Powering smart cities with the cloud

Dominik Birgelen, CEO of oneclick AG, explores how cloud technology can help support and overcome challenges when powering a smart city.
Dominik Birgelen, CEO of oneclick AG, explores how cloud technology can help support and overcome challenges when powering a smart city.

The term ‘smart city’ has been on the rise for a number of years. With plenty of definitions, common wisdom suggests that it’s a city that informs, protects, and improves the experience for its citizens. The coming together of data and digital technology helps those in cities make better decisions and enhance the quality of life for all. In today’s environment, it offers hope for struggling urban hubs. 

The rise of urbanization has brought the anticipated growth of the smart city market. As such, local governments and city services are beginning to play a greater role in everyday life. According to Postscapes, in 2008, around 50% of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2040, this number is expected to rise to 65%. This number translated, means that 1.3 million people move into cities every week.

Public safety, transportation energy efficiency, economic development and operating expenses are all examples of areas that can be improved through a smart city model. Real-time data of all these areas provide cities with the ability to watch events as they unfold, understand how demand patterns are changing, and respond with faster and lower-cost solutions.

Cities such as Singapore, London and San Francisco, are already leveraging smart technology to solve urban problems such as congestion, energy use and population planning. For example, in 2020, Singapore was ranked as the smart city most prepared to accommodate autonomous vehicles. The trend is expanding globally as China is also currently deploying approximately 800 smart city programs countrywide. With its ability to track everything from cleanliness to traffic, the digital infrastructure of smart cities can create safer, healthier, and more informed communities while generating data of tremendous value to the public and private sectors. 

The role of technology in smart cities

The majority of smart city solutions rely on a combination of core technologies such as computing, storage, databases, data warehouses and advanced technologies. This includes analytics on big data, real-time streaming data, AI, machine learning and the IoT.

As a result, smart cities generate enormous amounts of streaming data from sensors and other devices. Ingesting, storing and analyzing this real-time data typically requires significant computing capacity. After all, it is taking millions or even billions of devices into account. This capacity also must be scaled based on the amount of input, for example, traffic data during rush hour (e.g., 5pm) versus quiet hour (e.g., 3am) will fluctuate. Ultimately, the solution should be able to scale easily based on demand. 

Taking a cloud-based approach

Cloud technology has changed the world as we know it. There is no denying the endless benefits it offers to companies and the public alike. In fact, the public cloud service market is expected to reach $623.3 billion by 2023 worldwide. In a smart city environment, the city’s cloud ultimately functions as a storage and analysis system for the data used in everything from autonomous vehicles to farms. Migrating to cloud-based systems helps smart cities to leave behind their dependence on fibre-optic connectivity and overcome many other barriers when implementing smart technologies. 

Firstly, cloud solutions are scalable and therefore are able to meet the demands of busy areas of a smart city when data is coming in thick and fast. With automatic scaling to support billions of devices and trilliants of individual messages, cloud technology is able to process the real-time streaming of all the data and sensors anytime – a crucial smart city solution.

It’s also key that the huge amount of data produced from a smart city is kept secure due to the sensitive nature of many sources, including government information as well as citizen personal data. Via turnkey cloud services with integrated security for the provisioning and delivery of applications and data, sensitive data can be protected. Added separation layers between the users and data, reliably shields critical information and systems from potential hackers or blips.

Smart city technology is extremely fast-paced and therefore solutions will need to be able to react to this change quickly and continuously. Cloud services are extremely dynamic regardless of the driver of the change, the technology involved, the policies or even the regulation – the perfect smart city solution.

A smarter future for a safer city

As with any technological breakthrough, all come with their own risks. In this scenario, city authorities have to ensure that their smart cities are safe both now and in the future. With huge amounts of data going between millions of devices in a city, it’s crucial that officials are in control and can leverage the technology to improve living situations for the better.

Today’s cloud-ready solutions can help eliminate many barriers to a successful smart city infrastructure. Scalability, security and agility are just three of the countless benefits that a cloud-based solution can offer. 

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Open system architecture is also growing in popularity for smart cities to enhance their operations and deliver additional value-add services directly to citizens. For example, in Europe there are smart cities that have adopted open cloud platforms that have improved how citizens can find and pay for parking via their phone in downtown zones.

The opportunities are endless and whether it’s a helping hand in finding a car parking space or video-based predictive analytics for the police to fight crime, every possibility is helping make smart cities safer, more efficient and sustainable.

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Amber Donovan-Stevens

Amber is a Content Editor at Top Business Tech

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