Smart Cities are no longer a far-away dream

We have been talking about Smart Cities for quite some time now. A number of large cities are taking the lead, but in smaller cities, action is often limited to a few interesting initiatives or a good plan. The arrival of the Internet of Things means that many smart city initiatives are for the first time not only possible, but also economically viable. Cities are realizing that technological solutions could help hold the key to solving many of today’s pressing urban problems – as well as tomorrow’s.

Air quality
Healthy air is fundamental for the mental and physical well-being of all of a city’s residents. There is no magic bullet to solve this problem. Only an array of measures working in parallel will have a lasting impact on the air quality. Where mobility is concerned, these include state-of-the-art combustion engines, hybrid solutions and pure electromobility, as well as connectivity that goes beyond individual vehicles.

Another key piece of the puzzle is climate monitoring systems. They gather data about air quality in a particular region which can be used to develop targeted measures for reducing pollution. Climo, a compact monitoring system from Bosch, is easy to install on different locations in the city. In addition to pollution, Climo also measures humidity and pollen levels in real time. For cities, the data provided can be utilized in a variety of ways, such as for traffic flow management and as the basis for future policy and planning decisions.

More and more people live in the city. And growing populations mean also more traffic. In fact, urban traffic is predicted to triple by 2050. If a city does not take the appropriate measures, traffic will be completely stuck by that time. The city of tomorrow cannot exist without an intelligent planning of the city center, green spaces and parking garages. Smart Cities will also heavily rely on multimodal transport: getting from A to B on four wheels, two wheels or by public transport. One way of facilitating this is with innovative shared mobility services, such as Coup in Berlin and Paris.

Smart parking solutions can also relieve the heavy city traffic. Community-based Parking enables drivers to find what has become a rarity in residential areas and city centers: an empty parking space. As they drive by, cars automatically recognize and measure the size of the gaps between parked cars, transmitting the data in real time to a digital parking-space that enables drivers to locate vacant parking spaces. Automated Valet Parking from Bosch goes one step further – the car parks itself without any action needed on the driver’s part. A pilot project is currently running in the parking garage of the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

Energy use presents the third major challenge for cities. Cities already count for some 75 percent of power consumption around the world, with 40 percent going to buildings alone. Smart city technology can not only help to reduce consumption, but also make the use of renewables a more viable project. Such energy solutions include virtual power plants, which store power or feed it into the grid as needed, and stationary energy storage systems – essentially massive batteries that can store enough energy to power dozens of homes.

Another example is the Bosch DC Microgrid, that can be used to power large buildings. The ability of microgrids to run on both traditional and renewable fuels means they have excellent environmental credentials. Another major advantage of microgrids is their self-sufficiency, which makes them a reliable source of power when a weather- or security-related outage affects the broader grid. The Bosch DC Microgrid runs on direct current (DC) instead of alternating current (AC), enabling energy savings of up to ten percent.

Safety and security
Keeping individuals and communities safe is another major challenge for cities. Connected surveillance cameras can be used to fight crime and they can also identify where help is needed in the event of a catastrophe.

In the light of climate change the flood monitoring system from Bosch is another intelligent security solution. This system provides early warning about potential flooding by digitally monitoring water levels in real time. Ultrasonic sensor probes and cameras monitor changes to the water level, speed and throughput. The system immediately sends out notifications when critical thresholds have been surpassed. This gives municipalities, residents and business owners enough time to take precautions against flooding or flood damage.

But, in order to unlock the full potential of our smart cities, the homes and buildings inside them will need to be intelligent as well. Smart home technologies offer countless benefits: they can take care of time-consuming tasks for us, enable us to save energy and money, and make our living spaces more secure. Thanks to all these technologies, citizens will feel more engaged and empowered in the city they live in.

Written by Sandra Vancolen

To learn more about smart cities, come to the Internet of Things Smart Cities Convention on June 6 in Antwerp!

Bosch Smart Cities