Many conversations about smart cities revolve around how they improve everyday life. While their convenience and safety are important, connected technologies can go further. They can also make their cities more resilient to extreme weather.
Extreme weather events are a rising threat as climate change grows. There were 20 billion-dollar weather and climate events in 2021 alone, just two fewer than 2020’s record-breaking number. Protecting against these disasters is essential, and smart cities are an excellent resource in that effort. Here are five ways smart cities enable extreme weather resilience.
One of the most important parts of responding to extreme weather is knowing about it ahead of time. IoT (internet of things) sensors can detect early warning signs before a disaster happens, informing citizens and response teams to give them more time to react. Local governments and residents alike can then prepare and minimize the damage when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
The Department of Homeland Security has started testing wildfire detection systems using IoT sensors. Connected devices monitor airborne chemicals, temperature, humidity, and other factors to alert people when the conditions are right for a wildfire. Fire departments can then get ready sooner and people in hazardous areas can evacuate safely.
After sending early warnings, smart cities can help emergency responders know what to do and where to go. Connected traffic systems could detect potential issues with roadways and calculate the fastest, safest route to get there. Smart grids could alert electric companies about local outages and direct them to the source of the problem.
Some cities have also set up GPS tracking systems to provide a real-time view of where emergency response vehicles like snowplows are. They can then make sure responders get to where they should be and respond to any unexpected changes. If they make this data public, citizens can also see where emergency responders are if they need help.
Regardless of what kind of weather a city is experiencing, ensuring everyone has electricity is crucial. Smart grids can adjust how they deliver electricity in real-time as demand shifts, keeping things operational despite weather-related disruptions. If an outage occurs, they can direct workers to the exact location for faster responses.
With more reliable electrical systems, people in the city can stay safe and comfortable despite extreme weather. Keeping heating systems above 55 degrees will prevent pipes from freezing during a blizzard, and air conditioning can offset the effects of heatwaves. More uptime from electrical grids will also enable more reliable communication.
Extreme weather events can be unpredictable, but smart cities’ real-time technologies help make up for that. IoT sensors throughout the city can help emergency responders keep an eye on how the situation develops. If anything changes, they can adjust to it and keep people safe.
For example, air quality sensors can show pollution levels in specific locations instead of providing a general picture of the area. This specific, detailed data will reveal how wildfire smoke travels through the city, helping determine which citizens should stay in and who can safely go out. Whether the situation worsens or clears up earlier than expected, people will know what they can do.
Smart cities’ benefits in extreme weather situations don’t end when the storm itself does. As cities go through more of these events, IoT devices throughout the city will gather more data on where they come from and how they unfold. Policymakers and emergency responders can review these insights to see how they can improve.
Traffic data during extreme weather events can reveal where congestion happens, informing better evacuation routes. Repeated outages in one area highlight parts of the grid that need more resilient infrastructure. Across virtually every part of the city, smart device data reveals what works and what doesn’t, helping cities improve.
In a perfect world, cities would never have to worry about extreme weather. However, even as the world works towards ending climate change, it’s a reality that cities have to contend with for the foreseeable future. Smart infrastructure is one of the best available tools for this end.
Smart city tech may not stop extreme weather, but it can help soften the blow. As more places embrace this technology, natural disasters will become a less disruptive and dangerous threat.