In the internet of things (IoT) era, various cities around the world have been using digital technology to improve urban management, turning their urbanscapes into what people refer to as smart cities. Smart cities see the integration of urban management and public service into smartphone apps and computers, with the help of various devices such as sensors and cameras.
How can technology improve city management?
McKinsey cited several functions digital technology could serve in the creation of smart cities, covering not just the most obvious aspects of urban management such as traffic, waste, pollution and security, but also healthcare, community engagement and work life quality. According to a McKinsey survey, integrated security technology using sensors can help reduce incidences of assault, robbery, burglary and auto theft down to about 30 to 40 percent.
These technologies are also especially helpful during emergencies as they help manage traffic flow by providing alternative routes for emergency vehicles to avoid traffic jams, thus decreasing their response lag time by 20 to 35 percent, according to the same survey. When we talk about environmental management, these sensors can also serve as early fire detectors in fire-prone areas, especially in densely populated urban spaces.
At the same time, navigation technology can help commuters reduce their commuting times by 15 to 20 percent using sensors attached to roads and street lights, which can help commuters avoid gridlocked spots and find alternative routes or shortcuts.
How apps have successfully helped city management
In order to link governments and citizens in a smart city public service concept, apps are highly useful. An article published by Gurana Technologies said the smart city applications reduced costs, efficiently managed the use of resources and physical infrastructures, while increasing communication and information sharing between citizens and city administrators.
In addition, some forecasts believe that cities can improve their energy efficiency by 30 percent within 20 years with the use of information provided by these smart city apps. The forecast has been based on the case studies of the top cities which have implemented mobile applications for smart cities, including London in the United Kingdom, Los Angeles and New York in the United States, Seoul in South Korea, Shenzhen in China and Singapore.
Some of these smart city apps have delivered real results. In Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for instance, the Mobimaestro system developed by Technolution has been integrated into the national government’s traffic system. The system has automated the traffic management within the region, resulting in 10 percent decline of the total vehicle loss hours by optimizing traffic flow within the city.
Meanwhile, the New York City has used smart city applications to improve its water consumption management, helping customers pay their bills through a more convenient platform. The platform has also increased the accuracy of the billing system by more than 14 percent, while detecting leakages along the way.
At the same time, the city’s sanitation department has partnered with BigBelly to help daily trash picking activities more efficient, its trash compactor runs with solar power which allows the garbage bin to hold five times more waste than a conventional one. The city’s air monitoring program has helped reduce sulfur dioxide emission by 70 percent in 2008.
These examples show just how promising the use of apps is in helping improve city management, improving public service and residents’ well-being at the same time.
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