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Tap into the brains behind today’s smartest cities

Singapore and other innovators around the globe are building cities of the future today. Here’s how IT pros in Canada can adapt and customize their ideas.

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When I muse about life in a future smart city, I dream of seamless government transactions, automated everything and — most of all — driverless cars.

That dream is getting closer to reality. Google recently placed an ad in an Arizona newspaper for test drivers for its driverless cars. And a few months from now, London will become one of the first cities to have driverless vehicles on the roads.

Smart cities are built on and around the Internet of Things and mega data stores, according to Jennifer Formichelli, a researcher at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society.

“A smart city leverages its collection of massive data to learn about its residents,” she says, “showcasing the ways in which smart cities are beginning to transcend the Internet of Things, by gathering massive data sets that are gradually helping researchers understand vast and complex networks.”

The race to digital nirvana has begun, and Singapore is killing it, according to the 2016 smart city rankings from Juniper Research. It’s a step ahead of its nearest competitors thanks to its mobility policies and technology, fixed and cellular broadband services, well-designed city apps and a strong open data policy.

An early mover, Singapore launched its Smart Nation program in 2014. As part of that effort, it’s deploying sensors and cameras that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle, according to Wall Street Journal writers Jake Maxwell Watts and Newley Purnell.

“For instance, sensors deployed by private companies in some elderly people’s publicly managed homes will alert family if they stop moving, and even record when they use the toilet in an attempt to monitor general health.”

India is also turning heads for creating a smart city template that could be adapted in other geographies, says IT World Canada writer Ryan Patrick. Initiatives such as smart streetlights, garbage containers and water treatment systems are all designed to improve the lives of the country’s citizens.

“This also includes a road-rationing experiment to cut down on the number of cars on roads and air pollution in the air, robust IT connectivity and digitalization, and strong governance, especially improved e-governance and citizen participation processes,” writes Patrick.

Canada isn’t blazing any trails, but there are some interesting projects getting off the ground in Ontario and B.C. The City of Toronto has installed 476,000 automated water meters that link to an online dashboard, allowing users to monitor their usage and billing.

Meanwhile, the Richmond Hospital British Columbia is planning to upgrade its hospital with smart beds that monitor patient health and communicate that information to healthcare providers.

The lack of action in this country represents an opportunity for network administrators in municipal governments to demonstrate leadership in applying smart technologies that save money, reduce energy or generate revenue.

In other words, they have an opportunity to innovate, something that will be the key differentiator for cities going forward, according to the latest analysis of global cities from A.T. Kearney’s.

“As technology continues to disrupt entire industries — basically changing the way people live — cities that create an environment and buzz that attract and retain entrepreneurs, while also hanging onto their home-grown talent, will be best positioned for future success.”

Photo courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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