Urban areas provide opportunities for innovation and prosperity. 

Many challenges begin to present themselves as city infrastructure and populations grow. However, technological advancements have provided digital solutions to these challenges while creating greater possibilities for more systematic, efficient living. 

The world finds itself highly interconnected and dependent on these new technologies, and smart cities and the deployment of innovative applications will change how we approach everyday life.

What Is a Smart City?

A smart city is an urban area that utilizes a “nervous system” of modern technologies like IoT sensors, video cameras and social media, among other inputs, to collect data and insights. The information is then applied to enhance urban services, such as utilities, transportation, the environment and overall quality of life.

A smart city should include three elements: connectivity, data and government. Governments that use a device to gather and exchange data can create initiatives and make quick decisions that protect citizens.

How can a smart city enhance public health, especially during a major global crisis?

3 Ways Smart Cities Boost Public Health

Urban public health encompasses a wide range of issues that may impact a city’s population. These problems are unique and require different solutions than rural areas. 

For example, in one study that examined the spread of COVID-19 throughout rural and urban South Carolina, 84% of 124,289 confirmed cases came from urban areas between March 1 and Sept. 5, 2020. 

The use of technology to address urban healthcare crises has never been more critical. Here are three ways smart cities can use big data to enhance public health.

1.   Employing Exposure Tracing Applications

Singapore launched the TraceTogether app in March 2020. The smartphone app would use Bluetooth signals to notify nearby individuals of exposure when people reported their positive COVID-19 case.

Since then, several major cities worldwide have deployed similar applications that anonymously notify COVID-19 exposures to others. Ultimately, technologies focused on exposure tracing are more efficient than traditional contact tracing methods.

Future use of exposure notification smartphone apps can stop the spread of infectious disease, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is already providing solutions by:

  • Improving the limitations between distance and exposure
  • Addressing privacy concerns that prevent people from downloading the app
  • Enhancing public interest in exposure notification apps
  • Speeding up giving infection people verification codes to contact others
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of these apps

2.   Using AI Cybersecurity to Protect Patient Health Records

Healthcare data breaches happen all the time and are often the result of loss, theft, hacking or impermissible disclosures of patient records. According to HIPPA Journal, 94.63% of the United States population were affected between 2009 and 2021.

Smart cities can prevent cyberattacks by utilizing big data and AI cybersecurity as public health becomes more digitized. AI-powered analytic tools can help public health agencies detect the most sophisticated cybercriminal activity that affects medical systems and equipment.

An advantage of using AI systems in healthcare is detecting, preventing and correcting cybersecurity attacks autonomously without human control on hand. The technology is innovative enough to understand normal versus malicious activity on its own.

3.   Accelerating Medical Research 

Medical research allows pharmaceutical companies to develop new therapies, equipment and medicines to address severe public health crises. Scientists and researchers in the healthcare industry have accelerated clinical trials using AI technologies that collect big data. 

The world saw the use of AI throughout the coronavirus pandemic. When COVID-19 became prevalent globally, the information generated about transmission and mutations led to vaccines’ rapid development and distribution.

In addition to speeding up medical research and trials, AI technology and information databases are used to improve cancer screening and treatments. They can identify gene mutations, discover the effectiveness of potential drugs and conduct oncology surveillance. 

Smart cities can further employ AI tools to collect healthcare data for public health initiatives and services. They can also calculate insurance premiums by factoring in health records, medication use and eligibility of insured individuals.

Safeguarding Public Health With Advanced Technology

Smart cities can generate an enormous amount of information to optimize public health, from routine checkups to hospital visits to patient file updates. The use of advanced, modern technologies to capture and analyze data is essential for safeguarding public healthcare in urban areas.

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