The goal of smart cities is to improve the quality of life for its citizens through technological means, ultimately creating more sustainable cities. It is a team effort that requires many sectors of a society to safely and strategically integrate technology, information, and data solutions.
Copenhagen Leading the Way
Smart cities are emerging around the world, with the Danish capital of Copenhagen considered at the forefront because of its excellent urban-planning projects. Copenhagen has the ambition of becoming the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. In fact, it has successfully started to apply sustainable city solutions to face climate changes. For example:
• Increased mobility through integrated transport and cycling solutions has significantly reduced congestion and improved the health of its citizens. Approximately 45% of the Copenhagen’s citizens bike to work or school every day, which overall is a much healthier alternative than driving or taking mass transit.
• A new district cooling system, where cold water is taken from the harbor water, saves 70% of the energy compared to traditional air conditioning. Seawater and an environmentally friendly natural refrigerant—ammonia—are used for the cooling system. A central plant produces chilled water and then distributes it through a pipeline network to customers. When the seawater is cold enough (from November to April), just the seawater works alone in a free cooling unit with plate heat exchangers. During the other months, the seawater acts a cooling agent in the condensers of compressor chillers that use ammonia as a natural refrigerant. When demand is at its highest (summer time), the plant also uses an absorption chiller that runs on waste steam from a local waste incineration plant, a process called “absorption cooling.”
• Nordic firms SLA Architects and engineering office Ramboll were the winners of the “Nordic Built Cities Challenge.” They will redesign Copenhagen’s Hans Tavsens Park and its surrounding areas alongside a team of architects, social bodies, and climate change experts. The £16 million project, called “The Soul of Nørrebro” (Fig. 2), aims to regenerate the city’s Inner Nørrebro area, particularly addressing the issue of cloudbursts (sudden, heavy bouts of precipitation that can result in flooding and other issues).
Meanwhile, in the United States, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) launched a Smart City Challenge earlier this year, with the “prize” being a $40 million grant. The DOT received 78 applications, with the city of Columbus, Ohio coming out on top.
Columbus proposed the deployment of three electric self-driving shuttles to link a new rapid transit center to a retail district, connecting more residents to jobs. The city also will use data analytics to improve healthcare access in a neighborhood that currently has an infant-mortality rate four times higher than the national average—it will allow the city to provide improved transportation options to those most in need of prenatal care.