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What is a smart city and what are its advantages?

There are calls for cities to become resilient and smart to meet current and future needs. Smart cities follow exactly this approach - but how does a city become "smart"?

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What is behind the term smart city?

There is no generally valid definition of the term "smart city". It is rather a collective term for the concepts that deal with the efficient, social but also sustainable development of processes within the city. Here, digitalisation supports the adaptation of processes. The goal of the smart city should be to integrate efficient, social and sustainable developments in all areas of life.

Approaches and concepts of smart cities

There are many different approaches to shaping the transformation towards a smart city. Many cities are focusing on the topics of: Mobility and transport, smart connectivity and energy efficiency. Within the topics, there are different focal points, depending on the individual consideration of the city, which approaches offer the most added value for the citizens.

  • Mobility/traffic: Smart approaches help to solve the various challenges cities face with regard to mobility, such as lack of parking spaces, traffic jams or particulate matter. Car sharing, for example, manages to reduce the need for individual cars by renting freely available cars for short periods of time, thus relieving the pressure on city centres. In addition, there is the possibility of optimising traffic through intelligent systems. Here, smart traffic light systems can flexibly adapt the red or green phases to the corresponding situation and massively improve the flow of traffic. But cities also identify stationary traffic as a relevant topic, because here the available space can be used even more efficiently to enable a positive parking experience. Existing approaches to make parking more efficient are, for example, barrier-free parking and the linking with shared mobility offers or charging stations for e-cars.
  • Communication: Within cities, 2 types of communication are particularly relevant. On the one hand, it is important to enable and proactively design communication between different technical systems. On the other hand, it is the communication with the citizens themselves that shapes a city. Intelligent traffic light control is a good example of communication between technical systems, because sensors can pick up information about the environment and make appropriate adjustments to the traffic flow. Communication between citizens and the city will change in the course of digitalisation, for example through new online portals to simplify communication for citizens and at the same time save administrative effort.
  • Energy efficiency: The topic of sustainability is highly relevant for cities. This includes the responsible use of resources, for example in relation to the energy consumption of a city. One concept to reduce energy consumption deals with street lighting, for example. By installing solar lanterns, renewable energy can be used and thus resources can be conserved. In addition, intelligent lantern control, which recognizes approaching pedestrians, cyclists or vehicles, can be used to illuminate the corresponding paths more strongly. Otherwise, the light is dimmed to save electricity on the one hand and to minimize the impact on residents and animals on the other.

Advantages of a Smart City

Smart City concepts help cities to meet new and existing requirements in order to offer residents a high quality of life. In addition to the positive effects for the environment and the residents, the city benefits from more efficient processes in various areas, such as the more efficient use of parking spaces or simplified administrative processes.

Image source:
Yolanda Sun

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