In our age of smart technology — phones, home-assistants, and even cars, now it’s time for the next big thing — smart cities.
They are more than just a trend that you would see or hear about from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. They’re the wave of the future because our world is becoming more urban, with 60% of the population expected to live in cities by 2050.
The Evolution of “Smart Cities”
The concept of a “smart city” was born out of tragedy. After the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, cities began to install 24×7 surveillance cameras and artificial intelligence (A.I.) like technology to help monitor and protect public spaces.
But what is a “smart city?” Depending on the industry you’re looking to, smart cities can be defined in various ways. From a cybersecurity standpoint, smart cities, integrate critical infrastructure like energy, lighting and building controls into a centralized network so urban centers can run more efficiently.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce has expressed its interest in the internet of things (IoT) and smart cities for the purposes of “ensuring that residences and communities experience the benefit of advanced technology and improved quality of life.”
This new technology can help citizens navigate cities more efficiently, provide stronger public safety, optimal energy consumption, and the potential to generate fully integrated calendar of events that helps drive tourism, or rather, “smart tourism.”
Smart cities have begun to develop innovative business models:
The city of Palo Alto for example, is purchasing renewable energy from solar grid companies on a competitive basis, rather than requiring homeowners to install solar panels. This helps to accelerate the shift towards clean energy while saving citizens time and money.
Using Smartphone Apps to Leverage Business Deals
The world is “online” through the utilization of social media. So why not use these platforms to our advantage, rather than for harming others? Cities who are looking to actively engage citizens and companies are using smartphone apps managed by A.I. systems.
Take San Francisco’s Civic Bridge Day, where community groups and companies in efforts to leverage and win business contracts, develop their own prototypes. By leveraging these exponential technologies, local governments are able to ensure citizen transparency, engagement, governance, and accountability among city agencies, citizens, businesses, and tourists.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), smart city development is defined as the use of smart initiatives combined to leverage technology investments across an entire city, with common platforms increasing efficiency, data being shared across systems, and IT investments tied to smart missions.
A “true” smart city improves the quality of life for its citizens and visitors.
In 2016, smart city technology spending reached $80 billion, and is expected to grow to $135 billion by 2021.
It only makes sense that the U.S. continues to provide the resources and opportunities for the world’s best and brightest innovators to implement their futuristic vision — and that starts with turning our “dumb” cities into something worth living in.
The problem with turning our cities “smart,” is the amount of data required.
Hacking the Ride-Share Network to Become More ‘Intelligent’
For Kaan Gunay, an immigrant born in Germany, raised in Turkey, and now living in America, he’s well on his way to building his own unicorn startup, having already raised $21.5 million in capital. Gunay’s vision of developing his own smart city is by first focusing on our traffic and public roadways.
Think about how much time rideshare drivers spend on the road each day — our roads, traffic lights, and even drivers themselves are all “dumb.”
As you compile information relating to each of these categories, you’re also compiling data points — data points that Gunay believed to be a winning idea. His startup, Firefly, is a smart city media network designed to connect people, governments, and businesses to help build intelligent, safe, and sustainable cities.
By focusing on our traffic and roads, Gunay leverages existing networks of rideshare vehicles and installs Firefly’s proprietary media displays atop of the vehicles. These screens deliver geo-targeted advertising based on driver routes and location, delivering the right message at the right time for highly-effective campaign-engagement.
But, setting the company apart is its mission to putting the community first. At least 10 percent of Firefly’s entire advertising inventory is dedicated to local not-for-profit organizations, public sector PSAs, and other non-commercial entities such as charities, advocacy groups, and community organizations.
According to Gunay, the company works hand-in-hand with municipal governments to provide valuable data. They have partnered with Clean Air Coalition and PurpleAir, running an integrated pilot program that measures air quality. As Firefly grows, they are seeking to improve their internal capacities for the smart city initiative.