Which technologies do we need to improve the quality of life for people in the city and make governance more effective? What role does a car play in the city of the future, and how can it make traffic safer? GlobalLogic’s engineers are already working on solving these issues.

What does the concept of a “smart city” mean? Some think it means Wi-Fi at bus stops, while others believe that it is about GPS in public transport. In fact, this notion is much broader, and even in developed countries there is no clear definition for a smart city.

A Smart City is One Where People Know the Value of Data

The “data-driven city” is the name suggested by consulting company PwC for a smart city. The instantaneous collection, transmission and analysis of information circulating in an urban space allows municipalities to radically change their approach to transportation management, urban resource management (e.g., water, energy, etc.), safety improvements, environmental impacts, medicine production, and the management of education and the other city services available for all the residents.

How is this being put into practice? In New York, there is a unified data collection and analysis system, with a number of effective city solutions formed on its basis (e.g., a fire prediction system, an efficient garbage removal and recycling system, a health information system, etc.). The health information system collects data from citizens’ wearable devices (such as fitness trackers) and transfers it to medical institutions.

Another example is Barcelona, where hundreds of sensors scattered around the city collect information on traffic, noise, electricity, light, etc. All data is collected by an integrated system called Sentilo and is kept in the public domain. This means that city authorities can make effective management decisions, and third-party businesses can develop additional services for residents.

Technological Breakthroughs and Cities of the Future

The IEEE published research in 2017 that defines a whole range of technological trends that will influence the cities of the future, including:

  • Fast Internet Communications: By 2020, we could see fast and cheap Wi-Fi with a wide coverage, Bluetooth LE, 3G-4G evolution and 5G standard development. The Internet is becoming more affordable, and data transmission volume is growing. This trend will play a key role in the urban digital infrastructure formation.
  • Internet of Things: There will be more and more smart sensors gathering information from the environment. According to global forecasts, this number will reach 75 billion by 2025. IoT technology allow real-time monitoring of all city life aspects: traffic speed, outdoor security, resource consumption, etc.
  • Cloud Technologies: With the amounts of generated data growing, there will be a need for its rapid and qualitative processing. Cloud application systems will become the brain of a city, helping city managers make effective decisions (e.g., traffic regulation) based on the analysis of terabytes of data.
  • Open Data: By providing easier access to information, city authorities not only make communication with residents more transparent, but they also create the basis for new businesses (e.g., developing mobile applications to monitor the environmental situation in the city, transportation, etc.).

At the same time, a smart city is a complex ecosystem that unites technological as well as human and institutional aspects. The digital transformation of cities can only happen with active involvement from municipal authorities, businesses, the local IT industry, and the citizens themselves.

Communication Between Cars in the City of the Future

The digital transformation of the automotive industry is yet another milestone in smart city development. The growing popularity of electric cars — as well as experiments with unmanned vehicles by Tesla, Google, Mercedes, and other companies — is perhaps one of the most discussed technological topics in the media.

In the city of the future, cars will not disappear (although the number of personal cars will decrease gradually). This decrease will happen mostly because of the development of such online services as Uber, car rental and co-sharing services, as well as unmanned cars that will replace personal vehicles. But the conditions of living with cars will change radically and become more comfortable. Unlike cars with an internal combustion engine, electric cars will not pollute the city and create noise. The unmanned vehicles will save citizens from the excessive number of parking lots near the sidewalks. There will be no need to leave cars near the office.

For several years, GlobalLogic has been developing technologies for smart cities in cooperation with automotive corporations and telecom operators. For example, at the moment our engineering team is helping implement an American smart city project in Denver, Colorado. Based on our expertise, we decided to imagine how the city might develop in 5-10 years and experiment with the related technologies.One of our forecasts is that, in the near future, all cars will communicate with each other. Yes, just like the characters from the “Cars” cartoon! And we already know how this will work in practice.

Communication between smart cars and a smart road infrastructure will make the road truly safe. In critical situations, even a brief microsecond matters; the sooner a driver receives the necessary information, the more likely he/she can avoid an accident. Communication technologies between cars will allow the driver to know about everything happening around him/her at a certain distance.

How is this realized technologically? The cars will be able to communicate through the V2X protocol, creating around themselves a powerful Wi-Fi network with instant data transfer within 1 km. How is this realized in practice? Using an interactive simulation environment that we developed, we tested a variety of application cases such as:

  • The driver wants to change lanes but immediately receives an alert about a car speeding in that lane. This notification prevents him/her from making a dangerous maneuver.
  • Smart road infrastructure receives traffic data from cars and turns the traffic around the traffic jam.
  • An ambulance sends a signal about driving in a certain lane. All drivers receive the notification to pull out of the way so the ambulance can pass. Afterwards, a smart traffic light switches to green to let the ambulance pass safely through the intersection.
  • A car with a punctured tire sends a signal for assistance to all passing cars. If the driver of a passing car is not able to help, his/her car transmits the signal to the next vehicle.

How fast will cars be able to communicate, and what will happen to the “deaf” or “dumb” cars? Let’s recall the history of mobile phones. When they first appeared, it seemed expensive and rather pointless to purchase them since there was nobody else to call. But over time, more and more people became mobile users, mobile phones became cheaper, and now they are our main means of communication with the outside world.

I dare to suggest that such a future awaits automotive communication technologies. First, city authorities will encourage residents to install the necessary equipment and software for the car, and then the cars will come off the production line with already-integrated communicative capabilities. Projects like Smart City by GlobalLogic — along with other similar projects dedicated to the functioning of cities and cars in 5-10 years — make a future in which we live in a smart city with safe roads much closer.