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The Biology of the Smart City

The time has come to write down a definition of what a smart city is. Like its forebears, the smart city now has the drivers in place to become a reality. The cities that grew out of the neolithic agricultural revolution, and then later the industrial revolution, were driven by similar forces — increased population and technological advances that facilitated and drove a change in living conditions. The modern city has these same drivers, but on a much larger scale; the global population, as mentioned earlier, is growing exponentially and we need ways of dealing with it.

The pressure of population on resources is a major driver to smarten up our current city models. And, the technology to do so is finally here in the form of hyperconnectivity, improved and cheaper sensors, AI, and data analytics. The clue here is in the data; data is the new energy in the modern smart city. Data, or rather the analysis and application of these data, will be the pivot upon which the smart city turns. And much of these data will be our data, yours and mine, our personal information about who we are, what we do, and perhaps why we do it. But before delving into that — what constitutes a smart city?

A smart city is like any other city. It is peopled by the Homo sapiens who live in it, others who commute in and out of it, others still, who simply visit on occasion. It has buildings for work, leisure, and living. It has hospitals, commercial buildings, shops, car parks, public transport, private transport. It has everything we already use in a city. But the difference is in how the people, places, and operations of the city, interact and deliver their objectives.

A smart city can be likened to a biological system; each part impacting on the other parts. In a biological system you have groups of organs that work together to perform bodily functions — like the digestive system. The organs communicate with each other using various mechanisms such as hormones or electrical signals to perform the functions. Overall, various systems work to create a fully functioning organism. The smart city is somewhat like a suite of biological systems, working separately to perform functions but acting as a whole to create an optimized environment for its human inhabitants.

The areas that the smart city encompasses in its efforts to create a sustainable and resilient environment for the human occupants are:

  • Health and the Smart City

A healthy population is a happy and productive one. Healthcare is an essential part of a resilient city. As our population grew after the agricultural revolution and moved into settlements, we saw an increase in communicable diseases like measles. Modern medicine has helped ameliorate communicable diseases such as smallpox, but other diseases based on poor western lifestyles, such as diabetes 2, have reared their head taking center stage. Smart cities offer a number of ways of keeping the population healthy. They do so by using an integrated approach to medicine — starting with the patient and patient-generated data. Data is the key to improving patient outcomes and communicating, analyzing and managing these data is part of the innovation of a smart city. Smart city based digital healthcare is required to connect up all of the health data dots to allow practitioners to provide better direct care and improve medicine in general. Smart healthcare is highly inclusive, it is an end-to-end experience which fully incorporates the patient into the service. This can only be achieved by using technologies such as Internet-connected devices, IoT and sensors, and big data analysis, including machine learning and ultimately AI and robots. The data generated, either by the patient directly, or by the healthcare service, is used to diagnose and find optimized treatments using modern medicine.

We are seeing progress in this area outside of full-blown smart cities. The market for digital health and health data is expected to be worth over $200 billion USD by 2020. The dots that need to be connected up are emerging:

  • Smart wearables — are already a successful health commodity; the market is expected to reach $14.4 billion USD by 2022. In the U.S. the FDA has already began the process for connecting the digital health dots needed for a smart city by fast tracking digital health products to encourage innovation in the area
  • Health apps. The UK government, for example, has found that in the UK connected devices are being increasingly used and 57% of users share these health data with their primary physician. Health apps, that do the job of sophisticated medical devices are here now, and include devices such as a portable smartphone ultrasound device.
  • Remote medical treatment. The ability to easily share patient-generated data in real-time will allow hospitals to offset patient care into the community and their own homes more easily.
  • Unification/analysis of patient data. Building a healthcare system that works across all aspects of the service, seamlessly, by managing the full lifecycle of care. Systems such as Moscow’s Unified Medical Information and Analytical System (UMIAS) has been designed to interface across healthcare services, collecting patient data, offering remote patient monitoring, analyzing information, and managing emergency care.

Smart city healthcare truly comes about when the parts that make up digital medicine are connected up as a whole system.

