How Technology Influences Today's Smart Cities

By Lisa Brown, Senior National Director, Municipal Infrastructure and Smart Cities, Johnson Controls

Lisa Brown, Senior National Director, Municipal Infrastructure and Smart Cities, Johnson Controls

Cities all over face similar challenges related to crime, outdated city equipment, sustainability and traffic control. For cities struggling to address these issues on a limited budget, the idea of creating a “smart city” seems out of reach and often overwhelming. However, what many city leaders are coming to realize is that making steps towards becoming a smart city can also help address many of the challenges they are currently struggling with. With the implementation of technologies such as video surveillance, connected LED Lighting and advanced water meters, cities can begin to work more efficiently while rectifying many of the challenges they face daily.

Safety - Video Surveillance

It’s hard to completely eradicate crime and illegal activity, but a visible camera on street lights can help deter crime and suspicious activities. Cameras can also be used to help improve response time for first responders as well as get a clear image of the parties involved in the incident for further investigation.

The same video surveillance used for traditional security purposes can also help improve traffic flow and parking management. With the addition of sensors, these cameras can help identify areas where there is heavy traffic and can help city officials figure out why that is happening and how it can be addressed. They can also be used to monitor parking areas to determine when lots are full or if a car is parked in a restricted area, like a fire lane. This can be a valuable asset, especially for cities who host large events like concerts or festivals as well as residents who can more easily find an available parking spot

Connectivity -LED Lighting

Connected LED street lights are also multipurpose for a city – they cut down on energy use and allow for more efficient maintenance, both which lower costs. At its core, street lighting is used to brighten streets at night making it safer for both drivers and pedestrians. For the safety of the community, it is important to keep those lights on and, often times, when lights go out it can take a call from a concerned citizen to alert city officials there is a problem. With connected LED lights, city officials can use their centrally-managed, wireless lighting system to remotely pinpoint an outage as soon as it occurs and get it functioning again as quickly as possible.

LED lights are more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs and considering street lighting accounts for a large percentage of energy consumption, a small change can make a huge difference in a cities’ sustainability efforts. By cutting back on energy consumption cities can build new revenue streams with the cost savings they create. Those funds can then be filtered back into government budgets and spent on deferred maintenance or improving local parks and recreational areas.

Water Efficiency – Advanced Metering

On a similar note, water leaks can cost a city a lot of money and also be dangerous to resident’s health. Implementing advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) can help monitor for electric meter anomalies, allowing for city officials to handle any issues swiftly. The ability to catch a water leak early on not only saves the city money, which again, can be used towards other improvements, but helps maintain the cities’ water supply. This can be particularly useful after a natural disaster occurs and several areas are without water.

Creating a smart city is more than just having the latest and greatest technologies, it is about creating the safest, most sustainable and efficient environment possible. Today’s connected technologies are a means to an end, not the main focus. Identifying which technologies can best address your needs at the moment and building on from there is the best way to achieve smart city success.

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