Smart cities are cities that use different types of electronic IoT to collect data and then use this data to manage assets and resources efficiently. Pune is a smart city situated in India; citizens who live in Pune don’t need to rely on traditional forms of communication with their local utilities and service bodies. This has removed the pains of travelling to local governing departments and has completely eliminated the need for long queues and registration processes. The Pune Municipal Cooperation (PMC) uses artificial intelligent chatbots to help these processes along.

Here are a few ways we can use AI to make cities smarter:

1. Chatbots have proved to be very useful in navigating the government sector leading to simple and effective workflows. Every smart city is designed to solve a specific problem, and thus each smart city has different missions and objectives. In the context of India, a mission for developing and establishing 100 smart cities was launched to provide a sustainable environment and infrastructure for its residents. It’s not physically possible for human agents to process a large volume of queries as well. There is clearly a disconnection between the populace and the local body in many towns and cities. In this case, automation can solve some of the common day-to-day hurdles.

Artificial intelligence can be used to understand the daily patterns of communication. Between phone calls and chat, there has been a trend for consumers and customers to prefer using chatbots. Even popular retail brands have started to use AI chatbots as part of their conversational marketing efforts to give their customers a personalized experience. This not only adds to customer retention but is more likely to convert an enquiry into a deal.

2. Adaptive Traffic Signals have been applied in cities such as Los Angeles, San Antonio and Pittsburgh. These technologies use real-time data to change the timers on traffic lights to adjust the flow of traffic. This has improved travel times for city residents by 10 per cent and in some areas with outdated traffic signals by 50 per cent. Better traffic flow not only makes driving safer and pleasant but also can have immense economic significance. The Texas Transportation Institute has estimated the cost of traffic congestion at USD 87.2 billion in wasted fuel and lost productivity.

City traffic can definitely affect how our lives improve. Better traffic flow and sensors could better public transportation such as taxis, Uber, Lyfts and buses. This would directly affect affordability for these app-based taxi services which tend to have surge pricing based on traffic conditions and taxi availability. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and others tap into real-time information to make accurate arrival-time predictions available to the public. This is a game changer and something only smart cities can pull off!

3. Surveillance and Security are going to play a major factor in smart cities in the future. Nvidia predicts there will be about 1 billion security cameras used around the world by 2020. While the placement of security cameras has sparked a debate about privacy and a militarized state, the presence of cameras has also made improvements in public safety, reduced crime rates, and catching terrorists. Unfortunately, the number of cameras will produce far more data than human operators will be able to manage. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will help improve facial recognition, tracking and other aspects of security detection.

Government agencies are now developing means to train AI systems to identify specific objects and activities in imagery. There is research being done for real-time monitoring of multiple videos feeds through a Deep Intermodal Video Analytics project, run by Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. Nvidia is also developing a metropolis platform designed to use deep learning AI to help with analysis.

4. Water and Power are important resources to manage in a smart city. AI can be leveraged to streamline power and water usage. Google claims that AI has cut power requirements in its data centres by 40 per cent. Cities are now using smart grids to manage power better. Solar-powered microgrids can be used in airports as illustrated by the city of Chattanooga in Tennesee. AI is also being applied to water metering to curb excess water and find leaks.

5. Public Safety can be completely revolutionized if law enforcement agencies apply predictive modelling and AI framework to run checks against criminal databases. License plate reader technology can also be used by the police to find stolen cars and identify expired registrations. There are of course privacy concerns when predictive policing systems are used; no one wants a science fiction police state like the Steven Speilberg movie: Minority Report! There is a lot of work to be done before these technologies can be used effectively for the public.

There is immense potential for AI to change the lives of residents in smart cities. U.S. and China have already deployed most of these technologies in various states and cities. It will only be a matter of time before other countries adopt these technologies to better the life of their citizens.

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