Technology offers cities the chance to have more eyes and ears than they have ever had before. Sensors are proliferating everywhere, gathering information here and there from different sources. It is estimated that there are already more sensors than humans, in fact, each smartphone already contains many sensors that are constantly producing data. We are on our way towards a hypersensitive planet, but how can all of this data be used in order to create smarter environmental stress warning systems?
Meteorological sensors can assist with the monitoring of environmental parameters, such as: air quality, water quality, noise, humidity, temperature, the concentration of pollen and much more. All of this data and information can be used by cities in order to prepare for the future and to better understand what resources are needed where at specific times. It allows water treatment plants to better understand where and when resources are needed, the electricity grid to be able to plan for certain times when they expect surges in usage. All of this data can be used by cities to provide more for their citizens when they need it – especially in the event of extreme weather or environmental issues.
All of this data can be collected, stored and analysed in a cloud based system that offers each department of the city access to all data, not only the data that is provided by their specific department. It is this sharing of data that will allow city leaders to understand the real needs and demands of citizens at different times and to be able to adjust services accordingly. For example: if pollution monitoring systems warn you that there are certain areas that are experiencing extremely high levels of pollution then you can warn citizens not to travel into those areas until the pollution levels have decreased to a safer level.
Of course the long term aim of any smart city should be to decrease all pollution so that there are no longer dangerous levels anywhere in the city, but in the meantime such warning systems can help citizens avoid trouble areas – it will also mean that less citizens will end up in hospital with respiratory problems. So, by pre-empting the problem you are not only helping the citizens, but are keeping the pressure off other key services in the city.
Another area is the prevention and protection against urban flooding, these can be enhanced through the implementation of advanced drainage management systems based on meteorological information. GIS-based tele-control systems allow for the management, preparation and early warning of these episodes, this will translate into a great savings for the city as they can prevent the problems happening before they occur.
It is not only cities that can benefit from such systems, by monitoring variables such as temperature and humidity in forests we can detect the potential for forest fires and raise the alarm before a disaster has happened.
Natural disasters and high pollution are sadly inevitable in all cities, although we hope that pollution aspect can be resolved, but by taking a smart approach to planning city leaders will be better prepared for any potential natural or man-made disaster.