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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Julia Jaskolska



The world is rapidly urbanising; by 2050 more than 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. This urbanisation creates both problems and opportunities for better governance, administration and delivery of basic services. Currently we are using planets resources at a rate 8 times higher than the planet can survive in the long term. Improving the way cities are administered and overseen can lead to better management of city’s resources.
The goal of the research is a review of literature about role of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) in the smart cities field and identification of challenges in implementation of smart cities as well as suggestions for better approaches to ICT infrastructure development for smart cities. A part of the research is to identify what lessons can be learnt from traditional ICT infrastructure deployment and then apply relevant knowledge in deploying ICTs in the context of smart cities.

To optimise the way cities operate; centralisation and integration of different services and government departments is necessary. The key to centralisation and integration of services in smart cities is a robust, customized and efficient ICT infrastructure including wireless sensor networks, central command and control systems and coordination of activities of different government bodies operating in the metropolis. In the context of smart cities ICTs enable efficient utilization and management of resources such as better energy management, efficient water and waste management systems, safer and greener transportation and improvised provision of other basic services. ICTs can help in improving emergency response, disaster relief efforts and health services by ensuring availability of up to date information and synchronization of different city agency activities.

At the core of smart city concept is a central command and control centre where data from different sources across the city is collected and stored. Such a control centre helps coordinate efforts in the case of an emergency or even in delivery of basic services, the even greater benefit of stored data is that it helps identify patterns of civic life, any loopholes in administration or public policy and enhances the ability to cope with natural calamities. IBM has implemented such a command and control centre in Rio de Janeiro Brazil where data from different sources across the city is stored and analysed for recognising city patterns. An example discovery from the analytics was that most of the bike accidents in the city happen between 17:00 and 19:00 on Fridays. The recognition of such patterns can lead to better policy making or just general awareness of such patterns can lead to more responsible behaviour from citizens. There are about 30 different city agencies in Rio de Janeiro that coordinate their activities from the IBM control centre.
To conclude it all, an efficient smart city implementation is only possible by close coordination between local government and ICT infrastructure development companies as technology and public policy go hand in hand in smart city implementation. However the ultimate beneficiaries, both in the long run and in the short term, of smart cities should be people and hence their continual feedback needs to be ensured.