Only when AI is implemented and orchestrated holistically via a whole-of-nation blueprint can cities become smarter, more sustainable and inclusive.

In this transformational era of shifting from traditional city planning to orchestrate smart cities across the Asia Pacific region, AI is invaluable. Advanced technologies are already at the forefront of driving valuable strategies optimizing industries so they may operate more efficiently with greater risk mitigation.

AI is also helping to facilitate numerous sectors’ transitions towards achieving smart/clean-city initiatives and net zero commitments.

According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, smart city technologies can improve quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30%, enhancing public health and safety, elevating community engagement, and creating a more sustainable environment.

Intentional AI implementation and smart city technologies are rapidly becoming recognized as the not-so-secret ingredient helping urban regions accomplish the initiative of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by up to 270k kilotons, creating 1.2M new jobs, and generating cost-of-living savings between US$9bn and US$16bn.

Sustainable AI for smart cities

What makes a city “smart” involves the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data across numerous sectors, from metropolitan development and utility allocation, all the way down to manual functions like city services.

Smart cities involve the construction and maintenance of arrangements of correlative sensors, equipment, and other systems designed to help create more sustainability and efficiency. When optimizing a municipality’s strategy behind the entirety of its operations from connectivity and utilities to automation are major keys to creating a “smarter city” and a more sustainable environment overall. AI solutions are already making major strides where this initiative is concerned, and will become even more critical as time goes on.

A real-world example is Singapore, which plans to use AI to address major challenges that affect society and industries, including an explainable technology, Cognitive AI, that combines machine learning techniques with embedded human knowledge to provide auditable, AI-based recommendations that increase efficiency and improve performance across numerous sectors.

In China, technology leaders wanting to drive smart city innovations have to look beyond just technology hardware, according to a Citi Research report. For example, electric vehicles cannot operate effectively in a city without the necessary charging infrastructure. As a result, companies there are using real-time, large-scale video analysis and AI to integrate industries while enhancing governments and service models.

Applying AI benefit economies through improvements in innovation and productivity efforts, better mobility of citizens and goods; improved social infrastructure to support education and health; as well as enhanced vigilance against potential internal threats. 

Smart grids of the future

The efficiency of a smart city’s infrastructure depends on many factors, including the impact of environmental circumstances. One relevant example of a vital contributor is public utilities and power/grid operations. Previously requiring experienced human operators, this sector is now using Cognitive AI to encode that human knowledge and expertise across entire operations, delivering auditable, explainable recommendations at a moment’s notice.

With situational awareness, such a smart system can detect, predict and solve problems even when circumstances are in constant flux, especially in scenarios as critical as an entire city’s water and power supply.

The kind of enterprise-grade AI is a necessary ingredient for forming the basis of ‘smart grids of the future’. Advanced solutions of this nature can help with challenges such as keeping a grid stable more with intermittent sources such as wind and solar.

AI software can also be implemented to improve demand and generation forecasts, elevating planning and minimizing standby generation while utilizing available renewable generation to its fullest and decreasing waste, ultimately ensuring continuity to consumers.

Tackling the climate crisis

With entire countries striving to achieve net-zero carbon footprint objectives, AI is already playing a principal role, as alluded to by the MGI report on smart cities in South-east Asia.

In the Hong Kong City Blueprint 2.0, the Smart Environment initiative plans to implement various decarbonization measures to reduce carbon intensity by between 65% and 70% by 2030 (compared with 2005 levels) and achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. The strategy is to use technology to apply renewable energy on a larger scale and further promote energy efficiency and conservation, among other measures.

Achieving a lower carbon future commands more resourceful processes that boost efficiency and reduce waste. AI for smart cities can work toward this goal by supporting infrastructure that is built to elevate productivity, thus yielding more acute considerations around resource consumption.

Such efforts could certainly hasten renewable, decarbonization, and carbon-friendly strategies on a global scale.

Smarter digitalization with holistic AI

Over the coming years, with the potential for Asia’s cities to generate trillions of dollars in economic value by going smart, participation in digital transformation is important for companies, industries, and other entities.

Seeking industrial-grade AI with software that provides holistic, organization/sector/city-wide insights may be a good place to start. Already, governments and public-private organizations are moving toward facilitating technological implementation and digital transformation with strategic partnerships to make their cities smarter. The best course of action is to embrace AI that blends knowledge-based reasoning with advanced digitalization techniques that can help stakeholders become efficient and resilient.

Such holistic and dynamic use of AI could result in indelible process improvements, like streamlined operational capacities, where all facilities function more efficiently in harmony, reducing waste and carbon footprints.

Enhanced communication, strengthened collaboration, increased fuel savings, and decreased waste mean companies also increase probabilities for better profits, especially in the high-value industries.