How will the widespread rollout of new network technologies help make smart cities even smarter?
By Steve Mazur
The concept of a smart city invokes specific imagery in peoples’ minds, be it the ’60s cartoon The Jetsons or something akin to the dystopian future portrayed in the Blade Runner franchise. Although there are no flying cars or glass tubes funneling people to work, the reality is that smart cities are already here, operating behind the scenes in surprisingly practical yet valuable ways.
Smart cities use advancements in digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things, to improve the quality of life of their residents, save energy and reduce emissions.
And as 5G wireless networks become more widely available and sophisticated, the capabilities of smart cities will increase rapidly. Everything running on IoT connections from vehicles, public transportation, water and traffic management, public safety, and green technologies will experience massive innovations with the advent of 5G.
5G Will Improve Smart Transportation Systems
Autonomous and connected vehicles already possess impressive abilities, like detecting objects in their path and braking if necessary. When equipped with 5G, these vehicles will become even safer and more commonplace.
Through 5G communication, artificial intelligence will have the power to make split-second decisions on roads and intersections. Smart cities also plan to build connected vehicle grids so autonomous vehicles can “talk” with each other and receive instructions to avoid congested areas and prevent accidents.
Connected vehicles using 5G have the potential to benefit the environment as well. Many anticipate that the rise of autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services will result in reduced personal vehicle ownership. Additionally, connected vehicles will be primarily electric and require smaller motors, cutting down the use of fossil fuels.
Public transportation, a staple of cities, can also benefit from 5G networks via real-time and end-to-end visibility. Residents reliant on buses, subways and light rails will get where they need to go faster and more safely through “journey-level intelligence” and fleet monitoring. Also, their overall travel experience will improve through advanced Wi-Fi connectivity and onboard communications, along with secure fare collection and mobile ticketing.
Smart Water and Traffic Infrastructure Gains from 5G
A primary goal of smart cities is to optimize existing infrastructure. 5G will help smart cities accurately monitor water management, for example, and adjust when necessary, such as checking for leaks.
Cities use a mind-boggling amount of water, but much of that water gets wasted during leakages. About 1.7 trillion gallons of water are lost each year in the United States due to water leaks. Additionally, each year infrastructure leaks cause an average city anywhere in the world to lose 20 to 40 percent of its potable water.
Smart cities want to use smart water monitoring devices powered by 5G to track and detect leaks early so that water departments can fix the problem right away. With 5G, water monitoring devices can harness information quicker and provide actionable insights on where, when and how leaks occur.
Beyond monitoring for leaks, smart cities can use sensors installed along riverbanks to watch for flooding. When upgraded with 5G, there will be an increase in the accuracy and speed at which floods get predicted. Cities can also deploy automated systems to give residents a clearer picture of their water consumption and provide them ways to conserve.
Another major infrastructure problem that smart cities tackle is traffic. Often, traffic issues, such as poorly timed lights, are due to transportation agencies relying on outdated schedules and technology.
By strategically placing 5G-connected technology such as sensors and cameras throughout a city, a central location operating on an AI system can send and receive information concerning traffic patterns in real time. That AI system can then notify traffic lights to adjust timing and eliminate unnecessary stops to allow for the uninterrupted flow of traffic.
Through 5G, smart cities can make better decisions regarding how to direct traffic and where road and parking improvements are needed. These solutions are typically inexpensive compared to the problems they solve and will pay for themselves in cost savings.
5G Can Help Cites Make Residents Safer
Not only are smart cities using 5G to resolve transportation and infrastructure issues, they are also using it to bolster the safety of their residents. Smart cities can develop strategies to address a set of goals, including earthquake warning and damage assessment, flood rescue and homelessness data modeling. With the help of 5G, cities will be able to one day realize these goals.
Similarly, smart cities plan on using 5G capabilities to produce an alert system that notifies the cellphones of pedestrians if a dangerous or suspicious vehicle is approaching. They can use innovative software in tandem with security camera footage to determine the origin of gunshots for quick criminal apprehension.
Several other smart cities have different apps enabling residents to report potholes and problems with city infrastructure and communicate with city officials. The effectiveness of these apps and software will only grow with future 5G developments.
5G Enables Green Technology for a Cleaner Environment
The last foundational aspect of any smart city is its commitment to saving energy and reducing emissions. As 5G rolls out, there will be a direct increase in green tech applications for cities and their environmental programs.
By enabling the real-time transfer of data, better designs and complex algorithms, 5G will help smart cities and smart buildings move toward net-zero emissions and reduced energy consumption, as well as cleaner air.
Green tech would not be possible without wireless communications; it is essential for monitoring industrial tank levels and chemical emissions. 5G supports the management and automation of green technology such as solar panels, precision agriculture and street lighting.
Smart cities also plan on using 5G through sensors. Primarily, these devices will monitor air quality, sound pollution and public trash bin levels.
Currently, smart cities using green technologies have produced impressive results, including 10 to 15 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 30 to 130 fewer kilograms of solid waste per person per year and 25 to 80 liters of water saved per person per year. The future benefits of green tech will be immense; researchers have projected that by 2030, 5G networks will lead to 85 percent fewer emissions for every unit of data transported than existing cellular networks.
Smart cities are already making life better for their residents, and with 5G implementations, their achievements will eventually change the science fictions of yesterday into the possibilities of tomorrow.