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A smart city goes by many definitions, but its foundation lies in the established relationship and cooperation between its public and private sectors, essential for every aspect of development.
Such include physical and digital infrastructure, data access and management, trade relations, utility services management, public relations, and emergency response and disaster mitigation procedures.
The concept of smart cities started with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), which integrates different technologies by bringing resources together to create an inclusive, efficient, transparent, and automated system of doing things.
Today, countless smart city technology programs worldwide are being used for efficient health care delivery, waste management, crime-fighting and mitigation, consumer satisfaction, traffic control, and smart home systems.
Many, if not all, of these systems are efficient and have revolutionized service delivery, taxation, businesses, and infrastructure development. However, there are always a few hiccups, especially in situations requiring data sharing between the public and private sectors.
These problems include inflexibility, corporate interests, corruption, data access and hierarchy, transparency, data integrity, and many other factors that either slow development or make it hard for the system to work efficiently in real-time at full capacity.
Blockchain technology, which started as a digital ledger for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, can solve most if not all of these problems, some of which stem from lack of complete trust, adequate infrastructure, or vested selfish interests both in the private and public sectors.
Cities around the world, even those in the midst of transitioning from analog to digital systems, have started to look into blockchain technology to solve many of the problems present in centralized systems.
Blockchain Smart City Uses Cases
Before we look at the benefits that blockchain technology stands to offer to the development of a smart city, a few use cases show the ambition and trust that developers and authorities have invested in the potential of blockchain technology.
Famous RnB singer Akon, who has always been heavily invested in developing African regions, recently finalized a deal with the Senegalese government to build a crypto-economy city, Akon, using his own cryptocurrency called Akoin.
The Akon City, the first of its kind in the world, is alleged to already be in development and is the test run for the 50-100 years development plan that, if successful, will be rolled out to other African countries. Akon said, “if it works, we will scale it out to all other countries in Africa, so all the cities are connected. It is going to be a 50-100 year project, most likely. I probably won’t even live to see it finished. But for the Senegal project, We have a 10-year deadline for that city to be built out. “
Last year In Russia, the ruling party launched a blockchain-based electronic voting system to curb widespread election fraud. The instance wasn’t the first in the country. In the previous year, one of its southern regions, Saratov Oblast, reportedly had a successful blockchain-based e-voting election with approximately 40,000 people.
In the United States, tokenized real estate was estimated to be $17 Trillion as of 2019. As the pioneers in this sector, President of Elevated Returns, Stephane De Baets, was the first to launch a real estate security token offering (STO). Today, several blockchain platforms have specialized in real estate to offer affordable tokenized services in the industry, including Galaxy Digital Holding, Harbor, Propellr, and Blockchain App Factory.
Other numerous projects worldwide in all sectors of the economy incorporate blockchain technology and the use of tokens to create a better ecosystem of how things should be run.
In the following paragraphs, we will highlight some of the important aspects of a smart city, where blockchain application can be applied to make it run like a well-oiled machine and for everyone’s benefit.
Introducing Scalability in Systems
Simply put, scalability is the ability of a functioning model or system to evolve by, for instance, supporting new functions and users. Smart cities need scalable systems built upon instead of starting from scratch every time an upgrade is required.
Blockchain technology uses distributed ledgers, with each containing a replica of the information in the previous ledger. The distributed network of computers has no limit as to how many can be added to the network. There is no risk of running out of space on servers or overloading the system because upgrades can be made on the network after consensus is agreed upon to enhance scalability.
Digital Identity for Healthcare and Health Science Technology
The ongoing global coronavirus has highlighted the economic importance of a good healthcare system for any government in the world. People are the best resource, and protecting their health should be a priority, with private and public sectors coming together to make sure healthcare is affordable, efficient, and inclusive. Blockchain can help introduce medical records’ interoperability to avoid in-house data duplication and the delay associated with transactions and processing when patients go to different healthcare facilities.
Immutable records could also be used to confirm and secure a patient’s digital identity to eliminate discrepancies and assure quality pharmaceuticals by stamping products with digital quality identifiers.
While research is currently at very advanced stages, blockchain could be used to create a collective database of all advancements in medical drugs and procedures, available for public access to make sure corporate interests do not take precedence over people’s wellbeing.
Finance and Regulation
As one of the most important aspects of a smart city, the financial system determines a system’s economy. Blockchain offers an inclusive, transparent, immutable, affordable, and borderless financial system that eliminates the third party element and all the attached inconveniences that come with it. When people have a great and reliable financial system, transactions become seamless, trust is built, and micropayments are enabled since the transaction fees are negligible.
A good financial regulation framework based on blockchain technology needs to use consensus for updating where key sectors are well represented. This would create a conducive environment for businesses to grow and do away with hidden agendas in the regulatory framework.
Blockchain technology will revolutionize everyone’s view of money and introduce an inclusive economy. This is very important for the fourth industrial revolution because an inclusive economy will bring onboard the currently excluded economic impact of small businesses in third-world unbanked regions.
The above three examples only represent a fraction of how blockchain can be used to interconnect a smart city. After one sector implements a blockchain ecosystem, the benefits are bound to overflow to the other sectors until cities run on both permissioned and permissionless blockchain systems.
These other application areas include transport, infrastructure and trade, governance and voting, energy and sustainability, sports and entertainment, supply chain management, and real estate development.
The biggest hindrance to blockchain development right now is regulation, which stems from traditional governance, adjusted to accommodate futuristic technology.
Many authorities want to govern cryptocurrencies with traditional finance regulations and, in the process, stifling development and delaying many project developers who often find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Consequently, developers are fleeing to Europe, the most accommodative blockchain and crypto region so far, as the countries have made big steps to regulate and encourage blockchain startups.
Next, with the introduction of immutable digital data records, people will have to work from a transparent perspective and be held accountable for their actions. Services will be streamlined, and shared resources will be stretched as far as they can go in an accountable manner.
People will live in affordable, progressive, sustainable, and inclusive smart cities that are safe and free from pollutants.
Featured image courtesy of iStock.