The smart city is a somewhat nebulous concept. There is no absolute definition, but rather a process or series of steps by which cities become more livable, resilient and able to respond quicker to new challenges.
In its latest report, IHS Technology defines a smart city as one that has deployed, or is currently piloting the integration of, information and communications technology (ICT) solutions across three or more sectorsenergy, transport, physical infrastructure, governance and safety/security functionsto improve efficiency, manage complexity and enhance citizen quality of life. IHS expects there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025, up from 21.
IHS forecasts annual investment on smart city projects will rise from the current $1 billion to $12 billion in 2025. Other smart city forecasts tend to be broader in their definitions. Navigant Research forecasts global smart city technology revenue will grow from $8.8 billion annually in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023, while Frost & Sullivan expects the global smart city market will be valued at $1.565 trillion in 2020.
While most analysts say a city with smart meters does not alone make it smart, the European Union (EU) classifies 240 of the 468 cities in the 28-nation bloc with 100,000+ inhabitants and at least one smart city characteristic as smart cities. The European Commission identifies Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), Manchester (UK) and Vienna (Austria) as the most successful in the EU.
Due to binding environmental targets, there tends to be a green focus in Europe when augmenting existing infrastructure with smart technology. In Copenhagen, for example, sensors are attached to bicycles to detect CO and NOx levels, while in Spains Santander, soil-humidity sensors detect when land requires irrigating to reduce unnecessary use of water.
In January, the Commission launched its Grow Smarter program, demonstrating 12 smart city solutions, including systems to optimize transport management and integrate renewables with urban power grids. The five-year program is being driven by three lighthouse citiesStockholm, Barcelona and Colognethat have five follower citiesGraz (Austria), Suceava (Romania), Valetta (Malta), Porto (Portugal), Cork (Ireland) which will learn from these demonstration areas.
While the combined Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region represents the largest number of smart cities at present, within a decade Asia-Pacific will take the lead, says IHS. By 2025, Asia-Pacific will account for 32 smart cities by 2025, Europe will have 31, and the Americas will contribute 25.
India is perhaps the one to watch. In July, Indias new Prime Minister Nahendra Modi announced plans to build 100 smart cities, including seven along the $90 billion DelhiMumbai Industrial Corridor, using a mixture of publicprivate partnerships (80%) and publicly-funded infrastructure investment (20%). One city already under construction is the $10 billion Gujarat International Finance Tec-City.
China, too, is pursuing a smart cities strategy as part of its efforts to stimulate economic development and eradicate poverty. This strategy involves at least 54 smart city projects, and includes cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Wuhan, who are aiming to build smart cities during the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015).
In Japan, the national government has selected 13 locations for its Eco-Model Cities (EMC) scheme. This includes four major citiesKitakyushu, Kyoto, Sakai, Yokohamaplus nine further small and medium cities.
Yokohamas smart city project, for example, includes 165,600 households focused on large-scale introduction of renewable energy through home energy management systems. One of the smaller EMCs, Toyota, has introduced a plug-in hybrid car sharing system and solar-powered recharging infrastructure, as well as a tax break whereby citizens who build smart houses or to convert their current residences into eco-friendly ones are exempted from half of the municipal real estate tax for three years.
Perhaps the worlds most famous smart city is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and its James Bond-esque mission control Centro de Operaes Preifetura do Rio de Janeiro (COR). COR monitors the municipalitys 30 departments and private suppliers in a single monitoring room, tracking real-time conditions in the city via 1,000 traffic and surveillance cameras.
Other cities have similar projects. Madrid has one control room for police, fire and ambulance services, for example. But none are as big as Rios. Built by IBM for $5.4m, an 80-meter wall monitor is broken into a grid of status graphs, meteorological reports, live video feeds from the cameras, plus Google satellite and street maps. This smart map enables 120 layers of information, such as the present location of every bus in the city.
Progress in Africa is slower than elsewhere, but notable projects include Kenyas Konza Techno City, 60km away from Nairobi in the so-called Silicon Savannah, plus Hope City in Ghana. Meanwhile, IBM is establishing its twelfth global laboratory in Nairobi and has included South Africas Durban and Nigerias Abuja in its Smarter Cities Challenge.
Of course, it is inherently easier to co-ordinate a smart city from scratch. Notable greenfield sites include Songdo City, a $20-40 billion development for a 500,000-person city built on reclaimed land by the Yellow Sea in South Korea; Masdar City in Abu Dhabi; and PlanIT Valley, a $10 billion project near Porto planned to accommodate 225,000 citizens in an area the size of downtown Boston. While some emerging countries are developing smart cities from the ground up, Armenia is perhaps stretching the game too far by branding its entire nation as a Smart Country.
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