Smart cities for a stronger, resilient future
A recent slew of natural disasters has brought city resiliency to the forefront of all local government leaders’ minds. Each city faces unique potential threats, from hurricanes to tornados to fires, and is tasked with ensuring their city’s individual protection needs are met. However, all cities can benefit from preparing for expected and unexpected threats in advance to ensure damages are as minimal as possible.
A strong step toward being prepared is to integrate smart technologies into existing infrastructure, which can help cities achieve resiliency as well as instill a feeling of comfort and safety for its occupants. To start, city leaders should pinpoint their unique challenges and goals, and from there determine which intelligent infrastructure or technologies to integrate.
By establishing goals or desired outcomes in advance, cities can better narrow down and focus their smart city plan. Typically, the main goal for most cities is to integrate technologies that will help them thrive and succeed for years to come. A successful strategy is one that can take advantage of connected technologies, which can positively impact public safety, economic development, traffic and aging infrastructure challenges. It can also help city leaders better manage energy and maintenance costs, reduce environmental impact, enhance resident and visitor comfort and safety, and increase building values.
The biggest challenge that many cities historically face is working with existing infrastructure, which plays a role in which connected technologies can be integrated. Building upon that existing infrastructure is often times the best option given costs associated with replacing entire systems or starting from scratch. For this approach, city leaders must identify the structures and technologies that can be repurposed and enhanced to create a smarter network.
Safety and security
Public safety is always a top priority for city leaders as they continually work to provide a safe place for citizens to live, work and play. Security is part of the city’s overall brand as it impacts all aspects of a municipality from airports to water, wastewater and lighting. When the right assets are in place, it can help attract and retain visitors, residents and businesses. Incorporating technology, such as video surveillance, in a smart city infrastructure can help deter crime, improve response time and improve overall city operations before and after an emergency.
Ensuring a city is not shut down entirely during a natural disaster is crucial. Distributed energy storage technology can help a city stay up and running regardless of a power outage as it releases stored energy to buildings and city residents. Having distributed energy storage in place in advance can lessen the impact of a disaster, as well as save the city money. This technology is extremely important when considering future infrastructure investments for a smart city.
While they may seem rudimentary, streetlights can play an integral role in smart city resiliency. While we know they are important to road safety and, of course, lighting the way for pedestrians, today they are also being used across cities for safety and operational efficiency. This existing infrastructure allows for smart improvements, such as networked LED streetlights, to be easily added and more cost-effective. Ordinary streetlights can be transformed into vertical assets through the addition of cameras, sensors and gunshot detection devices. During a hurricane or forest fire, for example, using traffic sensors and climate detection, smart streetlights can light a path for residents that is both uncongested and safe to pass from flooding or poor air quality. This everyday asset with added intelligence can now be one of the main components that helps improve the speed and safety of evacuations during an emergency.
Water leaks during or after a disaster can put residents’ water at risk and waste the city’s time and money. Implementing an advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) can help monitor for electric meter anomalies, allowing city officials to handle any issues swiftly. An AMI network sends real-time alerts the minute it senses an issue, whether that be a power outage or an unusual change in temperature that could be caused, for example, by a short in the meter which could pose a risk of fire. As with lighting and energy, improvements to water infrastructure can be critical to lessen both impact and downtime following a disaster.
Smart cities are the future, making it even more important for local governments to identify what is possible in their own cities. Implementing these smart technologies for a more comprehensive and holistic network is a step towards a more resilient future. Now is the time to identify goals and challenges and make a plan in advance of emergencies. Resiliency is achievable through smart cities, it’s just a matter of taking advantage of the technologies at hand.
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