2. Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence

According to Wikipedia, a smart city is defined as a designation granted to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation, and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs.

Smart City and wireless communication network. Modern city design with future technology for living. Smart City Design Concept with Icons
Source: smartcitiesworld.net

The emphasis here is on the information that is collected, directly or indirectly, through communication technologies, from and on citizens of the city.  Of course, the focus of these activities is to analyze and optimize the performance of the resources consumed by citizens. The critical success factor for these cities is the use of “technologies” which is allowing them to collect pertinent information and build sophisticated databases to answer the questions like: Who is consuming which service in the city, when and where.

The good news is that major companies such as Intel, Cisco Systems and IBM are involved in researching and assisting new applications in this growing field around the globe.

It is no secret that smart cities are flourishing around the world. Instituted originally in Europe, smart cities can now be found everywhere from India to Korea. Ever increasing population in urban areas was the main reason for the popularity of smart cities.  For instance, today, 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. Projections show that urbanization, the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90 percent of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa, according to the United Nations.  Consequently, finding ways to make cities work better in terms of efficiency as well as effectiveness of the city services became a top priority. 

smart city and wireless communication network, abstract image visual, internet of things
Source: weatherbrain.com

According to the 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects produced by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), future increases in the size of the world’s urban population are expected to be highly concentrated in just a few countries. Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35 percent of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050. By 2050, it is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million and Nigeria 189 million.

The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018. Asia, despite its relatively lower level of urbanization, is home to 54 percent of the world’s urban population, followed by Europe and Africa with 13 percent each.  Today, the most urbanized regions include Northern America (with 82 percent of its population living in urban areas in 2018), Latin America and the Caribbean (81 percent), Europe (74 percent) and Oceania (68 percent). The level of urbanization in Asia is now approximating 50 percent. In contrast, Africa remains mostly rural, with 43 percent of its population living in urban areas.  Here are some examples of international cities.

Tokyo is the world’s largest city with an agglomeration of 37 million inhabitants, followed by New Delhi with 29 million, Shanghai with 26 million, and Mexico City and São Paulo, each with around 22 million inhabitants. Today, Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing and Dhaka all have close to 20 million inhabitants. By 2020, Tokyo’s population is projected to begin to decline, while Delhi is projected to continue growing and to become the most populous city in the world around 2028.

Source: cis.miami.edu

By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, most of them in developing regions. However, some of the fastest-growing urban agglomerations are cities with fewer than 1 million inhabitants, many of them located in Asia and Africa. While one in eight people live in 33 megacities worldwide, close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in much smaller settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants.

Currently, most of the global GDP is generated in cities, and more than half of the world’s population lives in metropolitan areas – a trend that will intensify. Urbanization provides opportunities to increase productivity and attract talent, but the need for resources and space impacts the economy, environment and our quality of life.

Governments and businesses are using technologies and data to build smart cities, towns and villages, as well as to deliver smart mobility, advance economic growth and improve infrastructure and community services.

Here are the attributes of a smart city:
1. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): The use of technological platform must be offered as their public services with the emphasis on the easily accessibility through various devices and the connections;
2. Efficient Public Services: The package of public services could include services like: Adequate Collection of Solid Waste, Ease of Recycling, Management of Renewable Energy;
3. Protection and Security of Citizens: The networks of Camcorders, Highway and Street Lighting, Intensive Surveillance and Patrolling; and a Fast Response System for Emergency Calls;
4. Financial Independence: Strategic planning for all their sources: Income, Taxes, Payments, Budgets;
5. Social Infrastructure: It should include: Schools, Hospitals, Recreational Areas, and Communication Routes; and
6. Traffic Planning: An Efficient Public Transportation Network that reduces energy consumption and the enabling of bicycle paths with the objective to reduce the use of private transport.

ICT is a critical part of each component of the city functions.  The term ICT is defined as all devices, networking components, applications and systems that combined allow people and organizations (i.e., businesses, nonprofit agencies, governments and criminal enterprises) to interact in the digital world.

ICT uses the Internet of Things (IoT) platform to deliver its services.  IoT is the extension of Internet connectivity into physical devices and everyday objects. Embedded with electronics, Internet connectivity, and other forms of hardware (such as sensors), these devices can communicate and interact with others over the Internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled. Here is a brief description of how IoT works:

Devices and objects with built in sensors are connected to an IoT platform, which integrates data from the different devices and applies analytics to share the most valuable information with applications built to address specific needs.  These powerful IoT platforms can pinpoint exactly what information is useful and what can safely be ignored. This information can be used to detect patterns, make recommendations, and detect possible problems before they occur.

