Smart Cities Go Green

Smart Cities Go Green

Conserving energy is a top priority for cities. China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011 to 2015) mandates all government buildings to be green, including administrative buildings and state-owned corporations. While commercial buildings are not required to go green, they are strongly urged to adopt efficient policies. This helps reduce energy costs and greenhouse emissions, while improving operational efficiency.

There is no question that energy is a limited and expensive resource, but implementing a solution depends on local sensibilities. “For energy, there's a huge challenge because there's no standard,” said Cosimo Malesci, VP of Sales and Marketing, Fluidmesh Networks. “In the U.S., they try to go to the smart grid on mesh networks, while Europe is using 3-G because it's stronger. Asia seems a bit behind. The idea and intention are there, but we are far from the real implementation of smart cities and making them sustainable.”

Energy measures are flawed, but are a step in the right direction. “A smart grid is an electricity and energy delivery system from the point of generation to the point of consumption, which has been integrated with communication and information technologies to enhance grid operations, improve customer service, lower costs and enable new environmental benefits,” said Faiyaz Shahpurwala, Senior VP of Advanced Services and Emerging Solutions, Cisco Systems. “This is an essential component of smart cities.”

Video surveillance monitors roadside conditions, helping coordinate response, evacuation readiness and road closures. “For example, in a city like Bangalore, India, a commuter or delivery truck could be checking intersections to determine when to start driving, or what route to take to avoid the worst traffic delays,” Shahpurwala said. “In Scandinavia or the northern states of the U.S., the video could be showing operations whether more snowplows are needed, or helping a transit operator or school district know whether current snow conditions will affect operations.”

Smart traffic eases congestion proactively. “If you have a big disaster, we're able to help emergency personnel respond faster and more dynamically,” said Dave Bartlett, VP of Industry Solutions for Smarter Buildings, IBM. “The new way is to have smart sensors in buildings and road maps to pinpoint the problem areas and connect traffic systems to redirect traffic, so the emergency crew can reach a destination faster. It can shave off seconds and minutes, which can make a difference in saving lives and thus improve the quality of life for people in the city.”

Traffic monitoring is also used by smart cities for long-term planning, Shahpurwala said. This includes evaluating dynamic speed limits to prevent or minimize congestion.

Vehicular Control
Some traffic calming projects deploy anti-terrorism bollards, originally designed for stopping car bombers, to keep cars out at specific times. The city of West Hollywood used bollards to keep busy nighttime area traffic from entering residential streets, said David Dickinson, Senior VP at Delta Scientific. It needed a street closure barricade to block off a residential area from nighttime traffic resulting from Sunset Boulevard nightclubs and restaurants. In the day, the bollards are lowered to let cars through.

Mobile barricades also keep cars out of restricted areas. The Los Angeles Police Department manages vehicle access with movable barricades during times of heightened security, Dickinson said. They are also used for special events unique to Los Angeles, such as Hollywood award ceremonies.

Implementing traffic-calming schemes reduces pollution and accidents, while pedestrians are able to enjoy the city experience at an optimum level. “In Holland, 35 larger cities have closed off their city centers with bollards that are connected to our vehicle management controllers,” said Maarten Mijwaart, GM of Automatic Vehicle Identification, Nedap. Buses, ambulances, registered taxis and fire trucks are granted access through long-range transit tags. ALPR allows suppliers in, and proximity badges issued to city staff enable access, for a range of technologies working as a whole.

Waste Management
Waste management refers to both energy conservation and garbage. While the two are related, the methods to collect data rely on sensor networks. “Waste management is another field where sensors can be installed to know when containers are full to be emptied by waste companies,” said Alberto Bielsa Noveleta, Project and Training Manager, Libelium. “This way, only the containers that are really full would be emptied, saving money and time.”

Education and Digital Media
A citywide network provides countless opportunities, with connected classrooms being a natural continuation. “Social media and Internet technologies in the last few years have transformed the world and how we interact, and that change has impacted the world of education as well,” Shahpurwala said.

Digital media also allows cities to disseminate information in a more interactive fashion. IBM is working with a city council and local university to develop smartphone apps for citizens. “The key is to develop an app they want to use, one that is intuitive and meaningful to them,” Bartlett said. “Apps can be used to report problems, such as a hole in road, a sign missing, graffiti, or crime and safety issues. They can also be used by the city to update citizens on mass-transit updates or when the latest flu shot will be available.”

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