What Makes Smart Cities Smart

When looking to develop or transform into a smart city, we need to not just address the current challenges the city is facing, but also scale it to its maximum potential.

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By Isaac H. Sutton


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In general, cities and habitats are posing a dire need to be more connected, more innovative, and more citizen-centric. Technology has played -and will continue to play- a significant role in designing solutions to address the problem statements that citizens and the authorities face. But when looking to develop or transform into a smart city, we need to not just address the current challenges the city is facing, but also scale it to its maximum potential. Keeping the population growth smart transformations attract in mind, that will, in turn, result in infrastructure limitations, congestion, and insufficient power structures. Many governments have already started to gear cities towards being smarter, looking to implement solutions that add value, and modify the city for the collective good.

What makes a city smart?

Smart cities have the ability to create safe and sustainable environments that are centered around the wellbeing of their inhabitants. They can and do achieve that successfully by focusing on accessibility, transportation, improved healthcare, and reduced waste to improve social and economic quality. But they are not all about technology.

While technology plays a vital role, there's a combination of things that make a city smart. A smart city is a network of data-harnessing touchpoints designed to streamline and automate processes and help in real-time decisions. Solutions thus need to be resilient, and by relying on both history and future trends, cities can identify areas that will be important to municipal planning and development.

What tech is smart tech?

There are several technologies available today, and what would actually fit would vary from city to city based on their individual challenges, environmental actions, and the end-goal of the smart city. We could see smart buildings, smart healthcare, smart security, smart commerce, and smart mobility independently, or as a holistic ecosystem. Today, all this and more can be achieved through artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud computing.

Related: Three Ways IoT Is Shaping The Smart Cities Of The Future

The top technologies you can expect in future cities

While many technologies are instrumental to smart infrastructures, the following are a few we will see in all major metropolises very soon.

The internet of things (IoT) The internet of things (IoT) is precisely what it sounds like- it is a network of devices that communicate with one another and extract real-time results without human intervention. IoT has a vast myriad of applications in smart cities, including smart mobility for efficient public transport management that aids with the environment, congestion, and general population efficiency.

Robotics Robots have been adopted already in cities, including Dubai. Today, the main focus on their adoption in cities is healthcare, maintenance, and service purposes. We can expect to see more specialized robotics in operating theaters. Most hospitals currently have operational robots. The world's leading medical technology company, Stryker, has a robotic arm that has performed over 70,000 knee and hip replacements. Restaurants are already using voice-activated drive throughs, and I'm sure many of us have been served by a robotic waiter.

Connectivity Connectivity is the backbone of all smart concepts and technology in general, and 5G is so much more than just speed. The increased capacity and network potential of high-speed public wifi is paramount. It will be as staple as waste bins and sidewalks soon. Such connectivity paves the path of mass adoption of smart homes and smart mobility technologies, and makes way for further system automation.

General automation Smart cities are designed to address human "problem statements." As such, smart cities are places where you do not have to drive around the lot eight times before finding a spot.

But it is much more than just tech

As mentioned earlier, cities will not become smart just because of technology, and there is no exact science, or a "one size fits all" framework that builds such places. So, unless a brand new metropolis is being developed, all solutions have to be made to build and fit the needs of the people and according to the existing infrastructure. So, in the words of seasoned analysts: the smartest way is to build with- and not over.

Related: Five Reasons Why Dubai Is A Hub For Entrepreneurs Looking For Business Growth Post The COVID-19 Crisis

Isaac H. Sutton

Founder and Chief Executive Officer at VALO Smart City

Isaac H. Sutton is the founder and Chief Executive Officer at VALO Smart City. With over 40 years of successful entrepreneurial experience, Sutton has held multiple leadership roles as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board for numerous companies, including GolP Global Inc. and Tarsier Ltd. He additionally has the distinction of founding and steering several companies to success especially in emerging markets. His company VALO Smart City secured a 20 year contract with the Roads and Transport Authority of the Government of Dubai in 2021 against some of the world’s biggest players leading to the establishment of the company’s regional expansion to the Middle East. An avid reader and golf enthusiast, Isaac Sutton holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Pace University.

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