  • Home

Home is where the heart is, but it is also where we create rich data that the smart city can use. The smart city home is part of the fabric of the city. It is the front line of our interactions with the city. We are already delving into the edges of the smart city when we buy our digital assistant, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Smart living is something we have always strived for since we discovered fire to warm our living area and cook our food. The development of any technology usually finds its way into our domestic lives — electricity lit our homes and the telephone connected us to others homes. Smart homes are taking our use of technology to a new level. In doing so, it offers to make energy use more efficient and communications more effective.

Our homes are likely to be mini hubs for smart city living, each home unit being part of a larger ‘smart hive’. Connected living will integrate with other areas of smart living such as health. The data generated in our daily lives can be used to optimize our energy use, and make our living conditions more efficient and comfortable using an array of smart devices and grids connecting us back up to the wider smart city services.

Probably more than any other area of the smart city, the smart home is the interface between human and machine. The connected home will also expand the range of the smart city. Homes outside the boundaries of the smart city can become satellites of the city by linking into the city using connected devices. The reach of smart, connected technology that extracts and analyzes personal data from within our very homes, has, as expected, been a central point of privacy concerns. An Austrian study into the attitudes towards smart energy devices in homes found that although there was a feeling of general trust towards energy providers, there was concern around the privacy and security of the data management

“Our results indicate the importance of decentralized data storage, access control, as well as information transparency and the incorporation of privacy enhancing functionalities”

House of the Future

  • Work, transport, and buildings

Working and doing business in the smart city should be about creating opportunities for business and better working conditions. However, in concurrence with the shift to smarter cities, the whole area of work is changing. Robotics and automation is going to cause a shift in the type of work we do. Jobs across the skill spectrum will be disrupted. For example, at the time of writing, fast food chain, McDonald’s, replaced 2,500 workers with self-service kiosks. And the first Amazon Go shop has just opened in Seattle which negates the need for a human shop assistant altogether. PWC is predicting that around 30% of UK jobs will be affected by robotics. Coupled with this, remote working is increasing. The World Economic Forum has looked into the trends in employment as Industry 4.0 continues, and roles such as data scientists and engineering specialities such as nanotech and robotics will blossom. So too will communication based skills like intergovernmental relations and policy creation.

Whatever job an individual does, if they interact with a smart city, either remotely, or directly, they will have the power of smart.

Getting to work and moving goods: Smart transport is an integral part of the smart city. Optimization of transport and reduction in pollution are two of the key goals that can make a city smart. Smart parking, transport management, congestion control, and improved access are just some of the goals of an optimized transport system. Modern cities are struggling with transport. New York governor Andrew Cuomo described the summer of 2017 as being

“the summer of hell”

and declared a state of emergency at the Metropolitan Transit Authority in terms of transportation issues for the city. New York transports around 9 million people a day in and out of the city. New York is not alone, many of the world’s cities are at breaking point with their transport systems, many of which are old and not built for the types of capacity needed with the growing population.

Smart systems of transport offer hope to this problem. Smart transport connects up all of the components of the transport system. The integration of technologies such as smart vehicles, advanced sensing systems, video vehicle surveillance, and RFID traffic light system are used to manage and control traffic. To do so effectively, the city needs to know our every move.

Being at work: Once you get to work the smart building will open its smart doors and welcome you into its comfortable cradle of work. In a survey by WorkTech Academy on the types of facilities people expect in a smart office, features such as automated control of temperature and circadian lighting system came out on top. Smart buildings are already being designed and built. The smart building is a microcosm of the smart city. It can be thought of as its own ‘Building Internet of Things’ each aspect of building life connected to the next to optimize its usage and interaction with its human occupants. To achieve the type of smartness, each aspect of the building infrastructure is connected and able to apply data analytics to its everyday workings. The human occupants too are connected to the smart building. The old days where a worker would ‘clock in and out’ are long gone. The smart building knows not only when you are in it, but where you are at any given time. It knows if you take your coffee black. It knows when you take a toilet break. It may even use your Fitbit data to check out if you need to start using the stairs more than the elevator.

