How smart tech can enable safe and sustainable urbanisation

smart technology urban planning
Image by Frogella | Bigstockphoto

Smart technology and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors have become commonplace in everyday life. From the smart watch on your wrist to the smart meter in our homes, connected devices have become a mainstay in our currently more efficient and sustainable world.

At the city level, rapid urbanisation has seen the integration of newer technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and IoT into urban planning to create more connected, safer, and sustainable living.

Singapore, which was recently named the world’s smartest city in 2021 in the Smart City Index, is a prime example. The country’s Smart Nation initiative establishes how technology can create a more efficient and safer environment for citizens, while overcoming the frustrations of city-living.

Improved traffic flow

Moving large numbers of people from point to point is a major challenge in urban planning. With the return of pre-pandemic commuter traffic as cities loosen restrictions, buses will become more crowded and roads more congested. For many urban dwellers who need to travel from home to work or school and back daily, commuting can be a stressful and unpleasant experience.

Connected sensors deployed across the city can make up-to-date information easily available to help citizens make travel decisions easier and faster. With more people accessing real-time updates on congestion and overcrowding, traffic can flow more freely as people opt for alternate routes, reducing delays. 

For example, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority deployed IoT sensors to collect information in real time. This information is then used for analysis and planning, and to ease or eliminate heavy traffic congestion as part of the Smart Nation initiative.

This IoT system significantly improved traffic flow with a 92% reduction of buses experiencing crowding problems, in addition to a three to seven minute decrease in the average waiting time for buses. In this case, the smart use of IoT technology has tremendously enhanced the living conditions of Singaporeans, where there are over 1 million registered vehicles on the road sharing a small surface area of less than 730 square kilometres.

Additionally, LTA recently implemented the Fusion Analytics for Public Transport Emergency Response (FASTER) system. The FASTER system warns commuters of crowd surges, estimates transport delays and the number of commuters affected in the case of an accident, even suggesting the insertion of new buses and trains when road incidents occur.

Smart trash management

As cities across the world roar back to life, so do the bothersome inconveniences of city living. From busy queues at rush hour, bins that are constantly overflowing with trash, to broken streetlights that are not fixed for weeks, frustrations can build among city dwellers.

Governmental services that are typically routine can cause frustration. For instance, bins that are emptied on a specific day of the week or streetlights that are only checked when maintenance workers make their rounds often go unnoticed for long periods at a time.

However, with the help of smart technology, these issues can easily be resolved. IoT sensors installed on bins, connected to a centrally managed platform, can be programmed to alert services when the container is full. This allows the waste-removal team to only come when needed, reducing unnecessary trips and increasing efficiency.

Energy savings

As more countries pledge to meet to their climate change goals, many governments are finding newer, more efficient ways to save energy in all sectors. Recent energy-efficient methods have included subsidised public transport, the construction of green buildings and electric buses being deployed across Singapore.

Currently, nearly 20% of the country’s carbon emissions come from buildings and their associated energy usage. Smart and connected technology can be tapped on to help reduce these emissions.

Fortunately, such goals are already written into the Singapore Green Building Masterplan, which aims to have 80% of buildings in Singapore be green and 80% of new infrastructure be Super Low Energy by the year 2030.

Installing IoT sensors in buildings allows organisations to monitor the energy consumption of devices no matter the time or place. With IT teams remotely managing devices from one centralised platform, businesses will be able to save energy consumption and costs without ever having to manually flip the switch.

The brighter and smarter future is not too far away. Governments and urban planners can now leverage connectivity and smart technologies to build modern cities with services that function more seamlessly, safely, and sustainably. Also, in every connected city that is driven by data and information, a reliable, secure, and scalable network is required to support it all.

Written by Kenny Ng, APAC Business Development, Network Business Division, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

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