How Smart Homes Can Drive Improvement In Smart Cities
Increasing global urbanization is one of the trends defining the 21st century. It’s changing the world, and it’s changing how we live our lives. As cities around the world keep growing, so do the challenges. Sustainable development, housing, transportation, and health are just some examples of areas where the world needs new and innovative solutions. How can we build and maintain safe and sustainable cities, both for the planet and the people who live in them?
Some of the answers to those questions can be found in the concepts of smart homes and smart cities. Let’s take a look at both of these concepts and how they’re interlinked.
The Age of the Megacity
The rapid influx of people to urban areas is spurring on the unprecedented development of so-called megacities, an urban phenomenon presenting numerous challenges—as well as opportunities. In 1950, which is not that long ago, only New York and Tokyo had a population of more than 10 million. But by 2025–2030, most researchers estimate that around 630 million people will live in one of 40 megacities around the globe.
The challenges for these enormous cities include everything from housing and transportation to water, sanitation, labor market, and healthcare. Another pressing concern is often that of safety. Many megacities are struggling with high inequality and a large number of people without social networks, leading to high levels of poverty and crime. To avoid parallel shadow societies from forming in these large urban areas, a strategic approach is important. A strategic approach requires accurate data, which is one way that smart homes can contribute to even smarter cities.
Smart Homes and Smart Cities Explained
The term “smart home” often refers to a home setup where appliances and devices can be controlled digitally via a mobile phone or other networked devices. But, as we will discuss below, the intelligent homes of the future will do more than that. In the coming generations of smart homes, appliances and items will not only be on remote control; they will act “intelligently” to provide the services we need. For example, smart homes will be able to assist in areas such as Ambient Assisted Living (AAL)—i.e., supporting the elderly at home—telemedicine, and pollution monitoring.
Smart cities are a concept that has been discussed for decades now, but most cities have not even started this transformation. Many are just now beginning to build the infrastructure necessary to implement smart technologies at scale. Only 35% of the European cities that the Erasmus Centre studied for data analytics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam were found to have an operational “urban data platform” in place. And access to big data is the foundation smart cities will be built on.
3 Ways Smart Homes Can Drive Improvement in Smart Cities
So, given that data is the lifeblood of smart cities, how can smart homes support this urban evolution? The ability to gather data from the many smart homes — and aggregate, interpret, and act on that data — makes or breaks the prospect of smart cities.
To achieve this, the smart homes and the service framework of the city need to be integrated into a coherent ICT-based solution (ICT being short for Information and Communication Technology). The concepts of Internet of Things (IoT), Clouds of Things (CoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) are vital elements in ICT and in how smart cities and smart homes function. By connecting individual homes and appliances on a larger scale, cities of the future will be able to gather valuable insights on a whole new level.
IoT (Internet of Things)
Smart homes are a development of the home automation area. Automated homes offer remote and timer control of appliances and devices like light, heating, and ventilation to improve convenience, efficiency, and safety. But smart homes move beyond automation and add extended functionality in the form of context awareness and artificial intelligence. In smart homes, the Internet of Things connects every part of the home to the internet. The fact that objects are connected and intelligent paves the way for gathering the type of big data that serves as the foundation for smart cities. Processing the aggregated data from millions of households can enable new services in areas like smart economy, smart governance, smart environment, and smart mobility.
CoT (Cloud of Things)
Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing (CC) are already part of our day-to-day lives. IoT connects billions of our devices that share information by communicating with each other, and CC provides us with convenient, on-demand, scalable network access. Cloud of Things (CoT) is what we get by integrating CC and IoT, enabling many applications to get the benefits of IoT and CC combined. Connecting the individual smart objects found in smart homes — the “things” with the Cloud of Things — will eventually enable smart cities to leverage all the valuable aggregated data.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Devices in an AI-powered smart home will eventually be able to communicate with each other and continuously acquire and analyze new data for further learning. Because that’s what a smart home does — it’s constantly learning about the inhabitants and how to serve their needs best. And an intelligent city does the same, only on an aggregated, higher level. A truly smart city employs a learning system. This multi-layer system is capable of making decisions based on historical and real-time data, with little to no user control. This can apply to all kinds of areas, such as traffic control, pollution alerts, energy efficiency, and medical care.
As urbanization continues to accelerate, it’s generally agreed that long-term sustainable solutions are needed to help us allocate resources and keep both people and the planet safe.
One way to address these challenges is to focus on a smart infrastructure for the most resource-consuming cities. If these cities can be optimized in supporting the citizens, their activities, and their homes in innovative and sustainable ways, that will have a significant impact. Smart cities are a way to meet the challenges of tomorrow by integrating smart homes into unified concepts optimized for minimal waste and maximum efficiency.
The prospect of smart homes and smart cities holds a lot of potential. The ability to gather, interpret and act on big data may be one of the most important tools we have for building a better tomorrow.