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Now entering Smart Town: Cities around the world embracing tech

As we connect more with the world, our world connects more with us and now entire cities are taking the smart option. 

The world is changing fast.

Faster broadband and growth in the Internet of Things solutions is allowing us to alter our footprint not just as individual citizens, but as entire cities.

From transport to water supply, law enforcement to waste management, schooling to hospitals, it’s happening all around us.

Information on demand and real-time data collection allow governments and private creators to see problems and provide more effective solutions faster and cheaper than ever before.

There seems to be almost no end to the ways smart technology can improve our world, and with the smart urban services industry projected to be worth $530 billion by 2020, there’s plenty more to come.

Here are just a few cities that are beginning to play it smart.

New York City, USA: Internet for all 

The winner of this 2016’s Smart City Awards was none other than New York.

The Big Apple is working on a number of innovations to help its city smarten up, but the most notable is LinkNYC.

The city is converting some 10,000 old pay phones into modern communication hubs.

Each offers gigabit-speed Wi-Fi, phone communication over the internet, device charging and a portal into city services.

The end result a huge, fast public wi-fi network.

It’s free for residents to use, and the data this services reports back to the government is being repurposed to improve the location and accessibility of public services. 

Oslo, Norway: Smart transport 

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is on a mission to be carbon neutral by 2030.

A lot of the work is going into reducing the impact of private vehicles, which are a big contributor to greenhouse emissions.

In fact, the plan is to ban private vehicle ownership altogether by 2020.

Part of that strategy has been to build a network of sensors that report back on traffic levels and monitor parking, so the government can plan the infrastructure required to meet its goal.

In the interim, it has built a smart street lighting network that has slashed energy consumption by two-thirds, set up an electric-vehicle-charging network, and provided an app that can not only show drivers the most direct route to a free parking spot, but also allow them to pay through their mobile. 

Aspern, Austria: Smart energy 

The 2016 Smart City Award winner for best project, Aspern is looking into a smart energy solution using an adaptive, self-learning AI.

This AI can see all the data coming in through the energy grid, thanks to a smart grid monitoring system that examines voltage fluctuations, and smart meters that measure the quality of energy received.

The idea is to get a real picture of how each building uses energy and at what times, in order to build more efficient networks for current and future development and reduce wastage.  

Tel-Aviv, Israel: Communication and feedback

On the back of a digital revolution, Tel-Aviv has introduced a number of innovative facilities to help residents not only engage with the city as they desire, but also provide feedback on its future urban development.

On the one hand there is an app that allows citizens to provide information about their tastes and lifestyle, to receive tailored, location-specific information about government services that are available.

In addition, within public spaces, residents can enter roundtable discussions about the facilities in that location and how they can be improved.

This goes as far as allowing residents to be involved in the budgeting decisions required to allow suggested changes to be made. 

Nairobi, Kenya: Smart healthcare 

Picking up the innovation gong at the 2016 Smart City Awards, was a digital health solution being introduced into Kenya.

A lack of health experts is resulting in a number of illnesses going undiagnosed, or diagnosed too late.

As well as the obvious damage this causes to the individuals, it’s also impacting larger cities as the government does not have the real-time data to predict requirements for medicine, training, facility upgrades and rehab services.

Nairobi is now using real-time video conferencing over the internet and 3G to enable remote diagnosis, optimising the work achieved by their health experts and expanding their reach. 

Fujisawa City, Tokyo: The experiment 

About 40km out of Tokyo, a town has been built to be smart from the ground-up by electronics company Panasonic.

Consisting of some 1,000 homes, it’s built for zero carbon emissions, using solar technology combined with fuel cells that can be monitored and manipulated from portals within each home.

All the appliances are designed to be highly efficient, and all the lighting is smart LED, which can alter brightness based on the natural light coming into the room at any given time.

Residents are encouraged to work from home, using telecommuting via the internet to maintain their career remotely and not take to the roads.

There’s even a weather forecast AI that plots the most efficient times to do the laundry.

Panasonic hopes Fujisawa will be an example to future towns looking to go smart. 

Check out these other seven smart cities around the world making interesting innovations across a range of spaces, thanks to connectivity.

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