Smart Cities save citizens time – and lots of it!

At IntechnologyWiFi, we’ve spent some time recently discussing how Smart Cities represent the future of urban management for local authorities, helping tackle pressing global issues such as climate change. But the ultimate goal of urban management is fundamentally to improve the lives of the citizens who reside within, and use, the city on a day-to-day basis.

A recent study has estimated that the implementation of effective Smart Cities could save residents up to a whopping 125 hours per year. This is time that would otherwise be wasted by transportation delays, public safety concerns (e.g. around weather conditions) and healthcare inefficiencies, amongst others.

Where Do Citizens Lose Time Today?

The inefficiencies and losses of time we, as citizens, experience as part of our day-to-day lives are often hard to quantify as they tend to happen to us sporadically. A couple of hours’ delay on one day might be quickly forgotten if things improve for the rest of the week. But the cumulative effectives of common city problems such as heavy central congestion would stagger the average person, when accounted over a year.

Traffic Congestion

Given that the average vehicle in a city centre at peak time can reach only the crawling pace of 4mph, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that heavy city congestion can steal up to 70 hours of a regular city commuter’s time to gridlock each year, according to the study.

Hospital Overcrowding

Most people who have ever had to use the public healthcare services in a time of need, be it for themselves or a loved one, will have surely come across wait times for hospital beds and medical attention. These wait times can be excessive, which not only leads to wasted time but also additional stress for patients, caregivers, and relations.

Indeed, many global cities have reported exceedingly high hospital bed occupancy rates of over 85%. This is particularly pressing in the UK – the King’s Fund recently reported that the total number of NHS hospital beds in England has more than halved over the past 30 years, while the number of patients treated has increased significantly, and continues to rise.

How Do Smart Cities ‘Give Back’ Time to City-Dwellers?

The study, which was sponsored by tech giant Intel, concluded that the implementation of effective smart city solutions could give back each citizen a whopping >strong>3 working weeks’ worth of time every year. This is broken down as below:

  • Smart Mobility – the biggest time-saver (60 hours)
    Intelligent Traffic Systems alone are expected to give city commuters 19.4 hours of their time back annually. ITS installations primarily adjust the way traffic lights are phased, with the aim of minimising red light delays to smooth overall traffic flow. For example, at a junction where there are no pedestrians waiting to cross, or where pedestrians who wished to cross have all done so, sensors could signal to Smart Traffic Systems to skip or reduce the red light phase, allowing circulation to improve.

    Furthermore, 31 hours might be saved by the proper harnessing of city open data, enabling innovation. Daily commute times can be reduced by up to 15% by highlighting optimum routes for a given time of day, which could also tell citizens the most efficient mode of transport to use. This could also have far-reaching environmental benefits.

  • Smart Public Safety (35 hours)
    Software using machine learning technology can predict crime spots on a given day using crime statistics. Law enforcement patrols can target patrols in such areas, reducing the disruption of crime more effectively. Then, communicating with Intelligent Traffic Systems using the kind of intra-departmental cooperation smart technology makes possible, emergency service vehicles can be prioritised through traffic light phasing and rerouting drivers. Early predictions in the report are that this could reduce arrival times by a whopping 50%.
  • Smart Healthcare (9 hours)
    Preventative healthcare apps and telehealth can promote better overall wellbeing, using body scans and sensors to attempt to predict problems before they occur. Improved administration and preliminary diagnoses reduce wait times at public healthcare institutions. Furthermore, the effective use of Intelligent Traffic Systems to reduce medical vehicle journey times, leading to speedier arrivals, means more people will be given care within the ‘golden hour’ (the period of time after a life-threatening incident where treatment is most likely to save lives). Therefore, the sum benefits of this technology could be more than just a few hours given back to citizens – lives could be saved by smart technology.
  • App-Assisted Productivity (21 hours)
    The way citizens interact with city services has the potential to be greatly simplified using apps and digital services. These offerings could use location information to ask citizens for their democratic input on issues affecting their locale, as well as providing feedback which automatically is directed to the appropriate city agency, or to tailor the user experience. Similarly, the report notes that ‘substantial’ time savings may be achieved if interoperable software systems could be integrated using APIs and similar mechanisms to communicate between local authority departments and third parties.
  • Potential Benefits to Smart City Inhabitants

    The benefits of such large time savings will ultimately depend on what the citizens themselves make of them! But the report suggests that city-dwellers in the near future might choose to dedicate themselves more to friends and family, or get active with the extended leisure time they could soon enjoy. The 45 minutes thrice a week that doctors recommend should be dedicated to exercise, would fit neatly into the time saved through smart city adaptations – and then some.

    The other key benefit of saving time is the reduced stress citizens could experience in their busy city lives. Chronic stress is linked to all six of the leading causes of death, and is also a key factor in the onset of depression, an increasingly wide-spread phenomenon which costs $83m in medical expenses annually.

    Smart City Innovation: A Win-Win For Everyone

    The report adds to a growing body of evidence that Smart Cities are set to revolutionise urban management. But it’s the first major report of its kind that specifically details how exactly the citizens of a municipality are likely to directly benefit from these improvements – and for any project of this type to be a success, it’s imperative that citizens are on board as supporters, if not advocates. They’re the ones living in and using a city as part of their day to day lives, after all.

    IntechnologyWiFi’s integrated connectivity, data, communications and engagement platform for towns and cities provides a safe digital infrastructure upon which to harness time-saving technologies such as intelligent traffic systems. The Connected City Platform is fully compatible with Internet of Things technology and can host a robust information analytics engine which, using blanket always-on coverage, can guide further optimisations and improvements. To find out more about how citizens will benefit from the adoption of Smart City technology, or to learn more specifically a bout the uniqueness of our Connected City Platform, please get in touch.

Natalie Duffield

Natalie has spent 20 years working in the IT and Telecommunications industries alongside leading tech entrepreneur Peter Wilkinson. A confident, tactical, strategic thinker, and a dynamic CEO, Natalie has experience in a wealth of areas, including managed services, cloud computing, hosted services and outsourced infrastructure, data centre space, virtual server storage environments, telephony and networks.

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Whether you’re a local authority looking to provide public WiFi or seeking a connectivity solution for Smart Cities, the IoT or 5G / Small Cells in your town or city, or if you are interested in partnering with us around the Connected City Platform in any of our forthcoming town and city roll-outs, we’d love to explain more about who we are and what we do.

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