Smart cities are cities that use the latest communication and information technology to improve the services they provide to their citizens. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), many cities can gather real-time data and use it in a variety of ways to operate more effectively and efficiently.

The technology spending of these smart cities could reach $135 billion by 2021. Yes, such investments will help these cities be more accessible and convenient for its citizens. It will also help make cities more sustainable.

How Smart Cities are Using Artificial Intelligence for Greater Efficiency

According to the Smart City Council, smart cities offer several advantages. We have listed these advantages below: 

  • Education: Smart cities offer access to premium learning opportunities across a monitored environment for all ages.
  • Liveability: They provide clean, healthy living spaces free of congestion and pollution. Using an advanced digital infrastructure to enhance city services, they are available 24/7 to anyone.
  • Sustainability: AI can provide services in a way that doesn’t compromise resources for future generations.
  • Workability: AI can provide an infrastructure that can globally compete for top-shelf jobs like computing, connectivity, energy, and essential services.

How Do Smart Cities Use AI? 

From local tax data and police reports to mass transit ticket sales, most cities have access to a wide array of data sources. There’s also a large number of images and video available that’s a great source of raw data that AI pattern technology can sort in a variety of ways for use. By 2020, NVIDIA predicts that there will be as many as 1 billion cameras used on commercial buildings, government holdings, and infrastructures.

Who is monitoring all those cameras? Humans only monitor a small part. With the sheer volume of raw data that requires analyzing, processing, and viewing, it’s fortunate that we have AI to do most of the work for us. It’s far too much data for humans to navigate. 

With machine learning, AI can recognize faces, read license plates, and count pedestrians or vehicles. It can establish the traffic patterns of millions of vehicles and track their speed too. When it comes to satellite data to assess things like road use or counting vehicles in a parking lot, AI can compile results quickly and accurately.

Monochrome photography of people walking in Victoria train station | Photo: Skitterphoto via Pexels

Monochrome photography of people walking in Victoria train station | Photo: Skitterphoto via Pexels

Why the Rise of Smart Cities?

More than half of the people in the world live in cities for work and to improve their quality of life. That number will rise to two-thirds of the population by 2050. Such rapid expansion will create an increase in crime, pollution, and traffic. With each of these problems presenting an opportunity for smart city solutions. 

How did this come about? Today more than half the world’s population is on the internet using affordable devices. Billions of devices are sharing data like cameras, sensors, smartphones, and more on the internet of things. The platforms are continually improving for education, fun, and work connect communities. 

Taking it to another level, AI utilizes machine learning in software applications that can be potentially used in almost any area of our lives. When you factor in rapidly developing self-driving cars, drones, and robotics, it’s easy to see how AI can help smart cities provide better services to their populations.

The Companies Behind Smart Cities

There are several companies helping these smart cities with the implementation of AI to meet their needs. Companies like NVIDIA who launched Metropolis for this purpose, are developing intelligent analytics platforms to meet the specific goals of these cities. There are more than 50 AI partner companies giving NVIDIA apps and products that help machine learning on GPUs.

In 2015, AT&T launched its Smart Cities framework for this purpose. They forged partnerships with other communications and technology companies like Cisco, Ericsson, GE, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm.

In early 2019, AT&T announced a significant agreement with GE to be the exclusive reseller of its GE Current’s intelligent sensor nodes for city connection. It was a big deal on the heels of GE’s announcement that it was providing the largest smart city Internet of Things (IoT) sensor platform for the city of San Diego. 

NVIDIA Metropolis Software Partner Program | Photo: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Metropolis Software Partner Program | Photo: NVIDIA

What can AI do for Smart Cities?

Here are just a few of the ways AI is helping to develop smart city concepts.

  • Parking: Parking management can be greatly improved using AI. Cities with access to data on parking space availability can be greatly aided by AI. Using data collected from ground sensors and driver smartphones, AI can produce real-time maps to parking spots and aid in parking app development.
  • Public Safety: AI is proving effective in helping law enforcement agencies across the U.S to fight gang violence and track registered sex offenders. It’s also widely used in preventing crime and parole recommendations.
  • Managing Waste: AI allows cities to remotely monitor waste and help manage it. AI can give city planners with analytics for operational and route optimization.
  • Traffic Management: Ideally, commuters should be able to get from one location to another in a safe, efficient manner. AI solutions are incredibly helpful in making adjustments to the flow of traffic.
  • Power and Water: With AI monitoring a city’s utilities, costs can be reduced. AI solutions can help streamline the use of resources. In the case of water, it can help identify unusual use and leaks.

What are the Challenges?

The implementation of such a large-scale technology cannot do without challenges.

  • Privacy: AI platforms will be handling data from 50 billion devices by next year. That includes all those cameras. Privacy will be tricky. Facebook’s facial recognition system continues to improve. There are already police precincts using AI to send bills to drivers who passed through toll zones. As transparency increases, privacy will be harder to preserve.
  • Unemployment: Human workers will lose jobs in the future to AI that can do the same job and do it better. While new jobs will be created, it’s not clear what impact the displacement will have and on what classes and geographic areas.
  • Income Inequality: While this is a current problem we’re facing, it’s going to get worse. In an automation economy, the ones who benefit are those who develop, pay for, and own robots and AI technology. Job displacement will escalate income inequality.
  • Access: The AI tools emerging are among the most powerful that the world has seen and they are improving daily. Will everyone have access? While both Google and Microsoft have provided open-source tools, you’d need to be pretty well-versed technically for them to be of any use. Tesla CEO Elon Musk among other launched OpenAI in 2015, a non-profit AI research company with the intention of developing open-source AI that would benefit everyone. Again, you have to have the know-how to take advantage of the opportunity.
  • Biased Algorithms: AI bias prevention will need to be developed and monitored. While AI improves as it’s provided more and more data, it also picks up our biases as a society. More and more AI decides who gets the job, insurance, or a loan. The technology must be set to prevent biases.
  • Moral Issues: Speaking of Elon Musk and Tesla, we’re getting closer by the day to have fleets of autonomous vehicles on our roads, controlled by AI. At the moment, companies developing such technology are dealing with out-of-the-ordinary situations. How should the AI respond to someone driving on the wrong side of the road? How would the AI respond in a situation where either the driver or pedestrians could be hurt in a given situation? Moral issues will have to be carefully considered moving forward.
  • Robotic Armies: Mechanized warfare is already here. With drones used currently in military operations, can armed AI robots be far behind? Will there be an AI arms race eventually?
  • The Human Race: While AI can closely mimic human relationships, some fear it could become an addiction. AI is significantly improving the video games we play. But will it further alienate us from each other?

Author Bio: Irina Sidorenko is lead content and marketing manager at yalantis.com. She has many years of experience in the IT and Business industry, which includes establishing and running her own small business. 

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