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Smart Cities and the New Industrial Revolution


By Esmeralda Swartz, chief marketing officer, MetraTech

By 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, compared to just 30 percent in 1950, according to a UN World Urbanization Prospects report. The re-urbanization movement puts stress on the infrastructure that supports cities and citizens. To mitigate the impact of this added stress, cities need to get smarter. Luckily, advances with smart technologies will transform society, just as advances during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries did.

Over the course of the next decade, advancements from the Internet of Things could generate upwards of $3 trillion in smart technology opportunities for cities worldwide. These opportunities exist in all aspects of a city, from underground sewer, water, electricity and transportation systems, to streets, parks, bridges, billboards and cell towers. Integrating data-collecting sensors, hubs, cameras and other services across these layers creates a smart city—one that can anticipate, mitigate and prevent city problems thanks to connected data. While a smart city may sound like science fiction, it will soon become a reality, as modest smart projects grow at scale and connect with other smart projects. We are beginning to see such instances around the world today in places such as New York, Spain and Brazil.

Smart cities sprout up around the world

In New York City, the “Don’t Flush Me” initiative was started to reduce the amount of raw sewage being pumped into New York Harbor annually, especially during periods of heavy rain. By measuring water levels in the sewer overflows with a sensor and delivering the information to citizens through a smartphone app, the initiative lets people know when it is safe to flush so as not to further contribute to water pollution.

Santander, Spain is one of the most widely recognized smart cities with 20,000 sensors, cameras and mobile devices deployed. The city of nearly 180,000 citizens relies on these smart connections for everything from traffic monitoring and public transit timetables to measuring air pollution and tracking which dumpsters need to be emptied. City residents contribute to the betterment of Santander by submitting information about potholes or other issues directly to city hall through their smartphones, resulting in the city saving about 25 percent on electricity bills and 20 percent on garbage collection costs.

Located 187 kilometers outside of São Paulo, Brazil’s first digital smart city, Águas de São Pedro serves as a model for other smart city projects across the country. The highly connected citizens benefit from the improved city living and smart services from this pilot program. Access to higher speed broadband has helped to advance education, tourism, health and public administration in the region. Águas de São Pedro students will be able to access an online library of 11,000 titles, and public school teachers will receive training on education innovation; tourists can access an online guide highlighting city attractions and events; health professionals can provide patients with health information any time of day through mobile devices and apps; and city administrators can remotely control and monitor smart lighting systems, track public parking and monitor security and traffic.

A partnership between government, business and citizens

As these three examples show, a smart city requires collaboration between city governments, businesses and citizens, all of whom need to participate and contribute to the networked society in order to reap the benefits of environmental sustainability, cost savings, operational efficiency and more. Only when such a partnership is formed will connected sensors and devices create the biggest impact to improving quality of life within a smart city. Only then will we see the full transformative power of the Internet of Things Revolution.

[Image credit: Matt Lindley, Flickr]

Esmeralda Swartz has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. As chief marketing officer of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, Swartz is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development, and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, she was co-founder and vice president of marketing and business development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup.

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