Smart cities use modern technology to provide services and to solve different kinds of urban problems, such as air pollution, traffic congestion, and safety issues.
“In smart cities, digital technologies translate into better public services for citizens, better use of resources and less impact on the environment.”European Commission
In addition, smart city projects can definitely help city governments operate more efficiently and improve the quality of life for residents.
Smart city applications improve some key quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30 percent (McKinsey Global Institute analysis).
Starting a smart city journey might seem scary and complicated, even for governments. If you are aspiring to become a smart city, to reduce costs or to contribute to sustainability and stand out from the other urban areas not only in your country but worldwide, then you can begin implementing several easy short-term projects.
Here are three of the best examples of “first-step” smart city projects that you can start and finish this year.
1. Smart Benches
Sixty-seven percent of today’s global population has a smartphone, which translates to 5.11 billion unique mobile users. The need to always stay connected is more important than ever before, and that’s why transforming public spaces so residents can have richer experiences is what governments should contemplate.
One of the most common problems city residents have when they use public spaces is needing to charge a low-battery mobile device. Another challenge is when there is no free WiFi hotspot in the city when it’s most needed. Installing smart benches that use solar power can solve all the mentioned issues. Smart benches with solar harvesting provide the functionality to the users, and at the same time, the city government can monitor public space usage and foot traffic to continuously improve public spaces.
2. Smart Lighting
According to the World Bank, street lighting energy consumption is an increasingly significant part of cities’ energy use and a growing burden on municipal budgets.
In most urban areas, the street lamps are turned on even if there is no one in the area and thus the electricity is wasted. Smart lamps can reduce extra costs; they automatically detect movement in the streets and adjust brightness accordingly. If there’s no movement in the area, it can be dimmed to the pre-selected level of brightness, for example, 50 percent. That helps to ensure security while reducing extra costs.
Also, smart lamps can provide security through video surveillance with advanced analytics, as well as an emergency call button. In addition, a smart lamp has integrated charging for electric vehicles and e-bikes. Enhancing security and digital services and analyzing public space usage highlights the value of a smart city and brings public support and involvement.
These features can be integrated into existing lamps and poles. Smart lighting projects have the potential to be highly successful, for example, the “Milan LED” project has reduced energy costs by 51.8 percent and overheads by 31 percent. This resulted in a cost savings of 10 million euros in 2015.
3. City Info Kiosks
Oftentimes, city residents and tourists need information about public transport scheduling or navigation. News about local events and weather forecast are important, too. An efficient way to give all the necessary information can be via an info kiosk, a touchscreen computer terminal for public use, that can perform multifunctional services with multimedia applications. Additionally, the info kiosk can provide public WiFi, charges devices or calls emergency services at the push of a button.
Helping locals and tourists to navigate the city effectively is important not only for big cities, but for small urban areas, too. Often governments of Small towns work tirelessly to keep their city environment attractive to locals and reduce the number of people leaving the small city.
The installation of smart benches, smart street lamps, and city info kiosks will positively affect city image and improve the quality of life of residents. In addition, these are the short-term projects that can be deployed during the next 6 months with a relatively small budget. They don’t require hundreds of thousands or millions of euros to get started. Moreover, city governments in European Union countries can get financial resources from EU structural funds.