The Future of Smart Cities

Most of us are living in an ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) generation, where devices on closed private internet connections communicate with others, creating a world that is so much more connected than ever before.

In fact, in the UK alone in 2018, 90% of adults were recent internet users, up 1% from 89% in 2017 (ONS, 2018). The digital phenomenon is becoming more prevalent for all of us, especially the younger generation, but how is this going to impact us going forward? Are we going to see a further increase in digital activity or is the phenomena going to stabilise, possibly decrease?

The latter is looking more unlikely, especially with the increase of smart cities throughout the world that are accommodating the needs of consumers who want to feel more connected.

Future of internet UI concept of internet of things IOT

We have come a long way since the concept of smart city technology was introduced back in 2005 by former American President, Bill Clinton through his philanthropic organisation, the Clinton Foundation. Mr Clinton challenged network equipment maker Cisco to use its technical know-how to make cities more sustainable. In turn, Cisco dedication $25 million over five years to research the topic resulting in the Connected Urban Development programme.

Forecasts now predict that by 2025, there will be at least 88 cities worldwide that are adopting smart city technologies, up from 21 in 2013. (IHS Markit, 2014)

But why Smart Cities? Smart Cities are emerging in response to an increasingly urbanised world dealing with scarce resources, along with the desire to improve energy efficiency. They link people, businesses and public infrastructure together.

Whilst we might not recognise the smart technologies that are being implemented within our cities, actions like the installation of surveillance cameras, connected waste management control (which I touched on in my previous blog post here), lighting, parking, traffic control, pollution and weather monitoring are all ways of incorporating smart technology.

As a result of this increase in smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT), brands will be able to interact with consumers more directly due to the ever-increasing number of everyday objects that will have screens, making it possible to display content where it wasn’t possible before. This will encourage the ability to personalise services for each individual.

ESF’s Stellar Solar Smart Bench, launched in November 2017, has been designed to facilitate both the increase of smart cities globally, but also to assist brands with raising awareness of their business. The Stellar Solar Smart Bench offers features including WiFi technology, mobile device charging and data gathering facilities, with each bench having the ability to be individually themed or branded.

The Stellar bench is ideal for both indoor (with connected power) and outdoor (with solar) use and has been making waves globally since its launch with installations in New York City, Dubai and throughout Europe.

A number of benches were recently installed in the University of Rome to meet the demands of students who require connectivity on campus, both inside and outside. In addition, university campuses are introducing smart technologies to enhance the student experience through apps, feedback channels and using data and analytics to enable students to make more informed choices.

Whilst it may seem like we are only at the start of our Smart City journey, a lot of developments have been made in recent years.

Closer to home, Belfast City Council has been innovative with their smart technology since 2017 when they installed two of ESF’s ‘Street Charge’ units outside City Hall, enabling the public to charge their mobile devices when out and about.

It has also recently been announced that the Council will install up to 30 ‘Smart Hubs’ that will provide services to the public including touch screen access to local maps, facilities and visitor information and sensors that capture crucial data on air quality, traffic flow and footfall.

Whatever your thoughts on the smart technology phenomenon, it is one that is here to stay and ESF is proud to be at the forefront of this innovative technology.

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