Section: Application Domains

Smart urban infrastructure

Unlike the communication infrastructure that went through a continuous development in the last decades, the distribution networks in our cities including water, gas and electricity are still based on 19th century infrastructure. With the introduction of new methods for producing renewable but unpredictable energy and with the increased attention towards environmental problems, modernizing distribution networks became one of the major concerns in the urban world. An essential component of these enhanced systems is their integration with information and communications technology, the result being a smart distribution infrastructure, with improved efficiency and reliability. This evolution is mainly based on the increased deployment of automatic equipment and the use of machine-to-machine and sensor-to-actuator communications that would allow taking into account the behavior and necessities of both consumers and suppliers

Another fundamental urban infrastructure is the transportation system. The progress made in the transportation industry over the last century has been an essential factor in the development of today’s urban society, while also triggering the birth and growth of other economic branches. However, the current transportation system has serious difficulties coping with the continuous growth in the number of vehicles, especially in an urban environment. As a major increase in the capacity of a city road infrastructure, already in place for tens or even hundreds of years, would imply dissuasive costs, the more realistic approach is to optimize the use of the existing transportation system. As in the case of distribution networks, the intelligence of the system can be achieved through the integration of information and communication capabilities. However, for smart transportation the challenges are somehow different, because the intelligence is no longer limited to the infrastructure, but propagates to vehicles themselves. Moreover, the degree of automation is reduced in transportation systems, as most actions resulting in reduced road congestion, higher reliability or improved safety must come from the human driver (at least in the foreseeable future)

Finally, smart spaces are becoming an essential component of our cities. The classical architecture tools used to design and shape the urban environment are more and more challenged by the idea of automatically modifying private and public spaces in order to adapt to the requirements and preferences of their users. Among the objectives of this new urban planning current, we can find the transformation of the home in a proactive health care center, fast reconfigurable and customizable workplaces, or the addition of digital content in the public spaces in order to reshape the urban scene. Bringing these changing places in our daily lives is conditioned by a major shift in the construction industry, but it also involves important advancements in digital infrastructure, sensing, and communications