Intelligent trash cans, networked traffic lights, smart searches for parking spaces – what can we expect from smart cities? We will shed some light on the vision city planners have for the future.
The urban population is doubling
By the year 2050, the urban population is expected to nearly double, bringing the number to 6.3 billion people.* Sixty percent of the world’s population currently lives in cities, although cities make up only 2% of the earth’s surface.
This development comes with several problems. Water, energy supply and housing could be extremely scarce when the number of people doubles. The city of the future needs solutions to keep it from becoming choked with traffic and garbage.
The goal of smart cities
This is where the vision of smart cities comes into play. As far as possible, smart cities should be environmentally friendly, sustainable and green. The “Internet of Things” becomes part of the plan for future cities.
The goal is to link normal physical things in the city, such as trash cans, street lights or heating systems in public buildings, with the internet to facilitate intelligent usage. Equipped with technological intelligence, these objects should be able to furnish and deliver digital data at any time.
Cars already on the road will deliver data about traffic and the current environmental impact. This means that traffic light settings can adapt to the current traffic volume. Driverless cars, with their electric drives, should be environmentally friendly and increase safety on the roads.
However, cars are just one part of what needs to be networked on the roads. Even street lights should be able to give information about free parking spaces or accidents in the future: This is the foundation for a city-wide communications infrastructure. This would lead to lower traffic congestion and, consequently, lower environmental burden.
Vienna, Chicago and Singapore
Experts from Roland Berger have gathered the most important building blocks of a smart city strategy into three main areas for their “Smart City Index”: Areas of application, strategic planning, and IT-infrastructure. Eighty-seven large cities worldwide were examined based on these aspects. Results: Vienna, Chicago, and Singapore rank highest.
The Austrian capital scores well because it has prepared a broad and comprehensive smart city strategy based on the criteria of quality of life, resource conservation and innovation.
Chicago, which takes second place in the rankings, is characterized by its educational approach, among other things: The U.S. city relies on digital literacy and maintains a network of 250 free computer labs throughout the metropolitan area.
Singapore will be a “smart nation” by 2022. In addition to the ban on registration of new vehicles and an exclusive district for autonomous vehicle operation, Singapore wants to compile data from industries, energy supply and traffic.
A godsend or surveillance?
Will the digitalization of cities really be a godsend or will it lead to total surveillance? A cautionary example is Songdo, the first and only smart city in South Korea. The City of Tomorrow, as it is also called, installed a total of 50,000 cameras throughout the city. Do we have to go that far to realize advantages for cities of the future with smart city concepts?
Strict data privacy rules and extensive high-speed internet are, however, the basic requirements for the success of a smart city strategy.