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.
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.
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’:
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.
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.
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.
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!