Laying strong foundations for smart cities now will help Ireland maximise its digital potential
Did you know that many parts of Dublin are now home to self-compacting bins that send an email when they are full and need to be emptied?
Or that Galway has been at the forefront of using intelligent transport solutions to manage transport systems and infrastructure - including implementing smart street lighting and a smart parking system for Galway city?
A number of major traffic light systems in Dublin city now trigger automatic engineer dispatches when they suffer faults. Other cities such as Limerick and Belfast have also been engaging with tech providers and the public to lay the digital foundations to become truly smart cities.
While it is true to say we live in an increasingly connected world, the pace of change continues to astonish.
For businesses and consumers alike, connectivity has moved from being a nice-to-have to sitting at the heart of our daily lives; if we're not using virtual assistants to organise our work day, then we're consulting our fitness trackers, monitoring everything from our heart rate to our step count.
Smart cities represent the next stage in that evolution, utilising the latest technologies to provide improved and more efficient services in areas like energy, transport and resource consumption. All of which should not only aid economic development, but also improve the quality of life for urban communities.
Take transport as just one example. The rise of big data, connected sensors and mobile payments will facilitate the rise of car-sharing services, autonomous driving, smart parking solutions, and greater on-board safety in both cars and public transport. This not only means increased mobility for commuters looking to move around the city, but also less time wasted due to congestion, and consequently reduced carbon emissions.
At home, the momentum behind smart cities can most clearly be seen in the All-Ireland Smart Cities Forum, or regional initiatives such as Smart Dublin, which is aiming to engage smart technology providers, researchers and citizens to improve city life and develop new urban solutions. Some of the smart city technologies being promoted by these groups will already be familiar to many.
All of these technologies promise a better quality of life for those using them. But if we are to reap the rewards of advances in technology and connectivity, joined-up thinking will be needed to ensure there is proper planning on a city-wide and national scale. Previous boom-and-bust cycles have demonstrated only too well that a lack of long-term planning will see expensive and fruitless work undertaken in the wrong areas, at the wrong price, or with the wrong goals in mind.
Right now, many local authorities are including a condition in planning permissions that requires developers of both commercial and residential properties to install carrier-neutral/open-access ducting for fibre optic.
Not only does this ensure occupiers have access to all current services available, but it future-proofs premises for potential tech developments rapidly coming down the line.
This article was first published in the Irish Independent on 20th February 2020.