How the Internet of Things is Building Smart Cities
Urban populations are rising around the world, but cities are struggling to keep up.
As the silent force that has revolutionized our world, technology is now being leveraged to manage rapid urbanization and to create smarter cities.
Today’s infographic from Raconteur explores how the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a vital component in the creation of more efficient, sustainable, and resilient cities, and illustrates the growing impact this will have on both people and the planet.
The Growth of Smart Cities
Since 1950, the amount of people living in cities has risen almost six-fold, from 751 million to over 4 billion in 2018—more than half of the planet’s population. Over the next three decades, cities are projected to add yet another 2.5 billion more people.
This continuing migration to urban areas puts greater pressure on public services as well as urban planning. As a result, cities are implementing solutions driven by technology and data to reduce the added strain created by this growth.
Smart City Innovations
With spending on smart city development to reach $158 billion by 2022, significant growth is expected from emerging innovations such as:
- Officer wearables:
Devices that equip police officers with real-time information to improve awareness and make better decisions
Global CAGR (2017-2022): 62%
- Vehicle to everything (V2X) connectivity:
Allows cars to communicate with other cars, transport infrastructure, and pedestrians
Global CAGR (2017-2022): 49%
- Open data:
Data that anyone can access that contributes to the transparency of government and smart city initiatives
Global CAGR (2017-2022): 25%
- Smart trash collection:
Solar powered, sensor-equipped smart bins allow waste collectors to track waste levels and optimize their fuel usage
Global CAGR (2017-2022): 23%
- Smart city platforms:
Systems that collect data from different areas such as pollution levels and traffic density to better manage smart cities
Global CAGR (2017-2022): 23%
These technologies could lead to a wide-range of transformative effects for cities that are willing to embrace them.
Measuring the Impact
Smart city technologies have the power to improve the health and well-being of citizens, while also providing new avenues for economic development.
To enhance public safety, cities are adopting real-time crime mapping, gunshot detection, and predictive policing tools to help identify potential hotspots and prevent crimes from happening.
According to McKinsey, tapping into these technologies could reduce crime rates and fatalities by 8-10%, potentially saving up to 300 lives each year in cities with a population size and crime rate similar to Rio de Janeiro.
As more vehicles join the IoT ecosystem, the bigger the IoT logistics and transportation industry grows, with spending estimated to reach over $43 billion by the end of this year.
New innovations like smart roads that support automated vehicles are beginning to get more investment from cities. These roads will be able to communicate with automated vehicles to ensure the safety of drivers, and better optimize traffic—potentially decreasing the average commute time by 30 minutes.
Technology is providing new strategies for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.
In China, drones with facial recognition technology are being used to track those affected with coronavirus to ensure they do not break quarantine and risk spreading the virus.
The most effective use of technology however, is data-based health interventions for maternal and child health, which rely on the use of analytics to identity new mothers and to direct prenatal and postnatal educational campaigns to them. Using interventions to prevent diseases before they occur has proven to be particularly effective in cities with a high disease burden and low access to care, such as Lagos in Nigeria.
These new technologies are reducing cities’ burden of chronic disease. This is measured across the WHO’s central metric disability-adjusted life years (DALY), which is equal to one year of “healthy” life lost due to contracting a disease. For example, using data-based interventions for maternal care could reduce DALYs by more than 5%.
While a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, these can be cut by up to 15% with smart city solutions by reducing electricity and heat production.
Smart cities will also play a pivotal role in reducing water consumption. Applications such as smart irrigation systems, water leakage, and quality and consumption monitoring could save a city between 25-80 liters of water per person, per day.
Citizen-Led Smart Cities
The growing uptake of 5G can help fuel these economic and social benefits. With its high-speed connectivity and ability to support more devices, 5G could empower smart cities to scale—making it a defining feature in the next generation of innovative smart city projects. However, this is not the only model that can be leveraged.
Some newer iterations of smart cities are grounded in the principles of equity and social inclusion. For instance, Vienna regularly tops the Smart Cities Index for its inclusive and collaborative way of approaching smart city initiatives. The city advocates for socially-balanced solutions that consider citizens from all socio-economic backgrounds and age groups.
Vienna is just one of many European hubs that are leading the way in the sheer volume of smart city project investments. In fact, the continent is expected to have as many as 53 million active IoT connections by 2025.
While every city has a different strategy, citizens will prove to be their most important asset. With a flurry of exciting new smart city applications becoming the new normal over the next decade, it is clear that humans will be at the heart of actualizing their true potential.
Visualizing Layoffs at Prominent Startups Triggered by COVID-19
As unemployment levels rise, we navigate the fallout of COVID-19 as layoffs ripple across the once-thriving startup ecosystem.
Layoffs at Prominent Startups Triggered by COVID-19
As the pandemic reverberates through almost every industry imaginable, tech startups are also feeling the pain.
Since mid-March, countless startups and unicorns have undergone layoffs.
Today’s infographic pulls data from Layoffs.fyi, and navigates the cascading layoffs across 30 of the most recognizable startups in America. Each of the companies have slashed over 250 employees between March 11 and May 26, 2020—capturing a snapshot of the continuing fallout of COVID-19.
Silicon Valley Takes a Hit
Closing 45 offices, Uber has laid off 6,700 employees since mid-March. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was granted a $45M earnings package in 2018, announced he will also waive his $1M base salary for the remainder of the year.
|Company||# Layoffs||% of Employees||Industry|
*Layoffs reported between March 11-May 26, 2020
Meanwhile, as room bookings dropped by over 40% across several countries, Airbnb laid off a quarter of its workforce. The tech darling is anticipating a $2.4B revenue shortfall in 2020.
