5 Epic Ways Smart Cities Can Help the Environment

Throughout the world, our cities are consuming increasing amounts of natural resources while generating more and more waste and emissions. This leads to air and water pollution, and the consequences are being felt on a planetary level.

The concept of smart cities is still developing in many different directions, but one of the key aspects these cities are meant to incorporate is environmental sustainability.

What does this mean?

It means that by using advanced technology, we can start shaping cities which are better equipped to address today’s urban challenges which have a negative impact on the environment.

If this is something you want to learn more about, keep on reading.

1. Reduce Carbon Emissions

Traffic is a significant contributor to global warming through emission of carbon dioxide.

The way smart cities can contribute to a solution to reduce carbon emissions is by incorporating smart alternatives to transport so that citizens don’t depend as much on privately-owned cars for mobility.

A few examples are:

  • Smart bike-riding services which allow users to unlock dedicated bikes located all over the city via an app on their phones
  • Smart-ride sharing
  • Self-driving, autonomous vehicles which use less fuel.

2. Support Energy Efficiency

The cities’ increased energy consumption leads to high energy demand as well as the production of more pollutants and heat. With technology, this can change for the better.

The opportunities for energy efficiency within a smart city take different forms.

Generally speaking, though, the goal of these technologies is to ensure that resources are only being used when they are needed.

One example is smart LED street lights, which last longer and require less energy to operate. What’s more, they can be dimmed or brightened based on the location and time of day to ensure efficiency without compromising safety.

Some smart lights can even automatically turn off when they don’t detect any activity on the street.

Implementing energy-efficient IoT systems like GPS, cameras and traffic light coordination systems to regulate traffic is another way smart cities can save energy.

3. Improve Urban Solid Waste Management

The environment has an incredible self-cleaning capacity and an extraordinary ability to heal itself — but the way we live places an excessive burden on it.

According to Synova, globally, we produce an astonishing 3.6 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each day — more than our planet can sustain, and we don’t do a good enough job managing it either.

Using technology to enhance city functions, like the way we deal with garbage, can lessen the strain we place on the environment.

Smart waste solutions are already a reality. The BigBelly solar-powered trash compactors, for instance, use smart sensors to know when to begin compacting.

Furthermore, the containers communicate with local waste management organization via the cloud to signal when they need to be emptied. This reduces the activity of garbage trucks, thus reducing their carbon footprint and harmful emissions.

4. Real-time Monitoring and Management of Energy and Environment

Smart cities are all about solving 21st-century problems using 21-century technology, such as that integrated by Logic Ladder’s innovative cloud platform.

The system leverages new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, big data, machine learning and analytics to gather energy and environment data, including:

  • air pollution levels,
  • how much water is being wasted,
  • renewable energy performance,
  • solid waste measurements.

The data is collected via sensors and cameras placed in strategic places, like on solar panels on top of buildings or garbage bins across the city.

City officials and citizens alike can access and use this information to make educated, more conscious decisions and identify new opportunities which can ultimately lead to improved air quality, less energy use and a cleaner city.

5. Smart Cities Can Spark Citizen Engagement

Whether we like to admit it or not, human behavior — how we choose to live — is what causes so many of the environmental problems we’re dealing with today.

And, in many cases, it’s a matter of ignorance, not being aware that a problem exists or that a solution exists.

One of the fantastic ways in which smart city technologies can be used is to connect urban citizen with the environmental issues which affect them.

How does this idea work?

At its core, it’s all about sharing information which has the power to foster behavioral change. For instance, the Trash Track project enabled citizens to tag and follow their trash as it moved through the sanitation system.

The goal was to encourage people to make more sustainable decisions about what they consume and how they manage their waste.

You can learn more about this project and the impact it made by watching the clip below:

Citizen engagement is essential to any city’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact, and technology-enabled projects like this have the potential to bring awareness and create real change.

A Taste of Things to Come

More than half of the world’s population is now living in cities, and the urban population is expected to grow by another 2.5 billion in the next 30 years. Throughout the world, a lot is riding on how we shape and build our cities.

Going forward, cities will have to heavily invest in the infrastructure needed for a more connected urban development and environmental sustainability.

The needs and challenges are different from one city to another. So, the solutions will vary as well, but technology will undoubtedly play a key role.

The information in this article is just a taste of things to come. One thing’s for sure, though, a healthy environment leads to healthier, happier life for everyone living in it.

If you enjoyed learning about the potential technology has when it comes to creating a greener future, then make sure to follow me on Medium. You can also find me on Twitter.

Astronaut wanna-be| Fast & Curious | #Oceans Explorer | Science | Tech | StartUps | #OpenData | #OpenStreetMap | #Geochicas Co-Founder | #HOTOSM Board Member