connected city (ShutterStock image)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Creating a smarter digital reality for smart cities

The National League of Cities defines a smart city as “one that has developed technological infrastructure that enables it to collect, aggregate and analyze real-time data to improve the lives of its residents.”

With 68 percent of the global population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, new smart city strategies are perfectly aligned to accommodate this massive demographic shift. These strategies include fusing geographic sensor data with business information and transforming domain knowledge and customer workflows into connected and digital-first ecosystems that power citizen services.

Ultimately, this creates a smarter digital reality that drives all operational efforts, and helps cities to quickly sense, decide and act as they grow.

Smart city challenges

As with any major innovation shift, bridging the gap between vision and reality can come with challenges. For example, city growth -- both population and infrastructure -- often outpaces the adoption of innovation and creates operational challenges. 

The tsunami of data coming from an ever-expanding number of sensors will continue to grow and become more difficult to manage. This challenge is complicated by data being locked in specific department systems, making real-time data sharing that much more difficult.

The complexity of smart city challenges can be seen in this example:

A water pipe bursts, causing a sinkhole in the road, which affects not just the water department but also the transportation network, the gas pipelines, the communications infrastructure and public safety. Quick repairs require departments support integrated communications, access to shared geospatial data and automated services that can ingest new data, update on-the-fly and provide real-time operational awareness of the impacted area.

Autonomous connected ecosystems

To meet these challenges, today’s smart cities are evolving into autonomous connected ecosystems that are digital first, infinitely connected and autonomous. They use geospatial data and visualization solutions to capture the data from multiple sources in a city's digital fabric to create a holistic view. This perspective leads to actionable insights, from providing leaders with data to make important budgetary decisions and enhancing the ability to quickly respond to emergencies.

Bridging the geospatial and operational worlds

Today’s smart cities need cutting-edge data analytics and visualization solutions that combine location-based data and business intelligence from a myriad of data sources, including urban planning, census, transportation, utilities, property appraisal, fire and rescue, citizen engagement, real estate, public safety and more.

As these data sources deliver in an ever-increasing amount of information, city leaders need solutions that dramatically shorten the time between data acquisition and real-time insight delivery.

From smart monitoring of power and water systems to quick identification of disruptions that can help get public utilities back online, bridging the geospatial and operational worlds will drive efficient infrastructure planning and management. These solutions can give smart cities insights into what was, what is, what could be, what should be and, ultimately, what will be. City leaders who can monitor changing environments will be better prepared for what’s to come.

Smart cities in action

This vision is already coming to life.

In France, a new big data solution measures the impact of atmospheric pollution and visualizes the data to provide a better understanding of the regional health concerns. In the Netherlands, the municipality of Tynaarlo is using interactive spatial dashboards to monitor the quality of roads. The solution allows city leaders to correlate road information, such as location, building materials (asphalt, concrete, and pavement) and usage with budget and policies. All of this information is based on data from the last 10 years.

Baton Rouge, La., is using a suite of apps that analyze and visualize data on blighted properties and provides accurate answers about the loss of tax-exempt revenue by location.

In U.S. public safety agencies, senior-level emergency managers are leveraging dashboards that provide operational oversight and situational awareness. These solutions can ingest all types of data including GPS, time attributes, text, audio, video, photos, and files so that real-time decision-making possible in any public safety situation.

Before long, the concept of smart cities will become so common that we will simply refer to them as “cities.” In the meantime, many U.S. cities can already take advantage of the tools and resources to embrace a smarter digital reality and transform the safety and quality of life for their residents.

About the Author

Robert Jastram is the senior VP of sales for North America, Hexagon’s Geospatial Division.

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