Source: Ie University

The focus of the smart cities is on providing effective and efficient government services on time and within budget and this is only possible if these cities continue to maximize the use of ICT, and keep exploring the possibilities of deploying new technologies to maximize the performance of resources.  Acknowledging the fact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) signifies an era of evolution in technology and the tasks that were once manually performed by humans have been taken over by AI, smart cities are exploring and deploying AI technologies to meet and exceed their requirements. 

AI is defined as a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.  In other words, it is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. Like humans, AI has an aptitude for learning from its experience.

A report published by PWC found that AI could add as much as $15.7 trillion – around same as the combined output of China and India – to the global economy by 2030.  Everyone is in agreement that it is a technology which can change the world, and from space exploration to countering terrorism and even creating art, its potential is becoming increasingly apparent.

Source: Infohollic Research

New York is one of about 90 cities worldwide that uses a system called ShotSpotter, which uses a network of microphones to instantly recognize and locate gunshots. In Moscow, all chest X-rays taken in hospitals are run through an AI system to recognize and diagnose tumors. And Taiwan is building a system that will be able to predict air quality, allowing city managers to warn residents of health dangers and work to lessen what the data tells them will be the worst of the impacts.

AI is also providing engineers and city planners with an incredible wealth of data that can be used to promote safety, health, and economic growth. Right now researchers often rely on rough estimates of how people are using most roads and bike paths, but in the future they could have access to a minute by minute breakdown of every block.

The grand long term vision of smart cities is full interconnectivity: Self driving cars, trucks, and buses all talking with each other as well as with smart highways, traffic lights, and parking garages. The whole system will work together to move people around with an incredible degree of efficiency and safety. It is proven that a highly connected system saves lives, time, and fuel.

A significant application for AI in the smart city is video surveillance, and in some cities today, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras already use AI for facial recognition. In December 2017, a BBC reporter demonstrated how this technology could be used for security purposes, and was tracked down by AI in the Chinese city of Guiyang in less than ten minutes. In Zhengzhou, police officers are using ‘smart’ AI glasses to the same effect, recognizing criminal suspects and finding civilians with fake IDs.

A pillar to any smart city is the provision of accessible, affordable and clean mobility services – be it public transport or through private vendors that offer ride-sharing, bike sharing and on-demand vehicle hire. In many cities, ride-sharing has become particularly popular, but there have been teething pains for city planners.

A Centune Platform Source: smart city world

The idea of infrastructure interlinked by software is not new. Now imagine that an entire smart city actually exists, but it’s even more advanced than you could possibly imagine, where infrastructural systems are altered on the fly by an AI. This may sound futuristic, but one such place can already be found in China.

Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, in China, has become the biggest beneficiary of mobile internet-enabled social services, with smart cities developing rapidly since the government introduced the Internet Plus initiative.   As reported back in October 2016, the government of the city of Hangzhou – home to over 9 million people – collaborated with Alibaba and Foxconn to build the “City Brain” project. The metropolis would be, from that moment forth, at least partly run by an AI that absorbed every last drop of data it could get its virtual hands on.  As a result, every single resident was tracked; their activity on social networks, their purchases, their movements, their commutes – everything was uploaded to the AI’s database, which then made real-time decisions.

City of Hangzhou

Over time, it was allowed to develop a neural network across the city. Everything from the water supply to the sizes of crowds in certain areas was taken into account, and the City Brain slowly found its footing.  Now, as reported by New Scientist, the project has been hailed a remarkable success. Traffic congestion, road accidents, and crime are all down.  At the same time, City Brain notifies authorities when there’s an emergency or a crisis that needs handling. It’s also wired up to everyone’s mobile phones, informing them of upcoming road traffic or adverse weather conditions in real-time.

In addition to from monitoring things in the here and now, it has also used months’ worth of data to work out optimal future scenarios for smoother commutes and safer streets.  The project is apparently doing so well that it’s already being considered in other cities around China. It’s likely to find popularity on the international market, albeit with variations on the types of data it receives.

As the smart cities are incorporating more and more advanced infrastructure to every city sector the need for energy demand rises. With the demand, the greenhouse gas emissions also rise that lead to environmental problems. On the other side, there is also a need to deal with resources that are exhausting and switch to more reliable and renewable resources for sustenance.  Thus, in this case, AI powered tools can be of great help.

09 May 201