By Dimitrios Spiliopoulos
LONDON - More than half of the world’s population now live in cities — and the figure will rise to more than two thirds by 2050, according to a United Nations forecast.
Growing numbers of city residents put pressure on energy and water resources, transport networks, environment, national healthcare budgets as well as many more aspects of the city.
Thankfully, some of the most important problems faced by cities around the world can be solved or reduced by Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) enabled solutions.
Problem 1: Mobility challenges — How to improve citizens’ lives and bring them closer
Rapid urbanisation and a growing population is causing more and more problems for mobility in the city. Commuting has become a hassle; congestion in the EU is often located in and around urban areas and costs nearly EUR 100 billion annually, or 1 % of the EU’s GDP.
Mobility challenges are plentiful, and not just limited to traffic congestion. They are also about efficiently connecting (time, cost, effort) different neighbourhoods with public transit; helping citizens and professionals at the last mile journey; giving access to critical stations with multiple modes and from multiple regions; offering a variety of options to the people to move around (including bicycle; and more.
City officials must therefore understand how people move around the city to plan accordingly the location of stations, bike routes, and traffic lights, as well as to optimise the schedule of each city activity without disturbing others.
Today, thanks to the use of IoT and AI-enabled solutions, cities can improve and solve many of these key urban mobility issues:
- Optimise availability of public parking using real time parking sensors. These can show to the drivers where the nearest parking is without going around blindly. Finding parking in less time can reduce both traffic jam and air pollution
- Understand where, when, and which people are moving through the city. To achieve this, analyse the anonymous and aggregated mobile data from smartphones. If this is combined with other data generated by connected city furniture, then the insights are priceless. Smart city furniture could be connected lights, smart benches, and connected traffic lights, while other city assets could be connected bikes and buses, connected buses and rubbish bins. The analysis of all this combined data can generate insights and automations that we could never think otherwise.
- Plan maintenance and improvements in transport networks efficiently based on data collected by the IoT enabled assets. For example, potholes can be identified by data generated from smart bikes/lights due to the shaking sensors. At the same time, the schedule of when to send the workers to provide essential maintenance can be planned based on the available data from the sensors around that street, to avoid traffic disruption.
Of course, there are even more IoT applications that can improve the mobility in the city. Having said this, improving mobility can improve also air quality. Based on European Commission statistics, urban mobility accounts for 40% of all CO2 emissions of road transport and up to 70% of other pollutants from transport.