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What is a Smart City?

What is a Smart City?

The Smart City has become a hot topic in the world of transportation, with a lot of attention being placed on planning and implementation of Smart Cities. In the course of some work for ITS America we been trying to put some sort the definition of what is meant by the term “Smart City”, from a transportation perspective.

An initial thought is that your city a smart if you poke it with a stick and it reacts appropriately. Joking aside, this does capture the essential elements of a Smart City with an ability to sense and respond. The Smart City will have appropriate sensing capabilities to be able to detect both challenges and opportunities within and beyond the city boundaries. It will also have the intelligence required to define appropriate response strategies. Beyond this high-level definition, what exactly is a Smart City from a transportation perspective? We offer the following list of services as an early definition of a Smart City

Asset and maintenance management services

A Smart City will feature considerable investment in infrastructure and advanced technologies that must be maintained, tracked, and managed beyond the initial implementation. This range of services provides the tools and decision-support necessary to manage the Smart City assets and apply consistent maintenance standards in a timely manner. The lifecycle cost of services be thought of as a “whale shaped” investment with the head of the “whale” representing the initial capital investment and the “whale tail” representing operations and maintenance investment. One of the challenges encountered in the past regarding advanced transportation technologies has is allocation of resources to the whale tail. Good asset and maintenance management not only provides decision-support, but provides the required business justification for investment in this important area.

Connected vehicle services

In the Smart City, Connected Vehicle technology will be applied to private cars, freight vehicles, transit vehicles and vehicles that provide mobility on demand services such as UBER, LYFT, taxis, and paratransit. A range of services will be provided to Smart City citizens and visitors that will support information delivery to and extraction of probe data from the vehicle. In the longer-term this probe data could eclipse the use of infrastructure-based sensors.

Connected, involved citizen services

This group of services involves the use of smart phone and other communication technologies to establish and maintain two-way communications with Smart City citizens. Information delivered to the citizen could take the form of traveler information or the connection could be used to support more efficient use of government services.

Integrated electronic payment services

Payment for transportation services within the Smart City will be facilitated through a range of electronic payment services. These will be supported by an integrated citywide electronic payment system that addresses tolls, transit tickets and parking fees. It is also likely that this citywide system will also support payment for government services.

Smart grid, roadway electrification and Electric Vehicle services

This involves electrification of vehicles and the establishment of a network of charging points to enable the Electric Vehicle to have the same range as gasoline powered vehicles. This will require that Electric Vehicle charging points become as ubiquitous as gas stations. The services provided will be enabled using renewable energy to optimize the cost of energy and the ensuing omissions. Services will be provided via private cars, transit systems and electric fleets.

Smart land-use services

Smart land-use within a Smart City will include the establishment of mobility and travel access hubs that support multimodal transfer and the optimization of the daily commute. Urban Analytics will also support smart land-use by providing further insight into the relationship between land use and transportation demand. Smart land-use will also involve detailed consideration of accessibility to jobs and the relationship between residential zones and work zones.

Transportation management services

Transportation management involves the coherent and consistent management of all modes of transportation within the Smart City. This includes private vehicles, transit vehicles, freight vehicles and non-motorized forms of transportation such as cycles and pedestrians. Essential elements of transportation management will include the application of performance management techniques to the entire transportation system.

Data from various sources along with sophisticated data management techniques will be used to measure the performance of transportation services and compare them to predefined yardsticks.

Transportation management will incorporate current traffic management approaches to support a range of services including freeway incident management, emission testing and mitigation, highway and railroad intersection, automated vehicles, connected vehicles and advanced traffic signal control for urban surface streets and arterials.

Traffic management services will include integrated corridor management, travel demand management, dynamic parking management, pedestrian mobility applications and the use of the Internet of Things to increase the sustainability of Smart City transportation approaches. Traffic management also extends to the management of emergency vehicles, fleet deployment, and incident prediction This will also incorporate the use of big data and analytics techniques to support a range of services that will underpin results driven investment programs, through which future transportation investments are guided by the effects of prior investments.

