Your alarm goes off on a Monday morning. Instinct tells you to hit snooze to savour just a few extra moments of peace before the working week begins.
Imagine if your smart device could tell you, from the comfort of your pillow, that you’ll actually be better off staying in bed an extra half an hour before beginning your commute to work. Better still, what if it told you not to physically attend the office today.
Welcome to the tangible benefits of a ‘smart city’.
We’re hearing a lot of hype around this term but little for what it means to you and me – the workers, citizens, taxpayers, parents, students, retirees. Is it just hype or can a smart city improve our lives?
Much of the talk centres on the technology behind a smart city. In reality, technology is only the enabler; the stagehand dressed in black behind the scenes, setting up for the colourful production on centre stage.
When the National Broadband Network (NBN) was first proposed, many said it was a waste. Now people are asking when it’s coming and whether they can have more bandwidth. We can see the benefit because we now have services like Netflix in Australia. Making a technology add value to our lives is what counts; had the Federal Government talked about Netflix (the benefit) and not just the NBN (the technology) we’d have all jumped on board.
Benefit: You get to sleep in more.
The story we began with could realistically become your new morning routine. For some in the world it already is.
By enabling internet connected roads, you, your car, or whatever that becomes would know more about your journey before you’ve even had a yawn and a stretch.
This is just one example of maximising the hours in your day, saving you time where it counts the most. That said, the days of going to a central place of work are also limited, but for now we know how valuable our at-home time is.
Benefit: You get to sit down on the train – and know when public transport will actually arrive.
Public transport has huge potential within a smart city. Not only would you have extended real-time information on when the train will actually arrive at the station, saving you time and frustration, but sensors would be able to tell you which carriages have seats available, where the doors will stop, and where you can sit your bike or pram. The Dutch railway system has already implemented solutions like these.
The same goes for buses – you wouldn’t need to run in your heels to the stop if your smart device could show you exactly where the bus is on its route, giving you a real arrival time.
Benefit: Your neighbourhood will be safer.
Sensors on street lights and other public lighting will allow them to illuminate when they are needed most, responding to movement around them. This smart lighting would contribute to safer streets, parks and other public areas, also saving us, the ratepayers, in energy costs.
Improved safety would also come in the form of smart CCTV cameras as well as back-to-base duress signals in public areas.
From tech to tangible.
By turning the technology and the data it produces into real life benefits, and communicating these with citizens, Australia will begin to catch up when it comes to creating smart places to live.
Many changes will occur in the coming months and years, some we cannot even predict yet. In the end the ability to make a better decision that benefits you is what smart is all about.
It’s not until we flip the conversation from tech to tangible that Australian citizens, and the cities that house them, will really be ready for ‘smart’.