The smart city of today

Why do many of us think of an unattainable futuristic city, when we think of smart cities? Maybe it’s because science fiction films present a picture of a high-tech metropolis where self-driven cars hover above ground and everything is automated.

Even though we’re still some time away from this being a reality, smart cities are being created around us every day. Smart cities do not require new futuristic sky-scrapers, or free-ways suspended in the atmosphere. Existing buildings and infrastructure can be made smart retrospectively using smart technology.

Put simply, a ‘smart city’ is a city that uses smart ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) technology to manage and improve its urban infrastructure and public services. Here we look at some of the trends, a few real-life examples and focus on the future of smart decentralised energy management in the cities of the future, today.

What is a smart city?

Although many articles have been published about smart cities, there is no one agreed definition of what a smart city is. Each interpretation varies on how a city achieves this ‘smart’ status. There is no defining technology, service or system necessary to grant a city the ‘smart’ label.

According to Wikipedia a smart city is  “an urban area that uses different types of electronic Internet of things (IoT) sensors to collect data and then use this data to manage assets and resources efficiently.” Key words here are sensors and data. Smart cities use both to provide insights and interventions to address common urban challenges.

The granular data that a smart city’s sensors collect can be used to improve planning and influence policy to automate and improve traffic flow, rubbish collection and smarter energy use and distribution.

carbonTRACK Smart City - Daytime

The smart city evolution, three examples!

Digital transformation is allowing technology to solve challenges from transportation to education and health. We have much more online interactions today than ever before – through the adoption of a growing number of online platforms and mobile Apps.

Here are some examples of how cities around the world are undergoing their own ‘digital transformation’:

  1. Singapore. Singapore has a bold Smart Nation vision. It’s breadth of digital transformation projects includes: live smart traffic portal supported by information gathered from surveillance cameras on roads and taxis; smart bins with sensors which send alerts when bins are nearing capacity; and a parking guidance service at Changi Airport. The new Video-based Parking Guidance System (VPGS) is the first of its kind in Singapore (for a large-scale car park) and helps monitor the status of the car park in real-time.
  2. Vail, Colorado-USA. The world-class ski town has a permanent population of around 6,000. It uses a city-wide Wi-Fi network for security surveillance; parking enforcement; controlling heating and irrigation systems; tracking suspicious vehicles and monitoring crowds during major events. The city can accommodate 20,000 to 30,000 people in just two square miles during special events. This is a lot considering the entire town measures 4.5 square miles. To bolster security, Vail segregated its public and private Wi-Fi networks.
  1. Melbourne. Melbourne is using technology to help prepare for an anticipated population boom. This includes a pedestrian counting system, an open data program and free public Wi-Fi in some neighbourhoods. The city is also using technology to make rubbish collection more efficient and has introduced smart city-based programs to help the blind and deaf.

As the above examples illustrate, ‘smart cities’ don’t require a massive investment in rebuilding infrastructure – they are organically created through a series of innovative, technology-led improvements that are more akin with a staged renovation. Whether the challenge in focus is one of congestion, pollution, energy or connected communities, these technology solutions create new digital layers that provide opportunity for further connections and synergies.


 

Intelligent energy management in emerging smart cities

At carbonTRACK, we’re incredibly excited about the new urban environments we’re collectively creating. Our contribution is in smart energy management and we’re working with energy users (home and business), energy providers and local governments to empower them with tools to remotely monitor, control, automate and share energy.

We recognise that the way we produce, consume and share energy is fundamentally changing. The traditional centralised, coal-powered energy supply model is not efficient, and increasingly redundant as technology advancements make renewable energy sources more widely available.

As investment in renewable energy grows, traditional energy consumers are also becoming energy generators and there is more renewable power available to share across the grid and its various users. The carbonTRACK platform lets individual energy users see and remotely control the energy they use and produce. At a network or grid level, carbonTRACK provides energy generators and grid managers with insights from various data sets, and the co-ordinated response capability to better manage and share energy.

… a staged approach

Thousands of home and business owners today are using carbonTRACK’s platform to monitor and control their energy use – with or without solar. The platform helps them remotely control their entire energy ecosystems – including solar, individual appliances/equipment, circuit level loads and storage– and save on their electricity bills. The remote-control capability also enables them to actively participate in emerging energy sharing initiatives such as ‘demand response’, and can help business energy users avoid peak load penalty rates.

Some solar retailers are also using the same technology to monitor and manage the systems they install at customer sites and manage an energy sharing / virtual power plant environment.  Similarly, local governments/ councils are using the platform to manage their solar assets and improve the energy efficiency of public buildings.

carbonTRACK Smart City - Nighttime

The future is here

Smart Cities are not a futuristic proposition. They are not only built by brick and mortar, but by an invisible mesh of connected technologies. In fact, when it comes to smart energy management – a key focus of any smart city  – many homes, businesses, solar service providers, local governments and energy providers are already on their digital transformation journey.

At carbonTRACK we play an important role in this journey. Our platform is the technology link that connects energy generators, energy users, and everyone in between. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to stay updated on our progress and be part of the digital transformation journey!

Interested in partnering with carbonTRACK? Get in touch today.

 

Want to start taking control of your energy? Call or email us, we’ll direct you to the right carbonTRACK partner.

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