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How to grow smart cities

Shawn DuBravac, chief economist, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) | June 26, 2015
Consumer Electronic Association’s (CEA) Chief Economist, Shawn DuBravac, breaks down the concept of a smart nation into digestible bits and explains how cities like Singapore can become a smart nation, and how the consumer technology industry helps drive this change.

Driverless cars can communicate with one another, sharing valuable speed, location and traffic information, creating safer roads where human error will no longer cause accidents. Ford is another manufacturer making waves in this innovative sector. As CES Asia, the company announced the My Energi Lifestyle pilot program for China, a plan to increase the number of renewable energy-powered vehicles on Chinese roads.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, are another important building block in the creation of smart cities. Drones equipped with cameras can quickly transport food and medical supplies to areas in need, such as disaster relief zones, assist law enforcement, and even service our logistics needs by transporting goods. Amazon Prime Air is an early example of how drones can facilitate more efficient delivery. At the commercial level, drones can also provide aerial video coverage of sports, travel and real estate.

We'll track everything from our sleep patterns to the weather, to the traffic along our commute routes for the day ahead. We'll receive personalized alerts and recommendations designed to help our days run smoothly.

Buildings and homes connected to smart energy grids and smart thermostats will intuitively turn down the heat when no one is inside and monitor the physical state of the occupants via their wearables and smartphones. Initiatives like Qualcomm's Smart City will help usher in better connected urban landscapes. Outside the home, more energy-efficient street lighting will operate based on the surrounding human activity and pedestrians' proximity.

Meaningful Innovation

With so many possibilities for IoT, the question now is whether this connectivity makes a difference in the physical world. That is the measure of meaningful innovation. The technology we will see in our smart cities could prove to be among mankind's most meaningful innovation, helping to address one of the biggest challenges facing society — accommodating the mass urbanization that is taking place across the globe.

Today, many cities around the world struggle with pollution, contaminated water supplies and heavily congested roads. But smart cities can control and monitor electricity and vehicle use, ultimately helping curtail pollution and improve efficiency. Smart water management ensures this precious resource is distributed as efficiently and safely as possible. Smart public transport reduces running costs and accommodates more passengers, easing congestion on our roads.

Fostering a Smart Ecosystem

As the world moves closer to achieving the full potential of IoT ecosystems, we are sure to face many challenges. Cities do not develop as one harmonious organism working in sync — they are result of millions of individual entities all jostling together as one. Smart cities represent IoT on the largest scale — rather than consumer-to-device connections, we are talking about society and infrastructure. Millions of consumers connected to millions of devices.  

 

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