The building blocks of smart cities is data and digital technology. The GOAL of any initiative, smart or otherwise, is to improve the quality of life for citizens and visitors. Detailed and real-time data gives agencies the ability to watch events as they unfold, understand how demand patterns are changing, and respond with faster and lower-cost solutions.

Smart technologies reduce the cost of gathering information, providing a volume of data points to city governments, employers, and residents. Armed with the right information cities can optimize existing systems. Some smart solutions respond to demand from the public to shape the service. The result is a more livable city and productive place for businesses to operate.

Three Layers

Three layers work together to make a smart city operate efficiently. First is the technology base, including mobile devices and connected sensors as well as open data portals. Sensors take constant readings of variables such as traffic flow, energy consumption, air quality, and other aspects of daily life and provide information at the fingertips of those who need it.

The second layer consists of specific applications. Raw data is translated into alerts, trends, and other insights that result in action. The right tools may already exist in the application portfolio, and they can be available in multiple domains as seen in the exhibit.

The third layer is public usage. Apps are only useful if they are widely adopted and manage to change behaviors. Some of them put individuals in the driver’s seat by giving them more transparent information they can use to make better choices.

Smart cities add digital intelligence and use it to solve public problems.

Substantial Unrealized Potential

Smart city applications can effect various quality-of-life dimensions; safety, time and convenience, health, environmental quality, social connectedness and civic participation, jobs, and the cost of living.

Public Safety & Traffic Safety

Everything from emergency response times to effective safety inspections, public safety is high on the priority  list for city services. Technology is not a quick fix for crime, but agencies can use data to deploy scarce resources and personnel more effectively.

Cities that deploy a range of applications to their maximum effect could reduce fatalities from homicide, road traffic, and fires by 8-10 percent. Predictive policing, real-time crime mapping, and gunshot detection have the greatest impact on preventing deaths. Incidents of assault, robbery, and burglary could be lowered by 30-40 percent, with predictive policing, real-time crime mapping, and home security systems making the biggest difference. Optimized dispatching and synchronized traffic lights could cut emergency response times by 20-35 percent. On top of these metrics are the incalculable benefits of giving residents freedom of movement and peace of mind.

Smart city technologies can make daily commutes faster and less frustrating

Tens of millions of people in cities begin and end every workday fuming in traffic or piling onto overcrowded buses and trains. Improving the daily commute is critical to the quality of life.

By 2025, cities that deploy smart mobility applications could cut commuting times by 15–20 percent on average, with some people enjoying even larger reductions. The potential associated with each application is highly variable, depending on each city’s density, existing transit infrastructure, and commuting patterns. technologies save the average commuter almost 15 minutes a day.

Public Transit. Cities with well-used transit systems benefit from applications that streamline the experience for riders. using digital signage or mobile apps to deliver real-time information about delays enables riders to adjust their routes on the fly. Installing IoT sensors on existing physical infrastructure can help crews perform predictive maintenance, fixing problems before they turn into breakdowns and delays. Collecting and analyzing data on public transit usage and traffic can also help cities make better decisions about modifying bus routes, installing traffic signals and turn lanes, adding bike lanes, and allocating infrastructure budgets.

Traffic Mitigation. Appligations that ease road congestion are more effective in cities where driving is prevalent or where buses are the primary mode of transit. Real-time navigation alerts drivers to delays and helps them choose the fastest route. Smart parking apps point them directly to open spots, eliminating the time fruitlessly circling city blocks.