Intelligent Systems for Smarter Cities

By the middle of the 21st century, the world’s urban population is expected to nearly double, increasing to 6.4 billion in 2050. This extraordinary growth will create many new challenges for urban planning and city infrastructures. Many city planners are looking for intelligent solutions that will promote long-term, sustainable urban development.

KAUST is pioneering a growing portfolio of Smart City technologies designed to address issues of traffic congestion, city water management, and urban flooding. These technologies can be easily integrated and used on a large urban scale to collect and distribute real-time accurate data regarding current conditions.

The KAUST Smart City Solution

trafficOne of our most innovative technologies is an intelligent flood and traffic sensing system that provides up-to-the-minute warnings about current conditions and interprets collected data to better plan for future emergencies. This solution features fixed, mobile, and aerial components and connects numerous sensing systems to improve public safety and municipal service efficiency.

A wireless network of sensors mounted on utility poles is installed throughout an urban area to gather data and assess the density, flow, and velocity of local traffic and the water level of roadway flooding and its path and speed. The system can provide real-time, highly accurate maps that display current conditions for traffic flow and roadway flooding.

Improved accuracy of traffic monitoring can be obtained by installing sensors having short-range transmitters in vehicles. The transmitters only send speed data to the wireless sensor network, ensuring the privacy of vehicle owners. The low cost of these sensors makes it possible to install them in vehicles without impacting price. Not all vehicles need to have the sensors installed for the system to function, but the accuracy of the system improves as the number of vehicles equipped with sensors increases.

The flood monitoring system can be enhanced by using disposable transmitter-equipped microsensors. When the wireless sensor network detects a flooding event, these microsensors are automatically released into the flood waters to help track the speed and path of the flood. The microsensors can be stored in special compartments mounted on utility poles throughout the city. In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can also be used to release microsensors in both urban and remote environments. The micro sensors are small, lightweight, and low-cost, making them an economically feasible solution for large-scale use. A centralized ground station uses sensor location maps to assemble a dynamic real-time map of flooding conditions.

All of these technologies can be integrated via a fully self-sustaining, solar-powered wireless communication system. The real-time data gathered from these integrated components can be used to reduce flooding fatalities and economic losses, improve emergency response, enhance traffic flow, and maximize resource utilization efficiency.

KAUST Environmental Sensing Technologies

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