Smart cities in a smart Africa.

Position:Urban Africa

As Kilamba Kiaxi in Angola has shown, other forms of new African city need to be developed with the local markets and local needs in mind.

The most ambitious is the vision of the smart city, which is connected to the concept of the Internet of Everything, which would see the connection of all devices embedded with chips, including cars, fridges, washing machines, medical instruments, air conditioning and heating systems. (See The Internet of Things' page 24.)

This allows for remote monitoring, collation of information and much, much more. For instance, fridges could automatically order food when they are running out; road sensors could inform the authorities when repairs are needed; irrigation could occur without any need for human intervention; and medication for patients could be adjusted according to that patient's requirements, without the need for a nurse to doctor to intervene.

The implications of this will take years to become apparent, but a smart city is one that incorporates as much of this technology from the outset. For instance, more trains on a light rail system could be deployed according to passenger volumes, while traffic lights across an entire city could work together to allow the most efficient movement of vehicles according to traffic flows at that time. Similarly, streetlights can only come on when they are needed by pedestrians or vehicles.

Lagos State governor Babatunde Raji Fashola said: "The need to deploy innovative approaches that address civic challenges in Lagos State has never been greater, and technology is the key to the future."

Despite the city's many problems, it has been mooted as a centre of smart technology and plans for a cashless society have already been drawn up. Lagos was chosen as a test bed for IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge, which involves the IT company working alongside city authorities to find ways of improving urban functions. In the case of Lagos, it has

identified the city's waterways as a great option for public transport if much better information on real time traffic flows is provided.

The chief scientist at IBM's Africa Research Lab, Uyi Stewart, says: "There is already ample data available in Lagos. Cell phones, social media, traffic cameras, global positioning systems, banks, and retail stores are all producing terabytes of big data loaded with potential insight about how the city works and how its citizens move around within it."

The collation of that data could improve the...

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