While the term evokes imagery akin to a science fiction novel, the advent of the ‘smart city’ is a lot closer than you may think. Combining infrastructure with modern technology, our cities are already becoming smarter and, with 5G set to revolutionise telecommunications, it’s likely that this trend is set to continue.
Thanks in part to growing interest around the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), technological innovation is already cementing itself in our homes, with intelligent heating controls, smart air conditioning and home assistants. These timid steps into a smarter world have revolutionised the way we can collect data and, with the arrival of 5G to facilitate our reliance on IoT technology, it will only become easier to automate and remotely manage huge swathes of our lives.
Yet, as this movement grows, how do cities currently utilise technology for the benefit of its people and, if we are to see increased integration throughout our largest metropolises, what does the future hold?
For the uninitiated, you may be surprised as to how ‘smart’ some of the world’s largest cities are. This increased focus on technology integration has been happening under our very noses for the last few years and is slowly changing the city landscape.
London is a prime example of this burgeoning trend, with the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, launching the Smarter London Together initiative. This roadmap towards a smarter, more interconnected city has a keen focus on offering its citizens more and easier access to data.
Lamp posts will soon have WiFi capabilities and electronic charge points, while a network of sensors are currently being used to offer insights into London’s water and air purity levels with a precision never seen before. Even the city’s bins have been transformed; utilising solar panel and WiFi technology, bins across the city are self-compacting rubbish and notifying councils when they need to be emptied, which has streamlined waste management protocol.
These changes aren’t particularly new, and while London is one of the ‘smartest’ cities in the world, it’s by no means alone, as authorities look for innovative ways to offer maximum interconnectivity.
Cities of the future
With the advent of 5G technology being slowly rolled out across the country, coupled with a newfound popularity in the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), we can expect to see our cities grow and change at an even more unprecedented rate.
For example, as the world population looks set to reach 9 billion in the very near future, peak development countries are searching for new ways to feed everyone, with one option being the introduction of vertical farming. The main issue with this method of agriculture is that crops are much more susceptible to minor changes in the environment. However, academics are currently looking into using IoT technology to accurately monitor productivity and offer forecasts on yield, all of which could make vertical farming viable.
With the huge benefits 5G connectivity can offer, our cities will also likely see a huge push toward innovative ideas. Expect to see self driving cars giving up-to-date information on current road traffic; smart lighting that can notify systems when they fail and can accurately monitor energy use, even smart factories run completely by AI technology. We might also find all of these innovations being powered by IoT-enabled solar panel technology.
Technology, especially in the IoT sector is inevitably going to change the way we live, offering a range of opportunities and challenges for the future. However, when it comes to the future of smart cities, it’s not a question of if things will change, it’s when.