Smart city projects and technologies to keep an eye on

AR/VR in Smart cities

‘Smart City’, one of the visionary things of the new age world. Internet is changing our views about specific things such as information, data and gradually it is all set to change our whole imagination of modern town planning as well as the concept of modern cities as well. Let’s begin this ride by knowing that which city is termed as smart city and some till date statistics related to the same. So basically, a smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic Internet of things (IoT) sensors to collect data and then use these data to manage assets and resources efficiently. This includes data collected from citizens, devices, and assets that is processed and analyzed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, crime detection, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services.

Source : Google Images

The below image shows how the population is getting urbanised year by year. It is expected that around 65% of the world's population will be living in cities by the year 2040.

Source : Google Images

Now this urbanised population will have their own needs and those needs will be far more advanced than that of now. Governing bodies of all countries are having an urgent need to develop such concepts like smart cities to accommodate their needs as well as to grow with the rest of the world in coming advanced digital era. And not much surprisingly, developed as well as developing countries have started taking firm steps in this “Smart cities” field. It can be proved with the statistics of the number of smart cities around the world will have in 2025 from the image given below.

Smart city is the concept which accommodates more than one parameters of Industrial revolution 4.0. It is based on Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Extended Reality as well.

We will now take a closer look that how does the augmented reality technology helps in robust development of smart city.

AR Technology in Smart City

Augmented Reality (AR) technology and the market for it has matured enough for it to have the potential to play a central part in smart cities. AR can help in making the cities smart. As AR is a mixture of real as well as imaginary world, it can have a wider range of applications in case of smart cities.

A number of cities are starting to implement smart city technologies. The leading positions are held by Copenhagen, Singapore, Stockholm, Zurich and Boston. IESE Cities in Motion Strategies considers New-York, London and Paris to be the most advanced smart cities in the world.

One of the main components of the smart city concept is to make the urban environment more people centered. And that’s where augmented reality comes into play. Smart sensors, A.I., IoT are all technologies that contribute to the quality of life in a modern city. However, without augmented reality, this picture is incomplete. The other technologies are considered to be “back-end” technologies that work in the background and remain hidden from view. Augmented reality can be the interface which provides access to all the benefits of a smart city. With augmented reality, it is possible to interact with the normal environment in a completely different way. How? Let’s take a tour of them one by one.

AR in Navigation Systems of Smart Cities

Source: GeoSpatial World

The large metropolitan areas of modern cities makes it hard, even for local residents, to navigate. Many people navigate by looking at a smartphone screen. This is not the safest navigation approach, since you are usually not aware of your surroundings and it is easy to get into an accident. Creating an augmented layer with navigation can drastically improve the navigation experience and increase the safety of your journey.

AR as a Search Engine for Physical Places/Objects

Suppose that you are in a city and got hungry. You need to choose the best hotel from the bulk of options in front of you. In normal cities, you need to ask the surrounding people for the same. But if you are in a Smart city than AR will be helpful to you in a very innovative way as shown in below image.

Source : Searchengine land

While we use web browsers to navigate the Internet, there will be augmented reality browsers for navigation in an augmented reality world. However, this method of browsing will be dramatically different from what we have used on the Internet. Instead of simply typing a search query, AR browsing may involve physical interaction with the world, using gestures and body movements.

For instance, EcomARcio , an augmented reality powered ecommerce platform, aims to bring new shopping experience. While shopping is the most obvious application for augmented reality search engine, it definitely is not limited by it. Whether Google takes the initiative in the augmented reality search market or there is a new breed of start-ups in the augmented reality search market remains an open question.

Social Network for Citizens

Augmented reality can be used as a framework for a social platform, where citizens can interact with each other, share information and leave comments about real physical objects, such as restaurants, hospitals and other facilities.

For example, Andorra has created an AR social network for its citizens, where everyone can add comments on any object in the country and other users can see them. Think about it as augment reality Foursquare.

AR improves the sightseeing experience of any Smart City

When you visit a city as a tourist, it is easy to get lost in the city’s attractions. For example, you see a beautiful building from the Renaissance period in an old Italian town but have no clue what it is.

Source : Mytechlogy

AR : As an eliminator of language barrier

If you are in a city of Japan and do not know the Japanese language, then it may be a trouble for you there. Well, AR will come on your fingertips to help you out in decoding any language in your preferred language just like that as shown in the figure below.

Source : Popsci

After having this much closer look at AR applications in smart cities. Let’s get some idea about smart city technologies and couple of smart city projects as a case study.

Smart city technologies

Several concepts of the Smart city rely heavily on the use of technology; a technological Smart City is not just one concept but there are different combinations of technological infrastructure that build a concept of smart city.