Being disabled in the smart city: According to The World Bank, 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability. Smart cities offer a perfect opportunity to make services accessible for all citizens, as long as these data are available and analyzed.

  • Infrastructure

All of this connectivity, data transfer, and analysis can’t work using magic. There has to be a robust and effective infrastructure underlying the smart city. The smart city is built upon data. Data collected from a myriad places, such as IoT devices, video/drone surveillance, smart grids, other sensors, etc., and the collected data is often aggregated to give a wider spectrum view of the city, its peoples, and its services. The Smart Cities in China report describes the infrastructure needs of the smart city as being “four everywhere” which equates to:

Data collection and aggregation are like a beating heart of the smart city, the privacy impact of which we will explore later.

  • Environment

The World Health Organization 2015 study into the biggest global causes of death, showed that health issues such as heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases were of most concern. And in 2015, a new cause of death entered the top ten in 2015 — road traffic accident. In a further report by WHO into sustainable cities, they cited this earlier report and set out that most of the top ten global killers could be prevented using good urban planning and policies. The report noted that many of the diseases were as a direct result of poor air or water quality. In addition, the United Nations found that in 2015, cities were consuming 75% of the Earth’s resources and creating 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Worth noting, is that as mentioned earlier, our neolithic ancestors who moved into settlements perhaps had similar ecological drivers as we do today.

One of the most powerful aspects of a smart city is the attendance to environmental control. Enerdata energy global energy analysis shows that energy consumption is steadily increasing, as you would expect with an increasing population. Smart energy gives us hope for a more controlled use of energy as our population soars. But not without a lot of data sharing…

Smart water allows the city to gather data on the usage patterns, flow, pressure, and pollutants within the water infrastructure of the city. Water management is a crucial and critical infrastructure problem for any city, not just smart cities. In the smart city, data analysis will provide the information needed to more effectively manage our utilities.

Increasingly, we are also seeing water based climate challenges, such as flooding or drought. Smart cities need to have in-built resilience to natural events such as monsoons, snowfall, and hurricanes, using data to more closely control the city’s water and sewage management systems. Examples like Chicago’s use of City Digital which uses underground sensors to measure rainfall and storm runoff, are likely to be used as templates for smart city management of water.

  • Economy

Cities are drivers of economic growth. According to “The New Climate Economy” cities produce 85% of the world’s GDP; the smart city encapsulates the use of innovation and technology to build resilient economies and take this to a new level. The Smart Cities Council believes that investment in smart infrastructure will result in prosperity for everyone. The challenges of over-population such as pollution, can be overcome using smart approaches which feeds into general improvements in the economy. Investments into smart utilities also have a positive impact on the economy through efficiency of use as well as being able to respond quickly to natural disasters such as hurricanes. In a paper by Kumar,, they laid out the building blocks of the smart city system which included a “smart economy”. According to the paper, the smart economy is, itself, composed of a number of components, which include, “enlightened entrepreneurial leadership”, “strategic investments on its strategic assets”, “highly values creativity and welcomes new ideas”.

The economy then, is intrinsically linked to the activities of the smart citizen and applying the science of data.

  • Smart city government

Ultimately, smart cities require smart governance to allow the component parts to work well. According to the Smart Cities Council, there are four key requisites for good smart city governance:

  • Strong executive leadership
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Governance
  • Integration

Each of these being based upon the management of the data needed to make the smart city tick. Smart data and smart governance are intrinsically linked. And this book will explore how the governance of these data needs to be based upon the respect for personal data, no matter what form that takes.

With Eyes Wide Shut

The smart city feels part of a long tradition amongst human beings of creating places of settlement where we could live and work together. It is a natural progression of the latter part of the 20th and 21st century to build our new cities on the foundation stone of technology. Technology is our hope for solving the world’s population explosion and the increasing urbanization of our citizens. But technology needs food to make it work, and in the case of the smart city, this food is data. In taking the smart city forward, we need to not lose sight of that most previous of human rights, privacy. Just because we think privacy doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean to say we are right.

Source: Medium

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