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The capture and processing of data is vital to the efficient use of energy and in achieving an optimal balance between people, places, prosperity, and the planet. This data can become knowledge that ultimately applications can use to provide smart services. By Rick Lee, Senior VP, GM Centre of Excellence, Hitachi Asia

All over the world, concrete steps are being taken to make a special type of city: a smart city. These cities use new technologies to help them reach their diverse goals more efficiently. Some cities are being made smarter, and some new cities are being designed to be smart from their very beginnings.

A common goal is to provide cost efficient services to their residents. Another goal is to make cities that are attractive from a variety of viewpoints: for example, to make cities that are both economically vibrant and also environmentally friendly. As environmental and energy problems grow increasingly severe, and the need for sustainable growth increases, smart cities are becoming more necessary and more popular.

Hitachi sees its smart city approach as a way to resolve the problems faced by individual cities. The approach takes into account both the economy and the environment, can handle changing times and social trends, and supports safe, interesting, and prosperous lifestyles.

For this approach to work, it is important to identify the stakeholders and the structures and organisations that make up a smart city, and to understand their different points of view. The company views the smart city as having a hierarchical structure comprising a variety of infrastructure with different functions and roles, and believes that, if each layer of this infrastructure hierarchy is highly integrated, the city can resolve problems and provide services more efficiently and more effectively.

Smart City Stakeholders

Smart city stakeholders include city administrators, developers, residents, and groups sharing world opinion on the environment. Such stakeholders have different interests and interact with the city in different ways, and stakeholders need to recognise the existence of standpoints that might differ from their own.
For example, residents need to be aware that people living well beyond the city borders might be very concerned at the environmental problems of the city. Similarly, when developing smart city concepts and plans, city administrators need to take into account the needs and concerns of residents and other parties involved.

Optimal Balance

The approach that is adopted here, is that the best method to develop smart cities is to take all the stakeholder viewpoints into account. For example to make a city smarter requires examination of ecological, economic, and people-oriented factors. But implementing these insights is not the end of the process. Making a city smarter provides the tools and systems to efficiently resolve a wide variety of problems in the future.

Smart cities considered desirable by all stakeholders need to have the optimal balance between the ecological (‘Eco’) needs of the global environment and the experiential values of the city residents who want prosperous urban lifestyles that offer a good quality of life. Combining lifestyle convenience with consideration for the environment will be essential for the sustainable development of cities. This balance is a very important aspect of urban policy.

Structure Of A Smart City

Smart cities are modelled here as a hierarchy of infrastructures that have different functions and purposes. The national infrastructure and urban infrastructure layers contain the most basic parts of the social infrastructure. The daily-life services infrastructure layer supplies services directly to residents. The smart-city management infrastructure layer coordinates these various layers through the use of IT.

Hitachi’s vision is that each infrastructure layer will interoperate under the control of the smart-city management infrastructure to support a way of life for residents that takes into account the global environment, safety, and convenience.

Smart-City Management Infrastructure

Hitachi sees smart cities as emerging from combinations of elements that make up the hierarchy described above. The smart-city management infrastructure plays a key role as the common platform enabling various combinations. For example, this management infrastructure can ensure that services are available when and where they are needed, and can help residents achieve a good quality of life with the minimum impact on the environment.

The management infrastructure can coordinate both the physical and system components of the common elements that make up a city (such as buildings, roads, railways, and utilities) and those elements that differ by region (such as residential areas, central business districts, and commercial areas).

Advanced IT For Social Infrastructure

A fusion of two different types of IT can resolve the issues confronting social infrastructure and help develop smart cities that are secure and comfortable while taking the environment into account. These two types of IT are control systems, which can operate the social infrastructure safely, efficiently, smoothly, and in harmony with the environment; and information systems, which help deliver the security, convenience, and comfort of a smart city lifestyle.

For example, information systems can collect operational data from various areas of life, and then transform this data into information and knowledge that applications can use to provide smart services. For example, data can be used to predict demand spikes that require extra resources. Similarly, control systems can use this information for more finely grained management and operation. This can enhance the operation of factories, electric power systems, railways, and other services. Through this integration of information, it is possible to develop infrastructure systems that are optimised across the whole of society.

Balancing Supply And Demand

By utilising IT to coordinate operation of the urban infrastructure layer and the daily-life services infrastructure layer, the smart-city management infrastructure can provide access to more information on supply and demand than was available in the past. Not only is there more information, but techniques such as data visualisation make this data easier to understand quickly. The balance between supply and demand can be managed instantaneously, with high precision.

Integrated Services

By using IT to seamlessly interlink resources, functions, and services, a smart city can provide a single integrated service that is optimised to take advantage of the characteristics of each component. Consider transportation, for example. A smart city can provide transportation services that deliver people to their destination and satisfy user requirements for safety, convenience, and economy by simulating the combined operation of trains, buses and other public transportation, car rental or sharing arrangements, and private cars. Or consider energy. A smart city can achieve a flexible and reliable supply of electric power by making maximum use of solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy in addition to thermal, hydro, and other base-load electric power generation facilities. As in these examples, IT is essential to delivering the optimal combination of services that meets demand and suits regional circumstances.

Creation Of New Services

The use of IT in smart cities can lead to innovations and the creation of new services. A smart city generates extensive data from its infrastructure via sensors and other means. Access to this data opens up possibilities for innovations and services within the daily-life services infrastructure. For example, a traffic management system could determine traffic conditions by using vehicle-mounted devices to collect information on car locations and speeds.

Naturally, individuals would have to give explicit permission before allowing third parties access to certain types of personal information acquired from the social infrastructure. Robust security would be needed to prevent data leakage and monitoring would be needed to ensure that the information is used for agreed purposes only. However, with the right security and privacy safeguards, access to such data can lead to many types of new services.

The availability of such data has the potential to lead to a wide variety of new applications. In addition to commercial innovations, health and welfare services can use the data to better focus their limited resources on those most in need. This open approach to data can unleash smart innovation that provides both public and personal benefits.

Smart City Requirements

The idea of a smart city is an abstract one, and the ideal form changes through each stage of a city’s development. To achieve a sustainable balance and harmony between the values of residents and the environment, urban development must proceed in a far-sighted and planned manner with a focus on achieving the objectives specific to each particular city. The city must also operate within the relevant constraints, including budgets, space, and each city’s individual priorities.

The process of creating an actual smart city requires the identification of the right level of ‘smartness’ for that city, and requires undertaking long-term projects aimed at achieving this.

Smart City, Smart Life

A smart city provides a way of life that is safe, secure, convenient, and comfortable. The services and facilities needed to provide this ‘smart life,’ can be defined as the daily-life services infrastructure, and this can be seen as an additional infrastructure layer on top of the energy, transportation, and other functions of the social infrastructure.
An important idea is that the daily-life services infrastructure can be broken down (disassembled) into the various different services provided by the city, and these individual functions can then be made smarter (improved) and put back together (reassembled) to develop a city that satisfies the genuine needs of residents.

In Conclusion

The time for smart cities has come. The cities of the future will not be measured just by economic indicators. A smart city provides enhanced environmental performance, economic value, and social value over the long term. Smart cities are essential for a sustainable future. This vision for smart cities is being realised and, even now, it is engaging with stakeholders to design and develop smart cities that are good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for people. The benefits of smart cities should continue as long as the cities themselves.

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