What makes a smart city smart? It must be AutoID.

by Michael Liard | 03/30/2013

What makes a smart city smart?  That is a key question as our team researches smart cities and how AutoID technologies are enabling them. Although the term smart city means different things to different people and is used inconsistently to define various projects, I believe RFID, RTLS, contactless and NFC are critical elements of the smart city of tomorrow. The formal definition of a smart city generally includes variations of the following elements: a smart economy; smart mobility; smart environment; smart living; smart governance and smart technology. Enter RFID, RTLS, contactless and NFC technologies. In small towns and major cities throughout the world, these AutoID solutions are already being used to support a host of applications, including:

  • Internet of Things
  • Bike rentals
  • Citizen ID
  • Customer loyalty
  • Electronic Vehicle Registration (EVR)
  • Energy (e.g., smart meters)
  • Library management
  • Public transport (e.g., contactless ticketing, mobile payment)
  • Risk prevention (e.g., public works, nuclear energy)
  • Urban planning (e.g., smart building, intelligent traffic)
  • Vehicle fleet
  • Waste management

The concept of the smart city is increasingly being adopted by both cities (municipalities/localities) and enterprises,reflecting the growing importance of information and communication technologies
(in addition to social and environmental factors) in defining the competitiveness of cities and improving the quality of life of individual citizens through the management of natural resources and responsible participatory governments.

Not surprisingly, smart cities are notbuilt in day. They take time, money, awareness and most often government involvement (e.g., funding, mandates, recommendations, program development) to
build the foundation and then scale. As a result, municipalities/localities must think big (a vision for a smart city) but start small (one project/deployment/application at a time). Albeit slowly, smart cities are emerging with RFID, NFC, RTLS, and contactless payment, ticketing and ID technologies often part of the “construction.” According to one local official with whom I recently spoke under NDA, “The value propositions and benefits of RFID [and increasingly NFC] will be found around every corner – literally – and the application possibilities are limitless.”

Major RFID and contactless industry conferences are also recognizing the importance of RFID, NFC and related technologies to the development of a smart city. For example, in October, The 4th Annual International RFID Congress event will be dedicated to applications RFID/NFC for a smart city and habitat. 

Smart cities will leverage many technologies, but most of them can be grouped into
five main categories:

  • Authentication (RFID, NFC, mobile payment, etc.)
  • Cloud Computing (remote back-up, wireless communication, etc.)
  • Control (monitored data analyzed in real time to drive actions, alerts, controls)
  • Monitoring (sensors, RTLS, RFID, etc.)
  • Sensing (RFID, wireless sensor networks, video, biometrics, etc.)
As part of our 2013 research programs, the AutoID & Data Capture team will study the use of RFID, NFC and related technologies by municipalities/localities and determine how these solutions fit into the concept and vision of a smart city. Stay tuned for more on this topic and the impact of AutoID in creating these cities of the future.
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