Who'd have thought? 4 ways smart city tech saves citizens time

Technologies that help cities manage their traffic better are going to save all of us time, whether we're driving a car, riding a bus or negotiating traffic on foot or on a bike. But a new study sponsored by Council Associate Partner Intel uncovered some surprising findings. In addition to mobility, there are other ways citizens can save time in the healthcare and public safety sectors — as well as the apps and digital services citizens can use to conduct business with local agencies in the cities that provide them. And that time can be spent with family and friends or other activities that are far more enjoyable than sitting in traffic. Smart cities provide tangible benefits and time is one of them. Smart city leaders would do well to let their citizens know about it when rolling out new or enhanced services. — Doug Peeples


The study "Smart Cities — What's In It for Citizens?," as the title makes clear, takes a citizen-focused approach to how smart cities can change and improve a city's livability. It's much less about technology itself and more about how citizens can benefit from it.

The Intel-sponsored study conducted by Juniper Research found that smart cities could "give back" 125 hours a year to all of their citizens. It also ranked the top 20 cities globally for the things those cities have done to improve the lives of their residents in four categories: mobility, health care, public safety and productivity.

"Analysts tend to focus on the technical underpinnings of building a data-centric world. We can't overlook the importance of the real human benefits that smart cities have. Connected communities, municipal services and processes have a powerful impact on a citizen's quality of life," said Juniper Research head of forecasting and consultancy Windsor Holden.

About those real human benefits — and the 125 hours given back
Let's take a look at a breakdown of how those four categories save citizens time.

Mobility – The study says the average peak travel time vehicle speed in cities is 4 mph (about the pace of a brisk walk) and that drivers lose as much as 70 hours per year in gridlock. But it also noted that IoT-equipped infrastructure technologies such as intelligent traffic systems, frictionless toll and parking payments, directed parking an safer roads can give back to drivers 60 hours per year. And time is money. According to travel analytics firm INRIX, which compiles an annual Global Traffic Scorecard, traffic congestion cost U.S. drivers an average of $1,445 per driver in 2017 in direct costs (wasted time and fuel) and indirect costs such as those passed on to consumers by businesses.

Health – Cities that offer connected digital health services can save citizens an additional 9 hours per year. Those can include wearable apps that monitor body functions to enable people with chronic conditions to manage them without being hospitalized. Another example is telemedicine, which enables patients with contagious ailments to have examinations through high-speed video links at home rather than in a doctor's office.

Public safety – Improvements in public safety can give citizens back up to 35 hours per year. Intel, worked with Council Global Lead Partner AT&T and others to deploy digital infrastructure in Portland, Oregon and San Diego, California. The networks allow street lights to be used to collect data the cities use to make them cities safer, cleaner and more efficient places to live.

Productivity – Apps and digital services can give back up to 21 hours per year, according to Juniper Research. Those apps and services simplify administrative procedures when citizens conduct business with city agencies or are looking for information — and that enables them to be more productive.

The study also contends that as smart cities progress and add services it's very likely there will be more opportunities to save citizens time.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.