The idea of ‘Smart Cities’ is one that’s becoming familiar to engineers. Partly an adaptation to more diverse sources of electricity, including small-scale renewables, partly a development of the so-called ‘Internet of Things’, allowing household appliances to adjust their electricity consumption to take account of fluctuations in prices, the concept is being trialled in many cities around the world and is of particular interest to countries building new cities, such as those in the Middle East and China.
But while a lot of attention has been paid to the components that make up the smartness of the cities — the electronic brains in appliances, electric vehicles, the electricity-distribution hubs, and the smart meters that are intended to allow domestic and business users to monitor their electricity consumption in detail — there has been less information around about the nervous system that connects all these processing centres. How will the smart components talk to each other? And what effects might that have on actually living in a smart city?
The answer, according to some of the largest electronic infrastructure providers, is likely to be in the air. A huge expansion of wireless broadband around the entire city, allowing devices to communicate via interlocking networks while at the same time enabling much wider-spread usage of devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The overall goal of smart-city infrastructure is to enable the city to use electricity (and other forms of energy) more efficiently.
But this network might have some unexpected effects. For example, Cisco Systems is proposing that it should be extended to the city’s lighting network.
James Crowther, Christopher Herzig and Gordon Feller of Cisco explain in a report, The time is right for connected public lighting in smart cities, that adding intelligence to LED street-lighting systems can not only reduce energy consumption, thereby saving money, but can also make cities safer and easier to navigate at night.
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Written by: Stuart Nathan
Source: The Engineer