Like many other big names—including Lyft, Uber, and WeWork—Airbnb is struggling to achieve profitability. In the first nine months of 2019, it lost $322M at the height of the market cycle.
Until 2021, gig-economy revenues are projected to drop by at least 30%.
International Startups Struggling
Startups in the U.S. aren’t the only ones scrambling to conserve cash and cut costs.
Brazil-based unicorn Stone has let go of 20% of its workforce. The rapidly growing digital payments company includes Warren Buffett as a major stakeholder, holding an 8% share as of March 2020.
At the same time, India-based ride-hailing Ola has witnessed revenue declines of 95% since mid-March. It laid off 1,400 employees as bookings drastically declined.
|Company||# Layoffs||% of Employees||Location|
Similarly, Uber India has rivaled Ola in dominance across India’s $10B ride-hailing market since launching three years after Ola, in 2013. Now, almost 25% of the Uber India workforce have been laid off.
Of course, these reports do not fully take into account the growing impact of COVID-19, but help paint a picture as the cracks emerge.
While the job market remains murky, what startups are looking to hire?
Coursera, an online education startup, listed 60 openings in May. By the end of the year, the company plans to hire 250 additional staff. Within the peak of widespread global lockdowns, the platform attracted 10M new users.
Meanwhile, Canva, an Australia-based graphic design unicorn, is seeking to fill 100 positions worldwide. In partnership with Google for Education, Canva offers project-based learning tools designed for classrooms, in addition to free graphic design resources.
At the same time, tech heavyweights Facebook and Amazon reported openings. Booming startups such as Plaid, Zoom, and Pinterest are also listing new positions as shifting consumer demand continues to shape unpredictable and historic hiring markets.
Mapped: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World
Mass surveillance is becoming the status quo. This map dives into the countries where facial recognition technology is in place, and how it’s used.
Mapping The State of Facial Recognition Around the World
View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here.
From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world.
In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. At the state level though, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis.
Today’s visualizations from SurfShark classify 194 countries and regions based on the extent of surveillance.
|Facial Recognition Status||Total Countries|
|Approved, but not implemented||12|
|No evidence of use||68|
Click here to explore the full research methodology.
Let’s dive into the ways facial recognition technology is used across every region.
North America, Central America, and Caribbean
In the U.S., a 2016 study showed that already half of American adults were captured in some kind of facial recognition network. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its “Biometric Exit” plan, which aims to use facial recognition technology on nearly all air travel passengers by 2023, to identify compliance with visa status.
Perhaps surprisingly, 59% of Americans are actually in favor of implementing facial recognition technology, considering it acceptable for use in law enforcement according to a Pew Research survey. Yet, some cities such as San Francisco have pushed to ban surveillance, citing a stand against its potential abuse by the government.
Facial recognition technology can potentially come in handy after a natural disaster. After Hurricane Dorian hit in late summer of 2019, the Bahamas launched a blockchain-based missing persons database “FindMeBahamas” to identify thousands of displaced people.
The majority of facial recognition technology in South America is aimed at cracking down on crime. In fact, it worked in Brazil to capture Interpol’s second-most wanted criminal.
Home to over 209 million, Brazil soon plans to create a biometric database of its citizens. However, some are nervous that this could also serve as a means to prevent dissent against the current political order.
Belgium and Luxembourg are two of only three governments in the world to officially oppose the use of facial recognition technology.
Further, 80% of Europeans are not keen on sharing facial data with authorities. Despite such negative sentiment, it’s still in use across 26 European countries to date.
The EU has been a haven for unlawful biometric experimentation and surveillance.
—European Digital Rights (EDRi)
In Russia, authorities have relied on facial recognition technology to check for breaches of quarantine rules by potential COVID-19 carriers. In Moscow alone, there are reportedly over 100,000 facial recognition enabled cameras in operation.
Middle East and Central Asia
Facial recognition technology is widespread in this region, notably for military purposes.
In Turkey, 30 domestically-developed kamikaze drones will use AI and facial recognition for border security. Similarly, Israel has a close eye on Palestinian citizens across 27 West Bank checkpoints.
In other parts of the region, police in the UAE have purchased discreet smart glasses that can be used to scan crowds, where positive matches show up on an embedded lens display. Over in Kazakhstan, facial recognition technology could replace public transportation passes entirely.
East Asia and Oceania
In the COVID-19 battle, contact tracing through biometric identification became a common tool to slow the infection rates in countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. In some instances, this included the use of facial recognition technology to monitor temperatures as well as spot those without a mask.
That said, questions remain about whether the pandemic panopticon will stop there.
China is often cited as a notorious use case of mass surveillance, and the country has the highest ratio of CCTV cameras to citizens in the world—one for every 12 people. By 2023, China will be the single biggest player in the global facial recognition market. And it’s not just implementing the technology at home–it’s exporting too.
While the African continent currently has the lowest concentration of facial recognition technology in use, this deficit may not last for long.
Several African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have received telecommunications and surveillance financing and infrastructure from Chinese companies—Huawei in particular. While the company claims this has enabled regional crime rates to plummet, some activists are wary of the partnership.
Whether you approach facial recognition technology from public and national security lens or from an individual liberty perspective, it’s clear that this kind of surveillance is here to stay.
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