The buzz in the air is the smart city, but what does a smart city mean for the present generation and the future generation?
From the development of the earliest cities in Mesopotamia (4300-3100 BCE) until the advent of the industrial revolution in the UK in the 18th century, the rural to urban population ratio has remained at static equilibrium. During that period, the rural population was engaged in subsistence agriculture while the urban population was engaged in trade and small-scale manufacturing. But the industrial revolution had not only enhanced agricultural productivity and revolutionised the public transport system but also created a huge labour force demand in the commerce, trade, and manufacturing sector in urban centres. This industrial revolution had created massive rural to urban migration in Europe in the 19th century changed the static equilibrium of rural to urban population ratio. Thanks to the Great Acceleration in 1950 in the western world and recent urbanisation in developing countries, today in the 21st century, almost 54% of the world population live in the cities. Planned urbanisation provides better economic opportunity, education, public health, housing, safety, security, and transportation to its citizens. But the rapid unplanned urbanisation, particularly in developing countries, has led to the mushrooming growth of informal settlements, which has created social inequality, crime, inadequate infrastructure, unsafe road, congested traffic, and poor health services.
Urban heat island effect
Before the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation was accompanied by deforestation and the subjugation of the surrounding natural environment to the needs of the populace, but there was not much difference between the local climate (temperature, humidity, and prevailing winds) of the city from the surrounding rural climate. But after the advent of the Industrial Revolution(use of fossil fuel in energy, transportation, and industry), heat and wind trapping urban architecture, use of air-conditioned, heat-absorbing building materials, and paved asphalted roads have trapped solar and thermal radiation into the urban areas and created an urban heat island effect in which the urban climate becomes warmer from surrounding local climate(undeveloped rural surroundings.)
In addition to the higher temperature due to GHG (greenhouse gas) effect, the urban heat island effect increases urban temperatures from 1 to 3 °C (1.8 to 5.4 °F) compared to surrounding landscapes in a temperate climate and the tropics. But its impact is not uniform for both the region. For temperate climates cities, it adds thermal comfort during the cold winter, but for cities around the equator or the tropics, it exacerbates human’s thermal discomfort. The canopy layer urban heat island effect, an atmospheric phenomenon that detects the heat stress, can be measured by fixed air temperature sensors in the urban canopy below the tops of buildings and trees.
Smart traffic sensors not only decongest traffic during the peak rush hours and make roads safer for pedestrians, drivers and cyclist but also lessen the effects of traffic-related air pollution(nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM2.5. and PM10) and reduce the occurrence of lung-related ailments (allergic diseases such as asthma.)
Metabolism of urbanisation creates a vast amount of solid waste, organic waste, and municipal waste, which can be the source of methane gases and disease vectors. By working on the circular economy principle, a smart waste management sensor enables the urban planner to handle all types of solid waste more scientifically and transform the existing city into a sustainable city.
#Smart City provides its citizen maximum quality of life with minimal consumption of resources based on the intelligent interconnection of infrastructure(transport and energy) and communicates on different hierarchical levels whether it is through passive or self-regulating or actively controlled mechanisms. (Such as buildings and the entire city.)It transforms urban infrastructure(and landscape), makes urban governance more people-oriented, people-centric, real-time, and practical. But smart technology must fit into the existing urban process and overcome privacy and security-related concerns due to Internet-accessible devices and the vast data generation.
Although the current smart city applications run only on fixed sensors located across the cities, in the near future, distributed mobile sensors in smartphones (location, noise, or acceleration measurements, air quality, and humidity) and mobile sensors in vehicles will enable dynamic monitoring and management of mobile applications.
The ultimate goal of using smart technology is to transform the existing city more liveable (closer to the human comfort zone)by eliminating the adverse effects of urbanisation such as polluted air, polluted water, concrete jungle, noise pollution, hectic lifestyle, congested traffic, and make the life of a citizen more safe, healthy and liveable, low personal risk, and efficient accident-free decongested public transportation.
Smart Technology is not an end itself, but a means to achieve the end. The ultimate objective of adopting smart technology is not only to make the city smarter or liveable but responsive(can predict and respond immediately to any extreme weather events such as a flash flood and heatwave), resilient, sustainable and inclusive where all citizen can have equal access to all essential services. Future cities must incorporate climatological concerns into their design to mitigate microclimate related problems around the buildings in a street canyon configuration, urban heat island effect, and heat stress.
No city in the world has achieved the status of a perfect smart city.
And the #smart city is not a final stage of urban development. But it lays down the foundation for the next generation of renewable energy-based urban systems after solving the unintended consequences of the fossil fuel-based urban systems (such as traffic congestion, global warming, and declining health) and the side effect of the metabolism of urbanisation.