Introduction to Smart Cities: Page 3 of 14

Perfecting operations uses the power of computers to optimize complex systems. For instance, balancing the supply and demand on an electricity network; or synchronizing traffic signals to minimize congestion; or selecting the ideal routes for a delivery fleet to minimize time and fuel costs; or optimizing the energy usage of an entire high-rise to achieve maximum comfort at minimum cost; or to balance the grid with the optimal mix of renewable and traditional power sources at any given time. 

Smart cities collect, communicate and crunch data. The city of Rio de Janeiro collects information from 30 different city departments about transportation, water, energy, weather and other conditions. Then it communicates those conditions to powerful computers, which crunch the data and present it in a unified control center the city developed with IBM. Not only does the city gain full situational awareness, it can even predict some conditions in advance, such as where floods will occur during severe storms. It can also develop actionable tasks based on modeled patterns, creating a competitive advantage for smart cities.

Predicting what’s next is perhaps the most exciting part of analytics. Singapore uses data to predict traffic jams while there is still time to minimize their effects. Rio de Janeiro predicts just where flooding will occur from a particular storm, so emergency crews and evacuation teams know just where to go.

Cities can derive benefit by collecting, communicating and analyzing information from a single department. But the greatest benefits come when data is connected with multiple departments and third parties. Many cities combine historic traffic data with information about population growth and business expansion to know when and where to add or subtract bus and train routes. Other cities correlate multiple data sources to predict crime the way we predict weather.

As we’ll see in more detail, a smart city is a system of systems – water, power, transportation, emergency response, built environment, etc.– with each one affecting all the others. In the last few years, we’ve refined our ability to merge multiple data streams and mine them for amazing insights. It is those insights – presenting, perfecting and predicting – that enhance the livability, workability and sustainability of a smart city.