Travel information services

Travel information will be delivered on a multichannel basis that includes in – vehicle information, smart phone information, roadside information, and the delivery of information services in the home and the office via the Web. Travel information services will support the connected citizen and the connected visitor and will act as a sophisticated form of transportation management by making decision quality information available to all citizens and visitors within the city. Travel information will offer choices regarding route, timing of journey, mode of travel and will include information regarding total trip time, trip time reliability and cost of various options.

Urban Analytics services

Urban Analytics within a Smart City will be utilized to measure and improve access to jobs, transportation safety, transportation efficiency and provide the enabling services to manage transportation user experience. Urban Analytics will be driven by data links, centralized data hubs and enterprise data management systems that make use of big data techniques to provide the raw material for sophisticated analytics. The services will also be enabled by Open Data Cloud approaches.

Urban automation services

Urban automation services supported by Autonomous Vehicle technology in private vehicles, driverless shuttles, company and public agency fleets, taxis, and paratransit. Urban automation will also extend to the use of driverless vehicles to deliver packages.

Urban delivery and logistics services

This involves the use of advanced information and communication technologies to improve and optimize delivery and logistics within the Smart City environment. This will include information services to the driver and fleet managers regarding traffic congestion and the delivery of optimized routing information services.

User focused mobility services

Public and private supported mobility services will be combined into a portfolio of choices available to the Smart City traveler. It is likely that a marketplace approach will be taken to this, in which a range of mobility services can be acquired through a central information point or website. This range of services is complemented by travel information services that can provide detailed information on the mobility services choices available.

The services described above delivered direct value and benefits to smart city citizens and visitors. There are also a few services that do not delivered direct value but enable the delivery of these services in an efficient and effective manner these include:

Intelligent, sensor-based infrastructure services

Smart sensors and the appropriate telecommunications network technology will be utilized within the Smart City to provide a range of data supply services to both public and private sector entities within the Smart City. Sensor-based infrastructure data will be complemented by probe vehicle data from Connected Vehicles. Sensor data will also be supplemented by mobile data from smart phones and social media data from social media networks such as Twitter. This will enable Smart City managers to measure performance and gauge perception of services with respect to transportation. Data from the smart sensors will also provide a significant input into back office activities that deliver analytic services.

Low cost efficient, secure, and resilient ICT services

Data will be transmitted within the Smart City using a range of information, communication, and technology services. Some of these will be owned and operated by the public sector and others by the private sector. It is likely that a hybrid approach involving wireline and wireless solutions will be adopted to supply the services. The communication services will be delivered within a managed framework that provides maximum efficiency and security, while taking a network approach to supporting resilience. It is likely that devices and techniques from the Internet of Things (IoT) will be used to support these services along with the infrastructure-based sensors described above.

Strategic business models and partnering services

The services to be delivered in the Smart City will be enabled by strategic business models and partnering. While previous models for deploying advanced technologies in transportation have had a predominantly public sector focus, it is likely that the Smart City will be supported by public-private partnerships that harness the resources and motivation of the private sector in addition to the public sector.

Transportation governance services

Transportation governance services within a Smart City will ensure the optimized management of transportation on a multimodal basis across the whole city. This will require collaboration and coordination between public and private sector service providers and involve cross mode cooperation for the management of private vehicles, transit vehicles and freight vehicles. It is likely that advanced data capture and data processing technologies will be used to support transportation government services.

This list was drawn from the US DOT Smart City challenge, the White House Smart City website and features insight gained through discussions with Smart City implementers. It is not an exhaustive list, but should make a good starting point towards the definition of a Smart City.

So how smart is your city? You can poke it with a stick to find out, or alternatively you can compare it to the list of services above and let us know.


Bob McQueen & Associates

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Officers in Orlando, USA, and Perpignan, France

©2016 by Bob McQueen and Associates