  • Digital City: It combines service oriented infrastructure, innovation services and communication infrastructure; Yovanof, G. S. & Hazapis, G. N. define a digital city as "a connected community that combines broadband communications infrastructure; a flexible, service-oriented computing infrastructure based on open industry standards; and, innovative services to meet the needs of governments and their employees, citizens and businesses".
  • Virtual City: In these kinds of cities functions are implemented in a cyberspace; it includes the notion of hybrid city, which consists of a reality with real citizens and entities and a parallel virtual city of real entities and people. Having a smart city that is virtual means that in some cities it is possible coexistence between these two reality, however the issue of physical distance and location is still not easy to manage. The vision of the world without distance still remains unmet in many ways. In practice this idea is hold up through physical IT infrastructure of cables, data centers, and exchanges.
  • Information City: It collects local information and delivered them to the public portal; in that city, many inhabitants are able to live and even work on the Internet because they could obtain every information through IT infrastructures, thanks to the sharing information method among citizens themselves. Using this approach, an information city could be an urban centre both economically and socially speaking; the most important thing is the linkage among civic services, people interactions and government institutions.
  • Cognitive Smart City: Cognitive smart city expands the concept of the smart city by referring to the convergence of the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city technologies, their generated big data, and artificial intelligence techniques. Continuous learning through human interactions and consequently performing a dynamic and flexible behaviour and actions based on the dynamic environment of the city are the core components of such a framework.
Various smart city projects worldwide

Major strategies and achievements related to the spatial intelligence of cities are listed in the Intelligent Community Forum awards from 1999 to 2010. In which, cities like Songdo and Suwon, South Korea, Stockholm city of Sweden, Gangnam District of Seoul, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, New York city of USA, etc. were listed.

Case study : Smart City Dubai

In 2013, the Smart Dubai project was initiated by Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE, which contained more than 100 initiatives to make Dubai a smart city by 2030. The project aimed to integrate private and public sectors, enabling citizens to access these sectors through their smartphones. Some initiatives include the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy to create driverless transits, fully digitizing government, business and customer information and transactions, and providing citizens 5000 hotspots to access government applications by 2021. Two mobile applications, mPay and DubaiNow, facilitate various payment services for citizens ranging from utilities or traffic fines to educational, health, transport, and business services. In addition, the Smart Nol Card is a unified rechargeable card enabling citizens to pay for all transportation services such as metro, buses, water buses, and taxis. There is also the Dubai Municipality's Digital City initiative which assigns each building a unique QR code that citizens can scan containing information about the building, plot, and location.

Besides AR, Internet of things is also a crucial technology for making smart cities. IoT becomes important in terms of connecting various instruments to a single device and to control them on the fingertips.

IoT Solutions for Smart Cities

Approximately 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050 according to Gartner. To accommodate this new demand on cities, municipalities around the globe are turning to the Internet of Things innovation to enhance their services, reduce costs, and improve communication and interaction. Though the potential is there for IoT to improve nearly every aspect of urban living, there are three IoT applications for smart cities.

IoT is helpful in following ways to solve modern urban problems in a smarter way:

  • A more efficient water supply with real time information.
  • An innovative solution for traffic congestion with the help of smart traffic signals, camera monitoring and real time vehicle tracking.
  • IoT will provide more efficient and time saving public transportation with the help of live tracking of the public transport vehicles.
  • IoT will be helpful in making energy efficient buildings with the help of smart building energy management systems. For instance, use IoT devices to connect disparate, nonstandard heating, cooling, lighting, and fire-safety systems to a central management application.
  • IoT will assure public safety during unwanted situations like fire, earthquake and landslide, etc. with its real time monitoring system.

You will now very keen to know that if the world is moving rapidly in the field of smart cities, than what about India? What did Indian government do in this particular field till date? Then, you will not be disappointed with Indian government officials. They have started a nationwide ‘Smart city mission’. Details of it are as follows:

India’s Smart City Mission

Smart Cities Mission of India envisions developing an area within 100 cities in the country as model areas based on an area development plan, which is expected to have a rub-off effect on other parts of the city, and nearby cities and towns. Cities will be selected based on the Smart Cities challenge, where cities will compete in a countrywide competition to obtain the benefits from this mission. As of January 2018, 99 cities have been selected to be upgraded as part of the Smart Cities Mission after they defeated the other cities in the challenge.

It is a five-year program in which, except for West Bengal, all of the Indian states and Union territories are participating by nominating at least one city for the Smart Cities challenge. Financial aid will be given by the central and state governments between 2017-2022 to the cities, and the mission will start showing results from 2022 onwards.

Source : Google Images

Each city will create a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), headed by a full-time CEO, to implement the Smart Cities Mission. Centre and state government will provide 1,000 crore (US $140 million) funding to the company, as equal contribution of 500 crore (US $72 million) each. The company has to raise additional funds from the financial market as a debt or equity.

Summary

It can be surely seen that cities will have to be made smarter for accommodating the growth of the world economy. Especially in achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (aka SDGs) initiative by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to gain and retain the sustainable growth of the world with equality and prosperity till 2030 AD. Making the smart cities is not just a task, it is just like rejuvenating the future of our society. Augmented reality and IoT will be the key factors for this type of conversion as we have discussed so far. They both are the advanced digital tools for successful completion of smart cities project. Let’s hope for the best to come.

Keyur Bhalavat Founder and Director

A young entrepreneur full of intellectual energy and concern that transform into an untiring center of knowledge seeking, unafraid of exploring new and fresh ideas however challenging they may happen to be in the field of technology.