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The World’s Smartest Cities

Early adopters rely on IoT and infrastructure to make life smarter and more sustainable

When we muse about life in a future smart city, we dream of smart grids, smart waste management, smart streetlights and most of all, smart transportation.

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.”

MIT has projects in the works on everything from sewage-sampling robots to traffic infrastructure for driverless cars. Smart cities will start with the basics — free, public Wi-Fi for everyone and high-speed connectivity to public buildings such as hospitals — but will expand to include innovative infrastructure such as parking spots that let us know when they’re available to trashcans that let us know when they’re ready to be emptied.

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.”

But the smartest city in the world is right here at home

New York City was awarded the “2016 Best Smart City” by the Smart City Expo World Congress in Spain last year, an award that recognizes cutting-edge initiatives that help resolve urban challenges.

The city’s OneNYC plan aims to create a more sustainable, resilient and equitable city. NYC continues to pilot and scale smart technologies to improve government services and neighborhood connectivity, including a connected-vehicle pilot with the U.S. Department of Transportation. To help connect government agencies to new smart city solutions, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation has launched a series of calls for innovation and a new digital discovery tool at marketplace.nyc.

Columbus, Ohio, was the winner of last year’s U.S. Department of Transportation’s $50 million Smart City Challenge.  The city plans to deploy self-driving electric vehicles to bridge the “first and last mile” gap to public transit and set up a “smart corridor” where vehicles connect with infrastructure and other vehicles to support bus rapid transit. It’s also crafting incentives to build more electric vehicle charging stations and creating applications to help truck drivers navigate the city more efficiently.

Smart cities are also about improving the quality of life for citizens

Several streetlamps and buildings in Chicago, for example, have been outfitted with a network of sensors, providing scientists and citizens with open data about the urban environment. Known as the Array of Things, the urban sensing network will help the city understand issues such as urban flooding, air quality and traffic patterns.

According to Smart America, cities consume two-thirds of the world’s major resources, and 34 cities worldwide will have a population of more than 10 million people by 2025. That means the need for smart cities is becoming even more important.

Building smart cities requires thought leadership and governance, but they also require a high-capacity infrastructure as the backbone for smart services. With its dense metro fiber in metropolitan markets in North America and Western Europe, Zayo is well positioned to provide the infrastructure – and is actively engaged in dialogue with municipalities and other organizations in the emerging smart city space.

Cities around the world will invest $41 trillion over the next 20 years to upgrade their infrastructure for the Internet of Things, according to Smart America, from air-quality sensors and solar-powered trash compactors to self-healing power grids. And smart cities that use networked ICT technologies to optimize the management of city services and improve efficiencies will be one step closer to a smart and sustainable future.