Why Sustainability Plays a Key Role in the Smart City

By Abigail Smith

According to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “Today, around 55 percent of the world’s population is thought to be living in an urban area or city, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent over the coming decades.” These startling statistics brings to light the question of how we move forward using more sustainable approaches. This looks at the new idea of smart cities, which takes at a more sustainable approach using advancements in technology to improve antiquated strategies to tackle current city initiatives. 

What are Smart Cities?

Smart cities have become a recent trend in the technology market for applying technology and innovation to enhance the quality of human performance within everyday tasks. A smart city in itself is essentially a connected city that uses modern technologies to improve the overall quality of life and performance within human interactions. This not only creates a more innovative lifestyle approach but also helps to reduce lifestyle aspects such as cutting down operation costs and bettering the communication and engagement between citizens. 

There are many areas that can benefit from the idea of smart cities, such as “transportation, energy, healthcare, water, and waste management.” The concept of smart cities helps bring together the antiquated approach of societal living through bringing the leverage of the modern world to help combine new areas of tech in ways that we can create more sustainable and technologically aware cities within our ecosystem. 

So - Sustainability within smart cities?

Definitely yes. 

Sustainability has the ability to open many avenues in the way we choose to implement technology in the upcoming years. There is more to smart cities than meets the eye in regards to the ways that modern tech can serve as an advantage for everyday human tasks. 

Let's see different ways technology and innovation is enhancing sustainability in smart cities. 

Public transport

One avenue within the sustainability market is public transportation. The company All Aboard Florida has been paving the way in the sustainable transportation market. Their platform has modernized an environmentally-friendly approach to improving sustainability within public transportation. Their approach leverages data or “smart” data to reduce vibrations in order to monitor the effects and resource consumption, reduce fuel costs and determine the impact that air and water quality has on the nearby areas. 

This smart city approach also has the ability to approach other tasks such as measuring water levels and average weather patterns to predict natural distractions such as droughts and hurricanes. 

Hitachi is also working on a project called Social Innovation that finds new ways to use larger data systems to make businesses and communities safer. For instance, this project will set up unique sensors that will alert law officers if there's an overcrowded subway platform. These sensors would send an alert so new transportations options are sent and the potential hazard is avoided. This would not only help the safety of our cities but would dramatically improve commute times with hazardous driving contributing to less driving accidents. 

Waste Management

Another aspect of smart cities is looking at ways we can reduce waste and garbage accumulation and optimizing waste management. “The World Bank estimates that the global cost of managing our landfill collections alone will rise to $375 billion by 2025 – an unsustainable cost in the long term (cite).” 

Ways to mitigate the problems surrounding garbage accumulation is through smart cities that directly works with sustainable alternatives such as smart garbage bins, self-powered with solar technology which gives you the ability to communicate in real-time, which can help combat problems such as garbage overflow and the excess of garbage waste. This also will help eliminate unnecessary garbage pickups, which in turn will help preserve fossil fuels, reduce gas emissions, and negate the destruction of roadways. 

One company navigating this sustainable market is BigBelly, which is changing the way that society approaches waste collection. They have worked with reducing the frequency of garbage collection from 70-80 percent in addition to limiting the dependence of trash bins. 

IoT

In addition to sustainable transportation and waste management, there are many potential innovations regarding IoT sustainability. One company taking this approach is Google's Sidewalk Labs, with their project of a smart neighborhood in Toronto. The neighborhood will be called Quayside, and IoT sensors will be installed all over the city to optimize processes. 

These sensors will be able to "monitor traffic flows, noise levels, air quality, energy usage and travel patterns in real-time”. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, Smart Cities are a new innovation being evolved through the desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle, with the need to find more efficient ways to diverge from “antiquated” approaches in the way we manage current problems. Within years to come, it will be imperative to see these sustainability initiatives in order to create more livable and ecologically friendly societies for generations to come.