Smart cities in 21st century

Smart cities can be defined as urban areas that use different types of electronic sensors to collect data to provide information for assets and resource management, not necessarily groupation of smart homes. Data can be collected in a variety of ways – from citizens, their devices, city devices and other business receivers. This data is then processed, analyzed, monitored and managed by transport and transportation systems, power plants, water supply, police, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals and many other institutions.

The foundation of smart cities is the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is a system of interconnected devices, mechanical and digital machines with unique identifiers and their ability to transfer data through a network without the need for human interaction. The smart city concept integrates information and communication technology (ICT) and various physical devices connected to the IoT to optimize the efficiency of city operations and services. In this way, ICT would be used to raise the quality and interactivity of city services, reduce the cost and consumption of resources, and facilitate communication between citizens and city government.

Interest in smart cities has been fueled by some major social and global changes. Technological advances, economic and environmental change, climate change, online sales, urban population growth and even coronavirus are just some of these changes that are driving the development of smart cities.

pametni grad

In addition to all of the above, the concept of a smart city goes further. Smart cities would encourage citizens to be more active members of society, by giving feedback on the various services they have received, the condition of roads, the appearance of the environment, or volunteering for social activities. Today, smart cities are still a rarity, making them attractive locations for living, employment and tourism.

Some of the key aspects for the development of smart cities are the following:

  • Modern digital infrastructure, combined with secure but open access to public data that would be provided to citizens when they need it
  • Intelligent Physical Infrastructure (IoT)
  • Willingness to learn from others and experimenting with new approaches to business or business models
  • Result transparency and performance of the city administration so that citizens can evaluate them, institution by institution and so that progress can be made

From the attached it can be seen that the road to smart cities is still a long one. With all the resources that must be invested and a lot of time needed to progress, the question is how profitable is it? Why do we even need smart cities these days?

We need them precisely because urbanization is a process that does not stop. 54% of the world’s population lives in cities and that number is expected to grow to 66% by 2050. If population growth is taken into account, urbanization will add up to 2.5 billion new people to cities over the next three decades. There will be an overpopulation of cities that will lead to resource depletion, and growing socioeconomic disparities between citizens can lead to community problems. With conscientious implementation, smart cities can be the best investment to solve these problems. It increases the connection of citizens on several levels and, as already mentioned, between the city administration and the population. In addition, smart cities are „environmentally conscious“ because in theory they use devices to monitor the purity of the air, along with other factors important for human health.

How smart a city is, once it is built, successful, is told by several factors, some of which have already been mentioned in the text. In addition to people’s satisfaction, their connection, the quality of housing, trade and urban infrastructure, there are three other qualitative indicators of the level of development of a smart city:

  • Prevalence of wireless connectivity
  • Data openness
  • Security

Wireless connectivity may not be the same in all cities, because not all cities are the same size. The Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) is a fast-growing technology that would suit most smart cities. It is specific in that it enables fast communication in IoT, such as sensors and receivers. Such technology includes LoRa (Low Range) technologies, Bluetooth and many others. With the development of 5G technology, which is expected, smart cities should be raised to a new sphere and an increasingly common thing in the world.

Historically, governments, businesses, and individuals themselves have strictly kept their data and shared as little as they could with others. Concerns about privacy and fear of breaches of security measures outweighed the value of disseminating information. Nevertheless, for a smart city to succeed, it is necessary to enable all its residents to share information and combine it with context in order to make informed decisions in real time.

Cameras around the city, smart roads and security surveillance of public places can add another layer of protection and security to citizens. In theory, fantastic, in practice, however, problems and doubts arise. The possibility of hacking and cyber attacks, data theft, lack of trust in information sources are just some of the problems that arise. The answers to these questions lie in physical data safes and strong ID checks and strong authentication.

There are four main security goals:

  • Availability – reliable access to all data in real time. Sharing, collecting and filtering information is crucial, and all security solutions must not affect availability
  • Integrity – Smart cities depend on reliable and accurate data
  • Confidentiality – some data collected and stored may contain sensitive information about citizens. Unauthorized access to this information should be prevented
  • Responsibility – system users must be held accountable for their actions. Their interactions with sensitive systems must be recorded and linked to a specific user

Some big world cities have already embarked on the process of becoming a smart city.

