Blockchain and the Smart Cities Agenda


Smart cities are becoming a framework for urban enhancement and design apply ICT to address pollution, congestion, governance, and infrastructural development. Considering smart cities will utilize 9.7 billion IoT devices by 2020, they’ll produce massive amounts of sensitive information. Aside from being the only appropriate data storage and management platform, specific blockchain capabilities enable decentralizing governance.

Dubai already signed off on securing all their documents on a distributed ledger, a step towards becoming the first blockchain-powered city. Furthermore, the smart city industry is estimated at $400 Billion by 2020, including 30$ Billion of IT opportunities annually. According to McKinsey Research, the 600 smart cities built within five years will generate almost 60% of the worlds GDP, where:

“Digital technologies could become the engine of economic progress, and blockchain, without a doubt, could be one of them.”

Universal ID Cards

Smart cities aren’t isolated, but conversely, imply seamless means of both local and global identity verification and access to services. Specifically, they’re envisaged as a fluid network of people, backed by a unified digital system, encompassing insurance and financial services. Therein, Dubai’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi shared his vision in a statement:

“Users will only need to log in their personal data or business credentials once; it will then be updated and verified in a timely manner through the blockchain network in all government and private entities including banks [and]insurance companies.”

More so, using a universal ID card simplifies the process of authentication, prevents fraud, identity theft and automates bureaucracy.  For example, the Civic Security Platform’s App is compatible with any mobile device, which stores credentials activated by biometric features. Additionally, changes to identity data are fully digital and globally compatible, enabling a convenient, borderless experience.

Public Transport & Mobility

Two major novelties, namely smart traffic signals and MaaS, promise to deliver much-needed improvements in traffic throughout. Specifically, SCOOT optimizes the flow of vehicles and pedestrians, coordinating data to maximize green light time in London. However, the technological architecture of blockchain offers foolproof security and more suitable storage in an environment with little room for mistakes.

Regarding MaaS, while profits for car sales and public transport diminish, the mobility services growth is estimated at $1.35 trillion. Whereas statistics illustrate a tendency to prefer transport as a service, MaaS reduces congestion and transport capacity constraints through technology.

Energy, Water and Waste Management

As the population in cities increases, so does the consumption of energy and water, along with the accumulation of waste. Hence, urban areas transition their electricity networks to smart grids, using renewable energy and turn consumers into prosumers. Because of this, distributors in numerous cities adopted blockchain to facilitate an open exchange of energy between citizens.

Smart grid blockchains range from corporations and companies to community projects in a market estimated at $12 billion by 2024. Concerning water management, Blockchain Water uses machine learning to prevent and identify leaks, flood risks, and predict water asset failures. Lastly, waste management companies struggle to process the increase in solid waste by themselves, which eventually ends up in landfills.

However, blockchain companies found ways of integrating communities, with municipalities and organizations rewarding eco-friendly practices. For instance, using Recereum, citizens who properly sort waste receive tokens redeemable by paying for utility bills. Similarly, Agora Tech Labs lets cities reimburse recycling through tokens usable for public services, where both projects strengthen local economies.

Departmental Transparency & Citizen Participation

Smart cities demand efficient administration, wherein blockchain enables logging and sharing information on decisions affecting the general public. Consequently, increased transparency should promote greater accountability, reduces the chances of corruption together with a single, veritable source of data. As a result, voters can discern false information, widespread on the internet to make better decisions.

Since governments turn to blockchain technology, the Government Blockchain Association advocates using it for the good of the public. Moreover, transparency as a fundamental aspect of blockchain coincides with 66% of Americans believing open data will improve government accountability. Additionally, the same technology offers privacy and security, serving as an enabler of citizen participation in the form of voting.

In particular, voting through blockchain applies to urban planning, empowering neighborhood residents to have a say in developments. Moreover, anonymous digital signatures serving as unique identifiers could encourage citizens to participate in joint initiatives towards an open democracy. Respectively, Decode is a noteworthy EU project allowing people to access crowdsourced information about cities, fostering informed and deliberative decision-making.

Urban Planning

Shaping tomorrow’s cities is costly, considering the wages of urban planners and extremely complex because of allowing for further expansion. However, sophisticated data use provided by blockchain lowers administrative costs drastically and proves vital in certain cases. For example, businesses can address the needs of people within mixed-use neighborhoods, without breaching data privacy.

Another method is utilizing people’s commuting patterns, which they would willingly provide for compensation through public services. Alternatively, transferring land ownership and technical data prevents the problems that could arise from documentation lost due to departmental accidents. More so, blockchain can stimulate citizen participation through voting on urban agendas, improving the ecosystem of the citizens and cities.

Blazhej Atanasovski is a journalist and a technical writer who specializes in D.L.T. technology and startups. He relies on self-education, research, life-long learning as well as years of hands-on experience in computer science. As a philosophy graduate and a literary enthusiast, he tries to make complex topics interesting and understandable.

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