Smart City – what does it mean to you?

by Mitchell Gebheim / November 2, 2020

We’re living in an age where everything is connected and designated as “smart.” You likely have your smartphone connected to your doorbell, TV, refrigerator, thermostat, lighting, and your garage door. There’s also probably smart devices like Alexa or Google Home controlling many items in your house. This phenomenon has grown to the point where you don't know if your garage is out of milk or if you should turn on your heat and set your lamps to 70 degrees. The abundance of all of these smart devices can make life easier, but also make it all very confusing.

As our homes continue to grow “smarter,” our cities are experiencing the same transformation. So, what does that mean, and what could the future Smart City look like? Let’s start with the definition of “smart.” A device becomes smart when integrated with electronics and sensors that monitor inputs, collect data, or even control and manage devices and activities. It also typically means there is an app on your mobile device that allows you to control the “smart” device.

Smart Lighting for Your Home and Your City

An easy way to understand the benefits of smart technology is to look at a real-world applicationsmart lighting. Traditionally, home lighting is turned on and off with a switch. With smart home lighting, you can turn your lights on from wherever you are with your smartphone. You can also dim the lights, control them in groups, or set up times to turn the lights on and off automatically. Let’s extrapolate that premise to smart city lighting.

Smart lighting can also be one aspect of Smart cities too. Most modern street lights have a light sensor with controls housed in a globe-like housing at the top of the lamp, which turns on the light when it gets dark. In a Smart City, the street lights are connected by a network with sensors to indicate the location and monitor electricity usage. Smart City lights also have cellular connectivity to provide remote control and monitoring. Some even have sensors to detect gun shots. This data helps the city monitor its utility usage, manage service calls, send notifications of a power outage, and even assist with emergency response. So, that street light outside of our house could be doing more than you think.  Benchmark is working with a leading cellular service provider to design and manufacture a smart city lighting solution that will enhance your life. 

The Current Smart City

Many cities have already started building out a "digital infrastructure", using technology to monitor operations and improve outcomes. Here are some Smart City solutions currently in use:

  • Traffic Lights and Sensors – Smart traffic lights are used to manage traffic flow and congestion to optimize routes and bus traffic. Cities also have smart inductive loops that monitor and control traffic signals to provide traffic monitoring and control. These solutions also provide safe and optimal routes for emergency vehicles.
  • Parking – Owners of parking spaces with connected parking management applications can now see where parking is available, and city managers can see traffic patterns and flows.
  • Air Quality Sensors –Air quality monitors and sensors positioned around a city monitor and provide the best routes for joggers and cyclists based on air quality.
  • Video Surveillance – Cameras are another tool used in conjunction with artificial intelligence for security and traffic controls.
  • Utilities – Big data and analytics are managing and providing better public services such as irrigation, lighting, garbage, and waste management.
  • Payment Methods – People use mobile applications to pay for transportation services such as buses, taxis, metro service, traffic fines, utilities, business services, etc.
  • Kiosks – Kiosks located around the city provide services such as Wi-Fi, phone calls, charging stations, local directions, advertising, etc.
  • Energy Grids – Distributed energy networks monitored by sensors give a city’s energy system knowledge and capabilities to redistribute electricity to and from energy sources to manage city requirements.
  • Crime Prevention – Big data is leveraged to analyze historical crime information to predict police requirements and maximize police presence where crimes are more likely to occur.
Future Smart City Solutions

Although cities are getting "smarter", much of the potential of Smart Cities has not yet been realized. Let’s take some time to think about what is possible or what we would like to have from our Smart Cities:

  • Better Commutes – Wouldn’t it be nice to have an on-demand autonomous vehicle pick us up from our home? Provide connectivity while we travel, determine the best traffic route, and drop us off at our destination.
  • Enhanced Security – Some of the pieces are already in place to monitor our cities for crime, identify criminals, and then track them until the police are able to apprehend them. Smart Cities could help make citizens significantly safer.
  • Faster Delivery – We’ve all heard about the potential for autonomous drone delivery of packages. This can be expanded to mail, groceries, shopping, and more for the ultimate convenience.
  • More Expedient Dining – What if we could all pick five different dining options and have a smart solution that would tell us which has the lowest wait-time based on our current location?

To achieve wide-spread implementation of these future technologies in Smart Cities, connectivity needs to become faster with greater bandwidth. Since many Smart City applications require deployment of thousands of sensor and connectivity packages and municipal budgets are often cash-strapped, bringing down the cost of these systems through simplification of designs and production automation is key to success.

Benchmark is an agile partner for companies looking to solve the challenges of the next smart city solution. With technical expertise in sensor integration, automation, RF systems, optics, microelectronics, and works with a number of leading solution providers to bring Smart City devices to market. We have vertically integrated design, engineering, test, and manufacturing capabilities to make the tomorrow's smart city a reality.

What’s your dream for the next Smart City solution?

Manufacturing Communications

about the author

Mitchell Gebheim

Mitchell Gebheim is a Technical Business Development Director for the advanced computing and next-gen communications sectors serving as a technical leader for the business development team. In his 25 years with Benchmark, Mitchell has served as Product Development Engineering Manager, Electrical Engineering Manager, Project Manager, and Project Engineer. Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Originally from Milwaukee, Mitchell currently resides in Houlton, Wisconsin just east of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

up-to-date content