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Stephen Gill, Academic President of the College of Mathematics and Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, confirmed that Dubai is a pioneer in the development of smart cities thanks to the modern technology it provides.
Stephen Gill highlighted the key enabling technologies that will pave the way for the development of smart cities around the world, as well as the future challenges facing this transformation.
Gill said: “The impact of innovation on day-to-day operations has led to the emergence of smart ecosystems as management, transport, logistics, maintenance, education and healthcare are more or less automated. This led to the concept of smart cities where information and communication technology (ICT) is integrated into the existing city infrastructure that is managed with digital technology.”
“Approximately 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas and this number is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050, according to a 2018 United Nations report. Monitoring assets and operations in very large cities can only be economically and be efficient if they are connected and automated and this is the basic principle of smart cities.”
Jill mentioned six technology trends that are helping to develop and enable smart cities:
1- Internet of Things (IoT): Smart cities use IoT devices such as connected sensors, lights and meters to collect and analyze data. Smart cities then use this data to improve infrastructure, utilities, services and more. In smart buildings, for example, IoT devices and solutions help property managers to be more efficient, sustainable and resilient, thereby lowering the cost of operations and improving the lives of their residents.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI is already making a big impact by equipping cities with advanced features that make it more convenient for people to live, walk, shop and enjoy a safe life. AI-enabled cameras and sensors can monitor environments to improve safety in city neighborhoods. Many smart cities around the world are also taking advantage of artificial intelligence to control traffic congestion; Sensors installed in parking lots, traffic lights and at intersections AI helps collect data useful to authorities for more efficient city planning.
3- The fifth generation network: 5G is an important building block in the creation of modern and interconnected cities providing comprehensive, reliable and fast internet which in turn will allow the sharing and consumption of data that is largely inside and outside the smart city infrastructure is generated. It is expected to be up to 100 times faster than current 4G systems, with up to 25 times lower latency and up to 1 million supported devices per square kilometer. This boost in bandwidth could bring many new opportunities, such as autonomous driving. The high-speed connectivity and computing power of 5G could make smart cities more common as governments around the world look to adopt new technologies for smart city solutions.
Gill added that “despite the growth of smart city solutions conceived by designers, engineers and developers, there are still a set of challenges that hinder the development of smart city projects” and highlighted some challenges.
4- ICT: Many of the current ICT operations of smart cities rely on dedicated systems that are not interoperable, portable across cities, scalable or cost-effective. In addition, a number of architectural design efforts are underway (eg IEEE, ITU, ISO/IEC, consortia) but are not yet integrated.
5- Data issues: Because a large amount of data needs to be compiled and analyzed, it requires a large infrastructure to store this data, and more processing power as such, which in turn consumes a large amount of electricity and space and creates significant carbon emissions while doing so. Effective use of the large amounts of data that smart cities require requires extensive wireless coverage and high transmission speeds, but the necessary and appropriate infrastructure is usually not found in many parts of the world.
6- Cyber threats: There are an estimated 22 billion devices in the network worldwide and each of these devices acts as a vulnerability for malicious actors, with common tools such as IP cameras and digital video recorders possibly facing the greatest risks stare. 5G is secure by default and has many advanced security capabilities, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. While the high speed of 5G networks allows them to offer new layers of connectivity, the subsequent increase in devices talking to each other is also a problem. Regardless of their goals, each new connected device adds to the number of access points in the network that can easily turn into a cybersecurity liability if not handled properly.
Gill said: “The concept of smart cities is slowly but surely becoming a reality as many countries around the world embrace digital transformation. Some of the most innovative smart city projects are already serving as benchmarks for countries and governments with smart city aspirations.
However, building smart cities requires an environment that enhances opportunities to use data, sensors and other smart devices to improve operations. For example, 5G alone cannot stimulate the development of smart cities. Creating and maintaining smart cities requires large investments, and adequate funding requires the cooperation of private and public authorities at various levels.
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