A smart city is an urban area using different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information that is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. Infrastructure is the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function.
Hard infrastructure typically characterizes technical structures, and consists of: Aviation, Bridges, Dams, Drinking Water, Energy, Hazardous Waste, Inland Waterways, Levees, Parks, Ports, Railroads, Roadways, Schools, Sewers, Solid Waste, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Transportation, Tunnels, Waste Management, and Water. The physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.
Soft infrastructure is all the services that are required to maintain the economic, health, cultural, and social standards of a population, for example: Amusement Parks, Cultural Facilities, Education and Research, Emergency Services, the Financial System, Healthcare, Law Enforcement, Social Welfare, Sports and Recreation, and Tourism.
The first step toward making a city smart is to increase knowledge regarding the operations of its infrastructures, ranging from water and energy management to traffic, air quality, and lighting. In every big city, innumerable sensors and meters collect data from these and other sources. The challenge that cities face is thus to turn this avalanche of data into actionable information. The future of smart cities will be shaped by using smart data as a forecasting technology, and by the use of the Internet of Things as a networking technology. Cities and infrastructure operators can develop IoT applications to relieve traffic congestion, to conserve water and energy, to improve infrastructure services. [See our Smart Cities Contest page for related contest topics: Public Safety, Commercial Trucks, Parking, Environmental Sustainability, and Speeding.]
A McKinsey report from 2016 estimated that a total of $49 trillion would have to be invested in infrastructure projects worldwide between 2016 and 2030 in order to simply buttress expected economic growth rates. Approximately 60% of these investments would have to be made in emerging markets. This trend is causing the global market for smart city solutions to grow.
“The latest UN forecast predicts that 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. At that point, the world’s total urban population will be almost equal to the earth’s entire population today (7/11/2017). Within a mere century, the number of people living in big cities will have grown from one billion to almost six billion. This trend will also lead to the rise of more and more megacities—cities that have more than ten million inhabitants. Whereas there were 28 megacities in 2014, there are expected to be 41 by 2030. Demands on infrastructures are expected to grow accordingly. Smaller cities are also expected to grow considerably. In 2016 there were about 500 cities with more than one million inhabitants; by 2030 there could well be more than 650.”
In the 2017 The Future of Equity in Cities Report by the National League of Cities, mobility is cited as one of the major facilitators of human settlement and success. Addressing infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, road pricing, and more, the Report states: “New technology is promising a hyperconnected future for cities in which driverless cars and smart city applications have the potential to improve services, efficiency, and quality of life. We can imagine a not-too-distant future in which every consumer product and piece of infrastructure increasingly has the ability to sense surrounding stimuli, to communicate with other devices and people, and to draw on the computing and storage power of the [infrastructure] cloud.”