More and more people are moving to cities worldwide. Today, about half of us live in urban areas; by 2050, this will increase to 66% with an extra 2.5 billion city dwellers.
There’s a good reason for this: cities can offer better standards of living at lower costs, as public services can be delivered more efficiently to the larger population.
As skilled workers are located in a concentrated area, there also tend to be better job prospects in cities. But the growth – and especially the rapid growth – of cities can create issues if services don’t keep up.
For instance, rapid industrialisation can create environmental issues. Waste can lead to contaminated water supplies, while vehicle exhausts can cause smog or acid rain. Poor sanitation can also cause significant health problems.
Without infrastructure keeping pace with a city’s growth, living conditions will decline – even resulting in slums. In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, we must use technology to help cities to grow and to thrive, preserving the quality of life for everyone through the smart city.
But what exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘smart’ cities?
What makes a city smart is essentially an intelligent infrastructure, with sensors, tags and networks spread throughout the city.
Many of these technologies are already well-established, and are only growing with the spread of the next generation of connected devices, the internet of things (IoT).
Data is then collected to analyse how well core systems like transport, energy and water are operating. Adjustments can be made in real time as these services are delivered, to improve efficiency and meet current needs.
Ultimately, the smart city uses technology to serve its citizens intelligently.
One example of this in action is the way many cities control traffic flow through intelligent traffic light systems.
These systems adjust traffic flow according to how busy the roads are for more predictable journey times and reduced driver frustration.
The smart city can also bring advantages to the management and delivery of utilities.
Fujitsu is collaborating with utilities provider Metawater in Japan to support water and sewer operations with an on-demand cloud service. Metawater can now provide regional monitoring, asset management and remote support services, providing local governments with greater flexibility.
A better life for citizens
Smart cities bring big benefits. Costs can be lowered as resources are targeted more intelligently as they are needed.
These connected cities can also respond more easily to the changing needs of citizens as the population changes and grows.
Citizens can have more control over their environment, through on-demand street lighting, for example. And intelligent smart cities can minimise pollution and improve waste management for a healthier atmosphere.
Cities will only continue to grow, but we have the technology to make them great places to live.
It’s up to us to make the best use of advances like IoT to make the most of our resources – and make sure cities keep up with the needs of the people who live in them.
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