As American cities feel the pressure of urban growth, rents are rising faster than incomes, more than 500,000 people are homeless, racial and social justice issues persist, some of which are making much-needed progress. They are becoming “smart cities” as defined by the McKinsey Global Institute, a place that uses technology and data to make better decisions and improve the quality of life.
For any city, a key condition is the understanding of geographic location, and geographic location determines the current situation and future of the city. This is why the backbone of the urban planning system is the science and practice of geography. In the past generation, city agencies adopted geographic information systems (GIS), initially as a system of records for property management, infrastructure, transportation, and public safety. In the past ten years, they have built embedded sensors, mobile devices, high-speed wireless connections, index data and advanced analysis on this basis.
The result is the potential of a truly smart city, not only in terms of affordability and convenience, but also in terms of deepening social connections.
A few cities and communities are eager to realize this vision. They use sensors for real-time input to the data center, artificial intelligence (AI) for faster applications, multi-level socio-demographic data, 3D models to build and analyze their city’s digital twins, and others that we will explore here.
3-D models and digital twins
In Boston, planners have initiated 103 major projects, including more than 8,000 new residential units. They first used 3-D smart maps to analyze buildable land, including permit requirements and environmental impact.
They used these 3D maps to create a digital twin model—a model of the city that includes buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation. Urban planners use digital twins to iterate projects by adding design and data layers to explore and optimize development.
Digital twins can also provide insight into the condition of specific communities and buildings-down to the floor or room level, up to the airspace above the existing structure (including the roof). 3-D maps or digital twins make all this information available to managers, first responders, transportation workers, healthcare providers, local businesses, educators, and most importantly residents.
By sharing this data from the digital twin through dashboards or web applications, city leaders can provide important information to the public.
Near Atlanta, Cobb County leaders use GIS-driven dashboards to manage vehicle and pedestrian traffic around major venues by analyzing road closures, accidents, and real-time congestion. They also combine artificial intelligence with machine learning to monitor and adjust traffic signals.
In Gresham, Oregon, city staff created a smart asset management system, including a location-based public service asset registry. This work supports many city departments in optimizing everything from street reconstruction projects, traffic flow and urban fire hydrant flushing plans to asset repair and replacement, cost management, and street resurfacing.
IoT sensors and artificial intelligence
Smart cities focus on data-driven performance. They typically use data streams from IoT sensors and mobile devices embedded in urban infrastructure, vehicles, and buildings. These data can be analyzed through deep learning and other forms of artificial intelligence. The result is not only improved mobility (such as adaptive traffic lights in Cobb County), but also a broad shift to real-time decision-making.
In Coral Gables, Florida, city leaders established a smart city center that integrates critical data, high-speed communication networks, and IoT-driven devices (such as pedestrian sensors deployed on the city’s Giralda Plaza promenade) Integrate together. This modern approach is changing the way city officials and residents communicate, while also helping public safety efforts such as hurricane preparedness and supporting sustainable development goals.
Cooperation Platforms and Citizen Inclusion
Smart Cities have interacted with tripartite members from the very beginning to determine the priorities of citizens, empower groups with special concerns and needs, and strive to improve social equity.
Oakland’s Department of Race and Equality-the first of its kind in California-uses location technology to inform the analysis of the impact of racial equality on city decisions and policies, similar to the way cities have used environmental impact analysis for a generation. Oakland’s racial impact analysis bring out a question : what impacts will this decision have on equity? Challenges still exist in.
2021 and beyond
Population growth is in sync with urban development. However, even with the power of shared real-time data and visualization, ambitious citizenship projects require collaboration between multiple agencies and stakeholders. However, by applying more advanced technological tools, leaders can reinvigorate this collaboration to achieve smarter and more sustainable cities.