The future will be more technological and this will affect our cities. In this article we will discuss the evolution of metropolises over the coming years: how we will live in them and what will be the advantages and disadvantages of the so called “Internet of things” or artificial intelligence.
From the 19th to 21st of November Barcelona will host the Smart City Expo World Congress. An exhibition that aims to reflect on and experiment with the relationship between people, technology and cities. It’s clear that technology will alter populations and societies. But, how will it do this? Will it improve our lives or bring us new problems?
Both the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations define the so-called smart cities as places based on efficiency and wellbeing that use technology to improve the living conditions, affecting a wide range of areas. Here we give 6 examples of how they are already doing so.
1. Economy. Smart cities centre their economic development on innovation, research and enterprise. New technologies speed up many productive processes, but they also force us to consider things from an ethical viewpoint. We must realise that the substitution of some kinds of jobs that are done by people today who could find themselves replaced by technology, poses a social problem as these workers will find themselves out of the workforce. Therefore, while the Internet of Things improves production and accelerates a fourth industrial revolution that can be positive, at the same time it generates a social conflict.
2. Environment. New technologies positively affect the sustainable development of cities, fostering the construction of green buildings and the use of alternative energy.
For example, technology is changing the model for public lighting. Today, the Internet of Things allows the installation of sensors in street lights so that they only turn on when they detect the presence of people. This makes for a more efficient use of energy and furthermore, can be expanded to the installation of lighting in less populated areas, offering a medium and long term saving.
Technology has also improved the supply of water and electricity. How much water does a city consume? Sensors enable the monitoring not only of the actual consumption, but also the need for sanitation and treatment. Furthermore, if we apply this to the electricity and water meters and add artificial intelligence, any business or public institution can analyse their resources, detect patterns of consumptions and anticipate future requirements.
3. Artificial intelligence can also measure waste collection activities in pre-determined areas facilitating efficient management. For example, a council can detect if an area produces large quantities of waste and intensify its collection.
In this field, some models stand out, like in the city of New Songdo, in South Korea, where already all the domestic waste is vacuumed directly from the individual kitchens through a network of tunnels.
4. Transport. One of the biggest challenges facing city councils is traffic management: all large cities are immersed in how to redirect and de-congest traffic in the city centre. Thanks to the installation of sensors, the authorities can measure the traffic congestion in real-time and predict which areas will cause problems in certain situations. This enables cities not only to evaluate the traffic in the city centre, but also know up to what point alternative transport links are being effective or, alternatively, congesting other zones. They can even evaluate up to what point their car parks are really useful or efficient.
As part of the development of public transport, smart cities are introducing new transport systems such as electric mopeds, bicycles on demand or even scooters. In this case, the sensors allow the ongoing tracking of their location, consumption, range, etc.
5. Social well-being. Technology allows us to speed up recurrent actions, like making payments in establishments, something that we can already do today with a mobile phone and, in a few years, perhaps we could do with just a hand. But for this to be effective cities need to integrate mechanisms that provide solutions to authentication and identity management in order to guarantee a secure and protected urban environment.
6. Technology also influences fields such as health and security. One example is the use of systems being applied in some smart cities, where procedures have been put in place that use cameras to combat crime and harassment. But this model also makes us wonder: Up to what point does improved security limit our right to privacy?
Today, according to the real estate consultant CBRE's Smart City Index, Barcelona is ranked in the Top 25 of the smartest cities. As a responsible business committed to innovation, Withfor is also involved with social improvement and management by means of new technologies. Because we are convinced that all of us have the opportunity to adapt and benefit from the advantages that ICTs offer, allowing us to rethink out cities, making them more balanced and sustainable.
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