smart city sensors

Smart sensors in cities could help save lives, cut traffic and slash crime, report states

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Cities could employ smart technology to save lives and reduce crime, disease and waste, according to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).

The report assessed how dozens of current smart city applications could perform in three sample cities with varying legacy infrastructure systems and baseline starting points.

Optimal use of technologies could reduce fatalities by 8-10 per cent, accelerate emergency response times by 20–35 per cent, shave the average commute by 15-20 per cent, lower the disease burden by 8-15 per cent and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10-15 per cent, among other positive outcomes.

It advocates the installation of a network of sensors that take constant readings of variables such as traffic flow, energy consumption, air quality and many other aspects of daily life and putting the information at the fingertips of those who need it.

In addition, real-time crime mapping could cut burglaries and assaults by up to 40 per cent as police are able to respond more quickly, the research found.

Cities in Latin America, which have the highest homicide rates in the world, could use such high-tech tools as gunshot detection and predictive policing that can anticipate crime.

“Cities have only scratched the surface of all the creative ways they can use data and digital technologies to reinvent the way they deliver services,” said McKinsey partner Jaana Remes.

Moscow has installed thousands of cameras and intelligent traffic signals that can shave critical seconds off an ambulance journey to an emergency scene, accelerating response times up to 35 per cent, she said.

In April, Singapore announced plans to start installing smart lampposts which contain an array of sensors and cameras that will allow authorities to recognise individual faces in a crowd. The move prompted concern from privacy advocates. 

Smart technologies in healthcare include digital telemedicine that can host consultations by videoconference, a solution for cities with doctor shortages, the report said.

Remote patient monitoring devices that take vital readings and send them to doctors for assessment could also help decrease hospitalisations.

Air pollution, estimated to cause of more than three million premature deaths each year, could drop almost 15 per cent if cities used dynamic electricity pricing that charges higher consumer prices when demand peaks, according to the report.

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