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What’s a Smart city; a glimpse into the cities of the future
The definition of “Smart City” is constantly changing. As the term is explored in depth -since it is of recent creation- and technology is developed, the concept of Smart City is transformed, advancing with the objective of improving the optimization of resources and quality of life of its inhabitants.
We could define the Smart City as a planned city that takes advantage of the use of technology in such a way that it becomes an ecological, connected, sustainable and rational space for the enjoyment of its inhabitants. As can be deduced from this definition, in order to achieve the development of a Smart City, multiple aspects come into play, encompassing the use of urban planning, engineering, information technology and whatever human beings may know to improve the efficiency and habitability of a city.
In fact, the more practical aspects of improvement are contemplated, the more “intelligent” a city is. In a Smart City not only issues such as providing space for hundreds of wi-fi connection points or using LED street light bulbs for street lighting are considered; the use of planning and technology to achieve improvements such as the use of time through efficient urban planning and public transport, the existence of top-quality health services or improvements in the functioning of local government are also part of the development of a more intelligent city.
How will the cities of the future be?
Thinking about what a big city could be like in just a few years’ time is a fascinating exercise. Let your imagination run wild for a few moments…
As soon as we leave the intelligent building in which we develop our work we will be surprised by the purity of the air, achieved thanks to a more ecological traffic and the presence of gardens, both vertical and horizontal, which will extend through streets and buildings.
The roads and streets will be clean and in excellent condition, thanks to cleaning services and automated repairs. Other urban services, such as street lighting and sewerage, will also be in perfect condition, thanks to robots and drones that will come to perform maintenance as soon as necessary.
The city itself will provide us with all kinds of useful information. Combined with the use of augmented reality devices will allow us to know in real time questions such as which park can best be seen at sunset, which commercial street is less congested, or information of tourist interest, such as the history of buildings or monuments.
Solar panels and intelligent materials (for example, tiles capable of generating electricity through kinetic energy generated by footprints already exist) will come together to provide the city with enough clean energy. Water harvesting systems will maximise their use, for example by using rainwater, and it will even be possible to generate part of the city’s food needs on vertical crops, which could even be located inside buildings, illuminated by LED lights.
If we need to move around the city, we will only have to ask, through our mobile phone or any other device, that the city’s electric car service pick us up. The use of autonomous public vehicles will bring great benefits to traffic in the city. On the one hand, by eliminating private cars, the total number of vehicles will be drastically reduced. In addition, being in continuous use will free up the space traditionally occupied by parked vehicles. These improvements, together with intelligent traffic management, will make city travel more environmentally friendly, faster and safer.
Of course, self-propelled electric vehicles will easily find charging stations or even be able to dispense with them thanks to mobile recharging systems. It will also be very easy to charge all of our devices, perhaps wirelessly.
The streets will also be safer. Thousands of cameras will monitor public spaces and sensors such as those capable of detecting gunshots, fires or smoke will be continuously communicated with public services such as the police or firefighters. The City Councils will have control centres – already existing in some cities – from which they will be able to make all kinds of decisions based on the information they receive, in order to improve the functioning of the city, perhaps aided (or even directly managed) by Artificial Intelligence systems.
In addition to all these improvements, the transformation into intelligent cities will have a major impact on populations in areas where living conditions are particularly harsh. Thus, new refrigeration technologies applied in cities located in desert areas will be of great importance for people living in them, improving their habitability.
The picture of the intelligent cities of the future is certainly hopeful. Will they really be as we imagine, or will we have to settle for dark and polluted cities? Some studies state that in the year 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Will we manage to create cities capable of giving a good quality of life to such a large number of people, or on the contrary will we resign ourselves to living in oppressive cities like those that science fiction has so often shown us?
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Redactor técnico. Aunque su nombre indique lo contrario, Robin es de Madrid. Le encanta viajar, el cine y pensar y escribir sobre el futuro de la tecnología.