Extreme Weather: How Smart Tech Can Help Cities Respond


Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, now having increased by a factor of five since the 1970s, the World Economic Forum reveals. Extreme weather resilience across road networks should therefore play a key role in smart city design. Fortunately, smart devices are being used to collect, store, and analyze weather conditions to help maintenance teams respond accordingly. 

Protecting air quality

Arizona is particularly prone to heat domes – areas of trapped heat due to prolonged high pressure – which are worsened by high particulate matter in the air. Smart devices are currently being trialed to mitigate resulting harm (namely, poor air quality). These devices collect valuable data, such as, particulate saturation, air quality, temperature, humidity, wind speed, soil content, and carbon dioxide levels. So, for instance, if high levels of airborne particulates are detected, structural air conditioning intake systems can be automatically closed before the particulates have the chance to damage the systems. Warning alerts can also be given to minimize road traffic or heavy equipment usage to further protect air quality. 

Snow and ice 

Extreme winter weather like heavy snowfall, ice, and dangerous windchill is becoming more commonplace as the Arctic warms. In fact, over five million people die annually due to either extreme heat or cold. Cold weather also increases hazards for businesses, in particular – whether in the form of increased liability due to customer slips and falls, or blocked routes to the premises due to snow and ice resulting in loss of business. It’s therefore essential businesses work to maintain accessibility as long as roads remain open. Clearing snow early in the day, for example, stops the formation of black ice. Moreover, infra-red temperature sensors can also help roads stay open during the winter. These sensors collect data like air, road surface, and dew point temperature across city road networks. In turn, road maintenance teams can take appropriate action (like gritting) to keep roads safe.

Digital twins

Digital twin technology (accurate virtual models) can also help cities respond to extreme weather. “By connecting the digital twin to weather data and sensors on IoT devices, climate management can be achieved using prediction and planning on real-time data”, Bas Steunebrink, NNAISENS co-founder, tells Forbes. Digital twin tech can be particularly useful in flood zones like New Orleans. Flood sensing detection systems can be used to monitor water levels, and send alerts when levels are too high. 

Extreme weather conditions are becoming ever-more commonplace. By designing smart cities to monitor weather conditions, appropriate action can better be taken to avert disaster.