The term smart city has become somewhat ambiguous – an overused term that means different things to different people.

Part of the reason for this is that as Daniele Loffreda, senior advisor, industry marketing with telecom network equipment and software services supplier Ciena, pointed out in a recent blog, cities are constantly in flux.

Smart city applications, he wrote, “must be aligned with where a city and its citizens want to go. Some municipalities that created model smart cities early on have had to initiate extensive revamping. The goal, contends Loffreda, is to shift from a “technology-first” approach, centered on interconnected devices, to a “citizen-first” focus that responds to the changing needs that residents themselves help define.

“For example, the City of Barcelona has long been at the cutting edge of using digital devices and the Internet of Things to improve municipal operations; however, in 2017, Mayor Ada Colau gave Barcelona’s CTO, Francesca Bria, a mandate to rethink the smart city from the ground up.”

In terms of a rethink, at the recent Collision conference, Victor Ai, founder and CEO of Terminus Group outlined his goals and aspirations for AI City, the company’s offering that “bridges the gap” between artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things to create an AIoT foundation.

It is, the company contends, based on a new technology infrastructure that combines 5G, AI and IoT and according to Ai, capable of upgrading and transforming both the urban landscape and the industrial ecosystem.

“In the future, AI City will be a highly appealing tech city that can make decisions independently based on the data automatically extracted from the IoT devices and sensors, which would be subsequently analyzed by the AI algorithms,” Ai told Collision delegates. The urban landscape will be reshaped substantially, he said, and include:

  • Smart infrastructure such as autonomous driving zones and multi-function robotic service platforms that will “constitute an essential part of the city’s fundamental urban landscape.”
  • A degree of digitalization reaching 90%, which will enable a “brand new experience available for different scenarios.”
  • Public spaces throughout a municipality being “flexibly transformed and new diverse functionalities will be added as per users’ requests, therefore improving the utilization of the urban infrastructure.
  • Energy consumption being reduced and energy management increasing “at the users’ end by intelligently managing and controlling the regional energy demand.”

Since Terminus is headquartered in China, it makes sense that the first AI City pilot is in that nation, and more specifically in Chongqing. Launched last year, Terminus Group has partnered with 40 tech companies to form an alliance that includes digital system providers, AI labs and developers of live-streaming platforms.

“A city is like an organism,” said Ai, in a release last year. “The functions of the individuals who create sustainable economic value are the key factors when deciding on how a city should operate.

“AI City is a bold attempt to interconnect every part of the city's 'body' through the means of the digitalization – enable seamless digit transmission, and build up an organic living entity for the residents to maximize their productivity as well as their living experience.”

He added that it is designed to be “completely different from traditional smart cities in terms of urban form, industrial ecosystem and residents’ mindsets” due to the fact it is based on different foundations.

“AI City will have its own brain and supercomputing abilities,” said Ai. “It will be able to solve issues by itself without human interference.”

Paul Barker