Nick Chorley believes they can be, provided there is a single, interconnected view of what’s happening where and what trends are emerging.
Urbanisation shows no signs of slowing down, in fact, according to the United Nations, two out of three people will be living in urban areas by 2050. This increase in city populations will undoubtedly put an even greater strain on government service providers.
Faced with more people than ever before moving into urban areas, cities throughout the world are continuously evaluating how to improve residents’ quality of life amidst increasing demand for services and resources. In the long run, for cities to be safer and more resilient, they need to be smarter.
Addressing the problem
The concept of smart cities has been around for quite some time. Since its inception, city planners have adopted a host of software, cloud storage systems, and interconnected devices to enable public services to work together more efficiently. From optimising traffic and mobility conditions to improving emergency response times, the internet of things (IoT) and smart sensor technology have been implemented across cities to make use of all the data available to improve day-to-day services.
But too often, these have been one-off solutions for one-off problems, whereas in cities, problems are often interconnected. For example, consider the effects of traffic changes on ambulance response times or the impacts of street lighting on crime. Though each public service has its own requirements and particularities, there is often overlap and one problem impacts another. Recognising and addressing the overlap is where smarter, safer cities are created.
The answer lies in integration and coordination
In order to achieve an efficient smart city, it is important that cities create transparency between city services. Today’s cities often operate independently with separate teams that manage needs like traffic, utilities, electric supply, water, and parking, reducing efficiency and agility, especially during emergencies and crisis situations. Each of these departments generate massive amounts of data each day, but most cities do not have the capabilities to fully understand and leverage this data. By accessing and sharing data from multiple sources in an integrated operational view, organisations can improve situational awareness, communication and coordination, enabling faster and more efficient responses from vital public services.
Integrated operations are a successful example of how technology can provide intelligence to organisations in a city. One example is the recently established Operations Centre in Glasgow which is a state-of-the-art integrated traffic and public safety management system, designed to better coordinate city services. The centre’s integrated technologies, such as video analytics, deliver real-time, intelligence-led response to incidents as and when they occur, from public safety emergencies to traffic infringements. The data, taken from sensors and systems across the city, is analysed and sent to the correct department for quick response which enables issues to be rectified and resolved much more efficiently.
Other initiatives include Mayor Sadik Khan's Smarter London Together roadmap, which has placed data sharing, smart infrastructure, and technological innovation as key drivers for development. By sharing data between infrastructure owners such as Transport for London (TfL), utilities and real estate, connectivity providers will be able to build their networks more easily and local occupants will be less disrupted by building work.
However, the benefits of integration go beyond like-minded providers. Integration between different public and private organisations, NGOs and residents can take collaboration to a new level, eliminating communication barriers and simplifying processes. In fact, city planners are investing in smart technologies, such as real-time crime mapping, to reduce response times and enable earlier intervention. McKinsey & Company found that deploying a range of smart public safety technologies and improving data sharing practices could help lower crime incidents by 30 to 40 percent and reduce fatalities by as much as 8 to 10 percent.
With improved data sharing practices between local government and public sector organisations, data sources can be unified into a single view, allowing emergency responders and other critical services to easily identify trends and make better connections between crimes, enabling earlier intervention.
The future of collaboration
The possibilities for the development of smart cities are many and the benefits to emergency and public services are endless. By developing well-integrated features and employing data and technology to intelligently solve problems, cities can ensure better use of their resources and provide better community services.
Ultimately, the future of smart cities depends on improving data sharing between organisations, local government and emergency responders. By utilising all the data that is available, technologies provide a new toolset to deliver more efficient and effective services.
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