Anyone who has ever lived in a city knows that life moves a little faster there -- and, it turns out, so does progress. Cities have long been at the forefront of innovation, and this has only become more evident with the rise of mobile phones and smart technology. In the last decade cities around the world have harnessed this power and used it to make life easier, safer, and more convenient. Smart city applications can help residents shorten their commute, stay safe, or even find a place to charge their phone.
From Payphones to Smart Kiosks: Streets Joining the Digital Age
At the beginning of the 20th century, you could find a payphone on practically every city corner. Landline phones were a revolutionary way to stay in touch, and the rise of the payphone meant you could always make a call or contact emergency services. People were more connected than ever before. In the late 80’s and early 90’s there were as many as 14,000 pay phone booths in New York City alone.
Fast forward to now: pay phone usage has declined by over 75% as smartphones have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Pay phones, which once were considered revolutionary, are now being retrofitted with today’s technology to give them new life. They are the perfect symbol of cities modernizing themselves.
The LinkNYC program has replaced public pay phones with a Link interactive digital display that allows users to access maps, directions, information, and other city services.The kiosks also broadcast free wifi, and include USB outlets for charging devices. Similar interactive kiosks are planned for cities worldwide.
Smart city technology isn’t just public displays and information, it can also be used to address quality of life issues such as potholes, broken street lights, and blight. More and more cities are turning to high tech solutions to find out where these problems are and address them in a more efficient manner.
Chicago combs through geotagged data on Twitter to find citizens’ reports of things that need to be fixed and to gauge overall public sentiment. Other cities, like Boston, use mobile apps to allow residents to report quality of life issues. Residents can also use online tools to find their local government officials based on their location. Smart city technology makes cities easier to govern while making sure that residents get the services they need.
Geofencing: Making sure communities stay in the know
Geofence technology is undoubtedly useful in emergency situations, alerting the public of hazards and public safety threats. Geofencing can also be used to optimize transportation, in the form of traffic monitoring, and public transit alerts. Apps like Waze are a well known resource for navigating around intense traffic. As Waze and other apps that similarly use location data grow their user base, they become more accurate. In the realm of public transit, apps are turning to geofenced, crowdsourced location data to optimize routes across different forms of transit, and even provide live location updates of buses or trains.
Location data is becoming a vital resource in the smart city industry, and really the tech industry as a whole. It will be fascinating to see how it evolves to help cities even more in the future. While we may not have hover cars or teleportation (yet), transporting oneself around town is becoming easier than ever and the daily grind is becoming a little less of a hassle. City governments and their residents are also now more connected than ever before, creating a partnership that increases quality of life for everyone involved. Smart cities are a prime example of how location data can be used for good and the betterment of communities.