The Design Surgery

To cope with increasing population density, cities are growing smarter.

Large cities have been centers of attraction for societies at every time in history. With the transition from agricultural society to industrial society, growing numbers of people started living in cities every year. This trend continues to rise. According to United Nations data, five billion of the world’s population will be living in cities in 2030. As city populations increase, as citizens raise their expectations of the cities in which they live, and as cities around the globe compete ruthlessly to draw more tourists and investments, how should this trend of urbanization be guided? The answer to the question is by establishing “smart cities.”

Our cities have already started becoming smarter. Mechanisms and practices are being implemented in many areas from controlling the activity of daily life to resource planning. The most important factor in this transformation is the development of technology and access to this technology at reasonable costs. With effective use of “Big Data,” an analytical system by which data is collected, arranged, evaluated, and used as input for decision support systems, cities offer environments that are much more livable, cleaner, and more comfortable.

Smart Energy
We are in an era in which energy resources are constantly being diminished. For this reason, cities have to use energy as efficiently as possible. If this efficiency is out of reach, power cuts and high prices are unavoidable. Environmental effects, too, constitute an important factor that must be considered. The first step for transforming energy systems into smart structures is planning. Thanks to smart meters installed in homes, it is possible to track electricity usage in every part of the house. This data will be collected in a centralized system to enable producers of electricity to plan how much energy should be generated at a given time of the day. For instance, in the case of an urgent request of energy for a specific region, the system will be able to sense this and issue a notice to the appropriate power plant to increase capacity—or, within the framework of a number of protocols, it could do this automatically. Additionally, by connecting sustainable sources of energy (solar, hydroelectric, wind, etc.) to the power grid, production will be made even more efficient. And thanks to IT systems monitoring the grid from end to end, losses and leakage will be reduced to a minimum.

Smart Transportation
If you think traffic’s a problem now, think about this: by 2050, roughly 70 percent of the world population will be living in cities; that is to say, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. In proportion to increasing vehicle numbers, many different issues will emerge—not only that of lost time in traffic but also increased fuel consumption, higher carbon emissions, and safe driving. Smart cities will exploit information technologies to produce solutions for transportation, especially for traffic. Traffic information such as speed and position, as transmitted by sensors placed in certain locations in the city, will allow the development of  alternative solutions when traffic becomes congested—to the extent that even signaling durations can be changed instantaneously depending on the traffic situation. Emergency operations will be carried out more rapidly and more effectively. Additionally, as the state of public transportation systems can be monitored in an integrated fashion, ideal adjustments can be made for the sake of public mobility.

Smart Buildings
We might not realize it, but buildings account for the largest share in world energy consumption—40 percent. Studies show that this share will rise to around 60 percent if urbanization continues as it does at present. This alone clearly shows the need for smart buildings. But what sort of a process awaits us? Firstly, living spaces and buildings have to be fitted with sensors. The collected data will enable monitoring and improvement of the energy usage, safety, and insulation of a building. Buildings will gain the ability to generate their own power by making effective use of environmental factors, first and foremost the sun. Buildings that are constantly monitored for safety and that can trigger preventive procedures or solutions in emergencies will also be able to measure and regulate the usage of water and other such resources. It will be possible to execute in an efficient manner a multitude of operations, from the adjustment of curtains to the angle of the sun’s rays to having elevators stop at the busiest floors.

Smart Local Administrations
Local administrations, the essential stakeholders in cities, will also be equipped with smart systems. Infrastructure that is connected to online systems in a way that allows citizens to carry out many tasks are already in use. This infrastructure will be improved to become an inseparable part of our lives. Smart cards and RFID technologies will make it easier to fulfill the duties of citizenship. The city’s infrastructure will be monitored to enable instantaneous responses. Safety, social services, and other such services that are important to the citizenry will be managed effectively thanks to data-based systems. For instance, real-time systems can trigger the dispatch of an ambulance to the scene of an accident or the police to the location of a safety issue.