Smart cities are built around IoT

Artificial Intelligence is a technology whose time has come and it is making the most out of it. Perhaps most people get to here AI in relations to robots but this technology extends far and wide. Coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT), AI is transforming cities into smart ecosystems.

For starters, a smart city is an urban dwelling which satisfies certain conditions. According to the Smart Cities Council, a smart city fulfils the need for city dwellers to exist in an environment which is clean and devoid of congestion. This goes hand in hand with “a digital infrastructure that makes city services instantly and conveniently available anytime, anywhere.” Dwellers of smart cities enjoy an “enabling infrastructure” which gives them an upper hand when competing “globally for high-quality jobs.”

The overarching characteristic here is that there is a high level of connectivity in a smart city. Particularly, connectivity between people via machines and among machines is what is driving the growth of smart cities. Looking at this deeper will reveal that, in the actual sense, it is the cheap access to “devices and broadband” that is transforming connectivity. There are myriads of sensors and cameras which create a connected platform which expands via the “network effect.”

This kind of connectivity is the thesis of IoT. Interestingly, IoT generates massive data which needs intelligent machines to decipher and to make sense of it. This is where AI comes in. Particularly, AI hands people the ability to manage big data and to build technological solutions out of Sci-Fi movies. According to a study, processing Big Data via AI contributes “to the urban fabric, sustainability and livability dimensions” of smart cities. This capability enables smart cities to retain a human aspect instead of being overly focused on technology.

Smart cities address fundamental issues bedeviling urban dwelling

Since it hit global headlines, AI has largely served the interests of corporations, large and small. According to a Gartner Survey, the last four years have seen a spike in the number of enterprises implementing AI. Notably, the number expanded by 270%. Further, the survey established that the implementation of AI is across the board, from healthcare to manufacturing to hospitality.

Interestingly, a quite AI revolution was taking place in terms of making cities smarter during this same period. In China, for instance, cities have been implementing smart strategies to help solve issues like pollution. So far, they are winning. According to A.T. Kearney’s Global Cities Index, Chinese cities “have rapidly become relatively more competitive on a global scale.” The competitiveness comes in terms of clean air, business activity, human capital, and exchange of information among others.

Nonetheless, the pursuit of smart cities could be having unintended consequences. More critical is the issue of unemployment. Like earlier mentioned, the concept of smart cities builds on IoT, which then relies on AI to work. However, increased reliance on AI could be pushing more people out of jobs. In 2018, a McKinsey report noted that, while AI will help us to “‘moonshot’ societal challenges” in various areas, it will also wreck lives through job losses. According to the report, “nearly all occupations will be affected by automation.”

Also, the implementation of smart cities faces the problem of privacy, which is very massive. According to a report, there were 7 billion IoT devices as of 2018. The acceleration in the growth of the IoT devices is faster than expected, and that spells danger for the safety of data which the devices churn out. Therefore, there is a need for fresh policy to protect this data and to avoid turning the clock back.


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