Smart Cities, a way to make the world a better place for future generations

Smart cities, a concept that has evolved over the past few years has been a result of several initiatives coming together. If one looks at growing urban populations relative to the availability of resources, there is definitely a concern with the quality of life for current and future generations. Worldwide, there is a shortage of many basic essentials such as nutrition, clean drinking water, affordable energy, comfortable transportation, housing and education. The solution to all these problems has resulted in a plan to develop smart cities. Building smart cities is an initiative to overhaul existing metropolis or creating new townships around important cities with the latest conveniences to life. Almost all developed nations, along with most developing nations, have cities with dominant demographics that are developing smart technologies and understand it well. Hence, it is an easier task to get public support towards this initiative. Examples of smart technologies include smart transportation, smart homes/buildings, alternative energy and connected living. 

Smart transportation enables citizens to commute between places in a safe, secure and efficient manner. A growing population leads to traffic gridlocks and increases in accidents; largely due to increases in vehicles, failing infrastructure, poor maintenance, lack of reliable public transport, unsafe driving habits etc. Smart technologies to begin with, lend a helping hand to law enforcement agencies. Simple examples include red-light cameras, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes with dynamic pricing, collision avoidance into stalled vehicles (via sensors in freeways), traffic light synchronization and variable speed limits. Drivers can take advantage of similar technologies as many mid-end to high-end automobiles are equipped with rear-view cameras, emergency vehicle notification systems, driver assist and monitoring systems, night vision, traction and stability control etc. These systems are realized primarily using electronic sensors, analog signal conditioning, digital signal processing and wireless connectivity communications. Combining this with smartphone technology makes it a powerful ecosystem for the common man. In addition, clean energy to power public transportation has tremendously reduced carbon emissions and pollution to acceptable levels. TI’s wide portfolio for sensors, analog signal chain, low-power wireless connectivity solutions, microcontrollers (MCU) and high-end ARM® processors directly fit into the silicon needs of these systems. 

Smart homes and buildings have already made inroads in our day-to-day lives. A high degree of automation with sensing technologies and wireless connectivity communication has increased energy efficiency, enhanced safety, security and reduction in operating costs. Sensors allow for monitoring of biometrics, occupancy detection, temperature control, ventilation hazards, electrical and mechanical failures, fires and smoke detection and more. Updates of any of these activities to a smartphone will allow remote and real-time monitoring and control of events at homes and buildings. Some of these technologies also aid public-works departments at historic monuments and coveted libraries to prevent significant losses due to aging infrastructure, theft, fire or other unnatural hazards. These systems have several analog sensor arrays, low-power embedded systems with wired and wireless communication that match very well to TI’s portfolio and system designs.  

Smart cities also aim to address the ever-increasing demand for energy. There have been several efforts in this direction to develop, optimize and combine conventional and alternate sources of energy. The European 2020 initiative includes massive spending to have cleaner, secure and more efficient energy across all of Europe by 2020. In parallel, goals are in place to increase awareness to save power, reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment and preserve natural resources. Only an intelligent energy grid can integrate such widespread electricity generation from alternative sources, along with outputs from traditional large generating stations, and deliver power in real time to customers with varying requirements. Challenges for a smarter grid include grid resilience, self-healing, network optimization, interoperability (mixing of sources of energy), power economics, integration, smart storage, real-time monitoring, quality of service and more.

Smart cities will boast of uninterrupted and reliable availability of power/energy, driving economic growth and productivity, increasing quality of life and safety. Several solar and wind farms form microgrids, localizing energy generation thus managing relatively smaller demand and minimizing transmission and distribution losses. Townships with green initiatives enforce wind and solar energy as a primary source of power, using latest technologies for solar panels, street lighting, grid communication, energy harvesting and tracking technologies. Years of silicon integration technology development, power density improvements and connectivity options (wired/wireless), have these additions cost-effective. Smart cities also provide netmetering, in which, consumers are incentivized to pump energy back to the energy grid from their localized renewable sources. 

It is clear that smart cities are the future for a variety of reasons, the most being a healthy place for future generations. Smart cities are affordable, technology driven, safer, cleaner and a reward for all the innovation man has created so far. It is a great example for all types of technologies coming together under one single initiative. It is a dream come true for many under privileged citizens. Connected living is the essence of any smart city, via smart transportation, smart homes/buildings and a smarter grid with the use of alternate energy. Smart cities will directly impact life expectancy, quality of life, security, efficient use of natural resources and well-being of the environment. Let us embrace smart cities when we can, to create a difference with all the technology advancements man has made. 

To learn more about how TI helps create a smarter city, check out these other Smart Cities blog posts: