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What Is A Smart City?

What is a smart city?

Cities scattered across the world have changed and developed into what we now call smart cities. While there is no universal definition, CISCO states “A smart city uses digital technology to connect, protect, and enhance the lives of citizens.” According to the Government of India, there is no universal definition for smart cities because the term “smart city” has many different meanings. It varies from city-to-city and person-to-person. Having an international source offers a good perspective on what smart cities mean around the world.

So, what is a smart city then? A smart city collects and analyzes data from IoT sensors and video cameras which are connected throughout the city a via the cloud. It pretty much “senses” the environment of the city to assist in the operation of the on a variety of area. Using the cloud as the connection for each device, this allows all aspects of cities to be intersected and have instant access to all parts of the city.

In terms of these categories, there are five main pillars in which a smart city is founded upon: smart energy solutions, smart safety and security solutions, efficient infrastructure and transportation, e-governance, and information and communication technology. Within each pillar, there are many subcategories of technologies and functionalities that support and build the foundation.

Five Pillars of a Smart City

Smart Energy Solutions

Over half of the world’s population resides in urban cities and the urbanizing trend is likely to continue to grow. By the year 2030, 60% of humanity will be living in the city, making developers rethink the idea of smart energy (Lo, 2018). With so many people inhabiting urban areas, it’s obvious that they are the main source of power demand, consuming two-thirds of the worlds energy while producing just about the same amount of carbon emissions (Lo, 2018). By the year 2050, we will have to triple our current energy supply to continue with the growth of technologies such as social media, video streaming and the devices and infrastructure that are supporting these technologies (Amin, 27). The storage facilities and data storage centers alone require about 2,500 megawatt hours (MWh) of power globally per year, which did not exist a decade ago. 2,500 MWh is enough power to supply 825,000 homes for one hour (Amin, 27).

Cities are at the center of discussion about becoming smart. They are making efforts to become more efficient and reduce energy consumption while developing more reliable and green solutions with the aid of technology. Forward-thinking cities are looking to re-define themselves and advances in technologies are the main reason why smarter solutions can be established. A major question that city planners and authorities have is: how can the current electrical infrastructure be developed in way to support economic growth, improve the quality of life and have a positive impact on the environment that we live in?

Many questions are focused around these concerns, and as a smart city uses digital connectivity and data to improve its purpose, including smart energy solutions, converting to smart solutions is the answer that many are looking for.


Self-Healing and Microgrids

Our power grid is under heavy stress everyday with the addition of more devices which then demand more power. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an electrical grid is an “interconnected group of power lines and associated equipment” (Frangoul, 2017). When an outage happens, there is a big impact on our daily lives because we rely on the grid so much. The effects can be anything from electronic banking, to public transportation to simple communication. Hospitals and data centers can be at great danger if they lose power and are considered more critical (Frangoul, 2017).

Currently, energy suppliers are able to see when there is an outage but isolating it can be much more problematic. This is why self-healing grids have become popular in areas. A self-healing grid uses real-time communications technologies and digital components installed throughout a grid. These components monitor the grid’s electrical features at all times and constantly adjust itself so that it operates at an ideal state. In the event of disasters, human error or even sabotage, the self-healing grid has the technology to constantly look for potential problems. Within a second, it can react to problems, isolating it before it can cause a major blackout. There are a number of benefits that a self-healing gird has but three of the most prevalent ones are:

• Real time monitoring which allows for instant adjustments to ensure the gird is at an ideal state;

• Anticipation which supports the system to automatically look for problems that could cause larger issues; and

• Rapid isolation which allows certain parts of the network to be isolated in the case of failure and prevents further damage.

In Europe’s biggest port, Seven Easergy T200 Remote Terminal Units were installed within a 33-substation loop in Rotterdam, Netherlands. If a fault or problem occur, the T200 is able to detect where it is and start the communication between each unit. Using communication diagnostics, they will then try to locate the issue. Rob de Jongh said the units attempt to “re-energize and re-connect the other grid parts so that customers get the energy back as quick as possible” (Frangoul, 2017).

Outside of the aspect of power disturbance management, a smart self-healing power grid has the ability to measure the power usage of consumers and when they use it. With this information, the utility company is able to charge customers a variable rate based on supply and demand and not just a standard cost. This will then drive customers to change their energy usage and use more and less energy during different times of the day. Thus, contributing to a healthier environment because the customers are able to be more efficient with their usage (Amin, 27).

The ideal smart energy gird consists of not just self-healing grids, but also microgrids. In the article The Case for Smart Grid, microgrids are “small, mostly self-sufficient power systems, and a stronger, smarter high-voltage power grid, which serves as the backbone to the overall system” (Amin, 28).

2017 was a year of disastrous power outages across North America as a result of storms and wildfires. In California, after losing power due to wildfires, a local farm had connection to power for ten day because they were connected to a microgrid. The microgrid allowed them to remain powered during this time thus, they were able to tend to their farm.

In Johnny Wood’s World Economic Forum article, he states that “smart microgrid systems are apable of providing most, if not all, of our future energy needs.”

Microgrids are becoming very popular because they are decentralized and can be owned independently. While they are connected to the main grid, they don’t rely on it for their source of power. They operate independently and provide neighborhoods with power.

Many of homes become a connected community and offer 70% less carbon emitted and a 30% return of energy back to the grid. Based off of Fujisawa, Japan (a city west of Tokyo), Denver, CO is establishing microgrids in their neighborhoods.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.