traffic lights that collect and analyze traffic data and weather conditions to make roads safer, to smart meters that help save energy consumption, to sensors that detect foot traffic at all times of the day, the IoT is helping make cities smarter. Two of the top smart cities in the world, Seoul and London, give us a glimpse into that vision.
Seoul, South Korea
The city of Seoul has developed a roadmap to its IoT future and is well along its charted path. Currently, sensors used by this Asian city’s taxi cabs are being used by the Seoul government to get real-time traffic information. Fast Internet connection available as WiFi is freely available around the city, laying ground for the Smart Seoul 2015 plan. Under the plan, the city wants to provide its citizens with the U-Health Care program, which uses high technology and Internet of Things devices to help give senior, elderly, and disabled people medical access. Not only that, the city plans to integrate IT and the Internet of Things into other areas, such as welfare, green growth, and the job market.
By 2015, Seoul will let its citizens use free WiFi anytime and anywhere, whether within parks, on streets, inside libraries and other public facilities, all for free! The city currently offers free WiFi access to around 11% of its areas.
What’s more, the city is relentlessly educating the poor, the elderly, and those who are considered underserved when it comes to IT so that they will know how to use smart devices and the Internet.
A big part of Seoul’s Internet of Things initiative is related to healthcare. They will be coming up with U Health Care, a program that allows the elderly, the disabled, and those coming from low-income families to have health consultations and check-ups via remote controlled machines and smart devices. These machines will be connected to university hospitals, community health centers, and public health centers. The city will also put up motion detectors and sensors to help monitor the health and safety of its citizens, including those who are living alone or suffering from dementia.
Seoul is also trying to make its governance a little bit smarter by bringing administrative services online — even on social networking sites. It plans to use smart TVs, smartphones, and the web to help deliver government services to its people. For example, if you see someone illegally parked, you can use your smartphone to report it. Your report will be instantly received together with the GPS and location information so that those who are responsible can easily address the problem.
And, naturally, the city is taking steps to secure the entire network.
London has made plans to implement a smart energy system that would deliver low-carbon, affordable, and secure energy for its own use. The system would make use of communications technology that would give the city real-time information as well as simulate more interaction between consumers, energy providers, suppliers, and distributors by making information about each participants’ behavior available to everyone. This would improve fault and emergency responses and also lower energy demand. The city is also advocating smart appliances that are programmed to work at night when demand for electricity is lower and costs are cheaper, as well as pushing for smart heat control at home.
Smart devices are helping London become not only a smart city but a greener city as well. Apart from helping the city address its power issues and ensuring that there is adequate supply, smart energy systems also guarantee that providers and suppliers are able to detect problems on the grid even before these become apparent.
World’s most connected smart cities
Seoul and London are just two of the world’s smartest cities. London occupies the second spot and Seoul has the ninth spot in the IESE Cities in Motion Index ranking of the smartest cities of the world. Other cities that made the list include Tokyo, New York, Zurich, Paris, Geneva, Basel, Osaka, and Oslo.
IESE put up 10 different criteria in forming its list, including governance, technology, and the environment:
- Governance — When it comes to the Internet of Things, the citizens become the point of contact to solve the problems in the city. They should be actively participating and the authorities should have the ability to engage local businesses, local residents and other people in the city.
- Technology — The city should be able to develop its technology and make use of new technologies that would be able to help them become more competitive, while making the quality of employment even better and their efforts sustainable even after long periods of time.
- The environment — Smart cities take care of the environment.
These things are perfectly reflected in New York City’s deployment of Smart Screens, which informs people about attractions and announcements within the city, but these screens are also informing police and fire departments around the city to direct them where they are needed. The sensors in these smart screens are also able to detect biohazards, toxic chemicals, and environmental conditions, and are able to alert people about these before they are harmed. These screens also help revitalize the city by ushering in more advertising revenues, investments, and tourism. They also helps educate and inform citizens, which in turn leads to more positive changes brought about by these residents to the city.
Smart cities are where urban environments are headed. And at the heart of it all is the Internet of Things.