Earlier this year, Birmingham became one of 16 cities worldwide, and one of four in the U.S., to be awarded an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The concept behind smart cities is to identify specific standards that impact quality of life in a city including economy, mobility, environment, energy, technology, and government. Highly dependent upon public and private cooperation, smart cities place significant value on well designed infrastructure and sustainable progress.
The IBM Smarter Cities team will work closely with city leaders and the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center (SSCRC) to develop strategies to reverse a range of existing problems.
Our nation’s growing population, like elsewhere in the world, is expected to impact smaller cities, like Birmingham, where more and more people are returning to urban living. Such a shift creates an increased demand for services, which in turn leads to more stress on the existing infrastructure.
“A city striving for higher-quality living conditions that are affordable across a wide range of incomes will create business and job opportunities for a diverse, balanced community,” said Iwan Alexander, Ph.D., dean of UAB’s School of Engineering.
Brenda Phillips, VP of global sustainability for Sain Engineering Associates, has worked with businesses around the country to create smarter living through energy management. “Championing the idea of energy management and investing in “smart city” technologies is key to economic competitiveness for any major city.”
Creating effective infrastructure is not only good for residents, but for consumers as well. Smart cities can help local businesses, and governments reduce costs that would normally be passed along to consumers. Tied in with infrastructure and sustainability standards is another smart city distinguishing factor, sustainable energy management. If progressive shifts toward greater energy efficiency are not implemented soon, growing populations will increase the burden on existing power grids, which will likely increase associated costs for consumers.
Among all factors of smart cities, proponents for the concept believe energy management will contribute highly to the quality of life for the urban population. The use of smart grids, smart meters, big data measurement tools, and other infrastructure management technology for electricity, water supply and waste will help achieve significant progress in energy efficiency and management.
Embracing the smart city approach will not only notably enhance the livability of Birmingham’s growing community, but doing so will strengthen the city’s ability to effectively meet the needs of future generations.
“It is a question of balancing resource-consumption with our ability to create or supply those resources necessary to build and sustain a healthy city,” said Alexander. “You have to satisfy the needs of the present without sacrificing the future health of the community.”