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Sensing smart cities

We are already used to think that technology evolution will change the way our cities look, but we didn't expect that change would happen so fast. The urban transformations that have occurred over time on urban level have created another reality. If they are for the better or for the worse it´s only a question of perspectives. One thing is certain, there is a need for new decisions and new tools to be used to counteract all the changes that might have negatively affected our lives. Changing mentalities can be a step forward to fight for a better environment and this can be done by a constant readaptation in the use of new technologies in order to achieve a better interaction. Among the most sensitive urban issues are: urban mobility, traffic management, energy efficiency, space management, decreasing pollution level, etc.

Transforming cities, those spaces that will dominate the most part of the habitable superficie in the following years, is the latest solution presented to us.

Smart City is a large-scale project focused on reforming the way of life in the cities. For the moment, being at its beginnings, this initiative has as central mission finding the smart methods to reorganize the urban space resources. The purpose is to create better living conditions for the citizens by taking measures in favor of the environmental regeneration and infrastructure reconfiguration. It is not one of the easiest task but it can be resolved with the appropriate technology involvement and by this referring to information and communication technologies. The new reality can be translated into a new concept, Internet of things which refers to a connected world whose basis is the M2M (machine to machine) communication able to interconnect devices and objects that surround us. Our cities are preparing for a major transformation: the integration into an increasingly automated and digitized space. Since it is not an easy process to perform we believe it is important to provide information about what makes all this complex system work. Supporting the idea that observing the components of a machine you get to understand the way it works, we offer some significant data on what can be considered the core of the technologies used to create the smart cities: the sensors.

The technology value chain of a Smart City consists of a process as simple as this: data collection, transmission, storage and analysis of information (BigData). These are essential steps to find the appropriate solutions. All this information is given by sensors, those devices that measure the environment and are able to convert physical magnitudes into numerical values. The majority of projects already applied in cities aiming to the title of Smart City are using them deploying its network along the urban space, either on a fixed position (lampposts, car parks, parks) or on moving objects (buses, taxis). All this information to which is added the one provided for the citizens themselves through their mobile devices is collected to a centralized platform where it is processed and analyzed. The range of the sensors is very wide, so we will focus on some of the most important.

The resource sensors (light, water, gas) divide into two categories, the ones that measure the energy consumption and others that show the available reserves of a given resource.

Smart Metering is an innovative concept put into practice in places such as Sweden, Ontario (Canada) or Oklahoma (United States). This new generation of smart meters presents the consumption in real time and it becomes a very good opportunity to save money both for clients who can manage better their consumption but also for the supplier since the processes become automatized.

Safety sensors form another group of measurement devices used in the urban space. They can detect both smoke as the level of a particular gas. A city that wanted to make their inhabitants more aware of the air quality is Cambridge, therefore is giving a complete environmental information through an extensive network of sensors that measure different levels of gasses and air particles, particularly CO2. This is an initiative known as CitySense.

Presence sensors that detect changes in its surroundings as infrared and photoelectric or ultrasonic vibrations is other category.In Chicago, United States it has been installed a service to prevent crime. This consists of a digital surveillance system that allows the cameras to redirect their position to the place from where it is perceived a shotgun. The technology can also detect the caliber of the gun and register the place of the incident even before calling the police. Sensors that collect information about road and rail lines aspects, weather conditions (temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure) or those that indicate the global positioning (GPS) are other basic components of the technologies used to create Smart Cities.

In the midst of this informational network the most important mission remains in the hands of the citizen who becomes one more sensor. It doesn't have to be neglected the contribution of technologies in the whole changing process that cities are facing right now, but it is also important to consider the role of all its users as on them depends a responsible management of this data.

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