Smart Cities and Smart Homes: From Realization to Reality

Discover how smart cities and smart homes can change your place of living and enhance the quality of life. From smart lightening to a self-manageable fridge, technology paves the way to a better reality

Intelligent lighting, video surveillance systems, video doorbells, and thermostats are no longer a dream. A number of global cities like London, Singapore, Tokyo have already upgraded their city ecosystems with intelligent devices that create a smart and comfortable living environment with an enhanced level of IoT security.

The concept of a smart city is not new these days. Technology is a driving force for positive changes in society. With the help of digital opportunities, humans can greatly evolve their places of living and reach a qualitatively new level of comfort. The IoT now combines about 27.7 million devices that collectively provide a favorable basis to develop Wi-Fi-connected cities around the globe. The need for smart premises is explained by the rapidly aging population. By 2030, it is predicted that over 56 percent of people on earth will be elderly. The integration of technology with buildings, in turn, is an amazing chance to provide aging people with the ability to feel independent and in touch with the outside world while staying at home.

Before starting an in-depth analysis of what opportunities smart cities offer, it is vital to explore the idea of home automation. Any smart home builds on a network of devices that are controlled with the owner’s smartphone. This network typically involves appliances and equipment that are involved with ensuring comfort inside and outside the owner’s house. All of these devices are connected to Wi-Fi and hence can be remotely controlled.

What makes a ‘Smart Home’?

Below are the major components of a standard smart house, each performing its separate role in bringing extreme comfort to the owner.

1. Smart lighting

Unlike regular lighting, smart bulbs have the built-in sensors that respond to ambient daylight and produce as much artificial light as needed for the occupants in the room. They are also motion-responsive. So when there is nobody home, the sensors automatically reduce energy consumption. As a result, you will save on your power bill as well as enjoy your lighting longer because the smart bulb lifespan is extremely long. Another mesmerizing feature of smart lighting is color adjustment. The owner can manually select any color that fits their mood and dim it when they would like to sit in a relaxing environment. Though the price for smart bulbs is significantly higher than that of regular bulbs, smart lighting will eventually prove useful in the house.

2. Smart heating systems

The ability to control the room temperature is valuable, especially during winter time. For that purpose, every smart home is equipped with a thermostat. This small device is programmed with AI software and serves to regulate your house temperature. Leaving your place, you can easily lower the temperature while you are away. However, while returning home, you can bring the desired temperature back. It is also possible to establish a few heating zones. For instance, your bathroom, bedroom, and living room will each have a unique level of heat depending on your needs and habits. The only downside to having a thermostat is that it is quite energy-consuming. But you can potentially reduce the amount of heat produced daily if you set the thermostat’s working hours in an app beforehand.

3. Smart video doorbells

Another big advantage of smart homes is that you can keep in touch with your visitors wherever you are. A doorbell with the built-in camera lets the owner communicate with anyone who is waiting on their doorstep via a call. Like other intelligent devices, the doorbell is also connected to the general network and managed with the smartphone app. It can also act as a surveillance camera allowing you to watch everyone being within 30 feet from your door. Such doorbells are also motion-sensitive and can alert you each time some uninvited guest is approaching your door.

4. Voice assistance

Finally, the main thing to keep in mind is that every single component of the smart home network can be accessed and managed through a smartphone or a voice assistant such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. Both speakers can interact with the owner and perform their commands. Unlike an app, voice-activated assistants greatly extend your abilities by giving you also access to the internet, news, and some media platforms. For that reason, you can do housework and enjoy some entertaining content at a time.

5. Smart electronics

To date, you can find a lot of electronics that can be integrated with a smart home system. The majority of kitchen appliances, such as a fridge, blender, cooker, etc. are compatible with smartphone software that enables quick and easy control over this electronics. For example, an internet-connected fridge is programmed to inform the user of what products need to be resupplied. Or every morning, a coffee machine can make a coffee ten minutes before you wake up. A washing machine can start doing your laundry each Friday at 3 pm, while you are having a weekly scheduled meeting. All these digital opportunities become a reality when you decide to upgrade your apartment with smart devices.  

What about a smart city?

A smart city is focused on creating a favorable infrastructure supported by AI software. Today’s world is struggling with many burning issues, such as climate change, finite resources, overpopulation, water pollution and scarcity, deforestation, etc. The city of the future is planned in a way that does not contribute to the problems above mentioned but, on the contrary, promotes their solution or complete elimination.

These are some of the fundamental conditions that are necessary to build a smart city.

  • Sustainable energy systems that use renewable energy to provide a city with lighting and power supply.
  • Intelligent traffic management that alerts of adverse weather conditions, monitors routes for emergencies, and communicates the areas of traffic congestion.
  • Smart video surveillance that improves public safety by monitoring crime and any kind of wrongdoing.
  • Air & water monitoring systems that detect water leaks, check the noise, pollution, and radiation levels, and monitor buildings for serviceability.

Challenges of implementing a smart city

Although the idea of smart cities sounds invigorating, there are some significant barriers to its full implementation. One of them is digital literacy of some segments of the population, particularly elderly people that do not keep pace with technology as well as rural residents that do not have either a reason or a financial opportunity to upgrade their houses. These contributing factors impede the engagement of every citizen in the smart city infrastructure.

Next, the unification of numerous devices under one smart system requires a big cloud space where massive blocks of data would be organized and stored securely. It needs a mutual effort of many tech providers that should share responsibilities rationally so that each supplier cares for a specific part of the system, and there are many things to handle: traffic lights, surveillance systems, first aid messages, and so on. Moreover, if such a smart city system catches on, all the people will be in the hands of these tech suppliers. At worst, these providers can proactively offer a pre-selected set of services that benefits them at first. In that case, a public body to supervise the activities of the tech suppliers needs to be established as well.

Linking every citizen to one global system carries an IoT risk too. Alarming cybercrime statistics says that a number of cyber-attacks grow year by year. With regard to the IoT weaknesses, IoT security will most likely require multivariate measures to prevent or stop denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that repeatedly happened before. One attack will be enough to collapse the entire city. This is why a set of anti-hacking measures will have to be provided as well.

At last, many people are concerned about their privacy and data confidentiality. The smart city, in turn, pushes every person into sharing their personal information as a condition of joining the smart system. Not every person will agree to give access to their private housing and be entirely dependent on other ecosystem players, such as utilities, telcos, and transportation companies.

Future projections

The idea of the smart city is becoming popular worldwide. Although every third smart city project commonly fails, many states keep finding new avenues to upgrade their urban infrastructure and provide their citizens with more comfortable living conditions.

The twenty-first century is an urban century, and soon, the quality of life in a city will be the principal indicator of happiness and well being. Since technology makes people more and more bound to their homes, it is vital to improve the level of comfort in their houses. Though many authorities are sluggish to undertake a smart home program, there is much hope that every human will live in an intelligent and secure place in less than two decades. 

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