New York has launched several initiatives aimed at developing a smart part of the city. Midtown in Motion, a New York transportation department project, has launched a management system that has accelerated travel times in downtown New York by 10%. LinkNYC provides free and fast Wi-Fi, phone calls, cell phone chargers, and access to city services, maps, and directions. This project represents a unique communication network (instead of telephone booths) between the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. The MyNCHA app and website provide landlords with a variety of online services. Launched in 2015, MyNYCHA includes services such as paying rent, arranging repairs, warnings of various breakdowns, reviewing inspection schedules…

New York smart city

In Europe, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the most prominent in the area of ​​smart cities. Amsterdam as a smart city project started in 2009 with over 170 projects. In addition to real-time traffic data, Amsterdam also has roboats (delivery boats) and a floating self sustainable village that prevents overcrowding. Copenhagen, in collaboration with the American University MIT, is developing a system for smart bikes, which will use its sensors to send real-time data to the administration and drivers, most of which are related to traffic congestion and clean air. To further improve this, in collaboration with Google, the city has installed air monitoring equipment in the street view car to produce a heat map of the city to inform cyclists and walkers where the air is cleanest and that routes can be planned.

Croatia has a National Development Strategy until 2030, where a large part is occupied by the development of smart cities. Although not yet at the level of the world’s smart cities, Croatia is going in the right direction, although even more needs to be invested in improving infrastructure and modern technological solutions.

Zagreb Smart City is a strategy for the improvement of Zagreb, which is focused on efficient, smart and transparent city administration, smart energy management, digital infrastructure, utility management and many other parameters that define a smart city. In 2007, Rijeka introduced free Wi-Fi to selected city locations, and they also received the „Smart city“ award for monitoring drone traffic. Dubrovnik, as the largest tourist center, presented some solutions to make life easier for citizens and tourists. The city is introducing a smart parking system – sensors have been installed in all parking lots and people can use the app to find a free space. In addition, there is an application that monitors the movement of people in the old core and predicts crowds.

In addition to large cities, small cities also participate in their progress toward smart city status. Vukovar has a model that would monitor traffic, implement smart traffic lights and turn on public lighting when it gets dark. Vrgorac has an application that connects local farmers and producers directly with customers. Bjelovar digitized public administration, and Pula digitized kindergartens, which enabled easier enrollment.

One of the most famous, if not the most famous, smart products created in Croatia is certainly the smart bench, whose inventor was included in the Forbes list „30 under 30“ (30 promising entrepreneurs under 30). The bench provides Wi-Fi access, has a wireless mobile charger and 2 USB ports, and illuminates the area around it with LED lighting.

Apart from all the good sides of smart cities, there are also bad ones. Some could already be guessed from the text so far.

The first is the clearest, possible security breaches and loss of privacy. Already, many human rights activists are fighting against the aggressive collection of data needed for a smart city to function. Life would be Big Brother-style with cameras on every corner, and daily data collection on citizens ’lives would help authorities understand every aspect of their lives which could be pretty bad if it falls into the wrong hands.

Another problem would be the lack of information and technological illiteracy of a large part of the citizens. If the citizens themselves are not aware of the changes and do not know how to take advantage of them and thus play their role in the smart city system, all the innovations and hundreds of billions invested in them will go to waste.

The sensors needed for a smart city to work run on batteries. The production of at least a trillion batteries for IoT devices is impossible and certainly bad in the long run due to all the harmful effects that the production of batteries has on the environment. Some tehnology companies are already working on wireless power transmission, which would charge devices via radio waves. Sounds like the distant future? It may not be that far away, but so far such devices are still not in use, especially not in public.

Smart cities are the future, not so far away. Civilization is advancing every day and it is only a matter of time before technology and artificial intelligence will take over the daily jobs of the citizens of smart cities and thus free up even more time for creativity and art. Whether this will happen in ten or fifty years is hard to say, but it is unquestionable that such a future is almost certain.


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