Cities are the engines of modern society. They power the global economy, consume vast amounts of resources, house the majority of the world’s population, and create much of the pollution and emissions that have scientists concerned about the future.
And while big cities consume a lot of resources already – this hardly compares to the mega cities of the near-future. In fact, in our lifetimes, we will see massive urban areas in Africa and Asia with populations that swell to 50 million people or more.
The right timing
While the prospect of optimizing for the problems of burgeoning metropolises may seem daunting, the timing is actually perfect. The arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) – thanks to innovations in cheap sensor technology, big data, and predictive analytics – is making it possible to tackle all sorts of urban issues.
Integrating this, along with other advancements in information communication technology, into urban planning is the vision for smart cities:
But, enough on the broad strokes of this movement – here’s how specific changes are taking place.
Working smarter, not harder
Here are some of the initiatives taken on by the people running the smartest cities today:
- Smart roads – Monitoring vehicle and pedestrian levels to optimize or divert traffic according to conditions. Intelligent, adaptive fast and slow lanes for walking and cycling.
- Smart buildings Rooftop gardens or vegetation on sides of buildings to help with insulation. Optimization of heating, energy usage, lighting, and ventilation. Integrating photovoltaics and wind turbines into building designs.
- Smart lighting – Intelligent and weather adaptive street lights to boost energy efficiency.
- Smart waste management – Monitoring garbage levels in containers in real-time to optimize collection routes.
- Smart grids – Energy consumption monitoring and management. Uses tech to detect and react to local changes in usage.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) October 15, 2017