What makes a city smart?

Jon Lawson

Emerging smart cities are changing urban planning around the world. But, what is a smart city? Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation explains how grid technology must change to build a smart city.

There is no official checklist of what a city needs to have to be considered smart — each city will have different requirements depending on its location and citizens. Cisco explains that a smart city is space that uses digital technology to connect, protect and enhance the lives of its inhabitants. The areas where a city planner may choose to implement these technologies will differ to best suit its location and population.
Power distribution

Smart cities require an extensive infrastructure of sophisticated technology. The more technology a city has, the more energy it needs to power that technology.
Cities traditionally have an electricity network that distributes its utilities, including running water, gas and electricity. Burning fossil fuels traditionally generates the energy for the grid, which is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions that are endangering our planet.
The electricity systems we see around the world have worked well for decades, so why are many cities choosing to build a more complex infrastructure?
Governments across the world are making changes to reduce carbon emissions, aiming to radically reduce reliance on fossil fuels by 2020. Changing the electricity supply sector will be the main contribution to meeting the reduction targets. Current infrastructure does not have the capability to handle the amounts of data needed to increase process intelligence in the city.
A smart grid will support the change from burning fossil fuels to sourcing energy from renewable energy technologies.
Creating a smart grid is integral to support smart city infrastructure. Smart grids are modernised electricity grids that interact with technology and infrastructure to increase the transparency of energy use for consumers.
Before investing in smart technology for the grid, city agencies need to understand what citizens need. Smart sensors connected to the IoT installed across the city will collect and analyse data so that city agencies can react to the changes or needs of the citizens.
Smart grids use sensors that collect data about consumers’ energy usage and requirements. Simply, a smart grid is more economical, reliable, sustainable and secure. It allows real-time communication with technology and consumers to create a more personalised service.
Any person with an energy smart meter is already seeing the benefits of a smarter grid, because they can see exactly how much they spend on utilities, rather than paying a standard rate.
The smart grid will do more than control utilities. It can monitor power, distribute broadband to improve connectivity and control processes such as traffic control. The real-time collected data can also help city agencies or councils to evaluate energy usage and make changes to improve efficiency.
The smarter the grid, the smarter the city and the better the quality of life of its citizens. Increasing the intelligence of infrastructure gives citizens the power to control their utilities and any technology or service they interact with daily.
There are many benefits to a smarter grid — it has the potential to help us reach carbon reduction and renewable energy goals, improve economic efficiency and improve power distribution.
No city looks the same and this is also true for the smart city. City agencies can look to examples such as Seoul, Singapore and Barcelona for inspiration of how technology can improve the standard of living. Ultimately, a smart city will not be possible without a more intelligent energy grid.


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