The Future Is Now for Smart Cities

Municipalities across Europe are tapping into RFID and related technologies to deliver new and enhanced services.
By John Edwards

Thanks to widespread Internet adoption, European civic leaders are now facing a better connected and informed populace that's demanding improved services from their local governments and isn't reflexively fearful of new technologies. "Citizens aren't out on the streets holding posters or picketing saying, 'We want a smart city,'" Liard says. "They do know, however, that they want more or better services."

Increasing smartphone adoption throughout Europe is creating a more tech-savvy user base. "The continued rise of the smartphone is going to be important," Liard says. "Most of the new smartphones that are being manufactured outside of Apple have NFC embedded," he says, "but it's going to take time for the population to understand how to use NFC, to have available applications and so on."

Most cities that opt to become a smart city do so because they view the concept as the best approach to solving problems that may have existed for years, decades or centuries, Liard says. This is why most initial smart-city applications focus on services residents use routinely, such as public and private transportation, power and water delivery and refuse collection. "I think it makes most sense to identify where your biggest pain points are and begin there," he says. "Build on that as the foundation and continue to grow from there, keeping that vision of a smart city in mind."

"Maybe the city wants to save on auto emissions, reduce street traffic and help its citizenry to get into better shape," Devlin says. "So they introduce a bike rental program, and to make it easy for people to use the bikes, they automate it using RFID technology."

The European Commission is promoting smart-metering projects, to provide a more efficient way to supply energy, keeping both utilities and customers informed on energy usage and allowing residents to save money. "Domestic smart meters help people know when they're using electricity and when they can perhaps adjust their energy usage accordingly," Bevan says. "These meters feed back information through mobile phone technology, so they never have to be read."

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