Science fiction writers have long speculated what cities of the future would look and be like. Floating cars and hoverboards, robotic or AI-powered law enforcement agents, super-efficient and almost magical medicines and medical procedures, and automated everything seem to be the most common themes. It doesn’t look like many of these will be happening anytime soon—at least the way they are typically depicted in pop culture. However, many of the underlying concepts for these technologies already exist today and are already being used in smart cities all over the world.
Let’s take a look at some of these technologies, how they are being used today, and how they can further shape our cities as we move toward the future.
The benefits of robotics in our current society are undeniable. However, this technology also continues to be controversial when it comes to robots “stealing” jobs from people and rendering their skills obsolete. Nevertheless, the key thing to remember is that it’s still up to us humans to decide how these robots are going to work and how we’re going to use them.
Many cities around the world are in fact already using robotics in their transformation into truly smart cities. In Singapore, for example, hotels are already using robots to clean rooms and provide room service. The Singaporean government is also currently testing how robotics can be used in pre-school education. Meanwhile, in Japan, robots are going to play key roles in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The Japanese government, for example, is planning to use robot taxis for tourism, smart chairs for Paralympians, and social robots to help with translations to overcome the language barrier.
The Internet of Things
Within a smart city, everything should be connected and every critical service should be easy to access. This is why the Internet of Things or IoT will always be one of main technological foundations in building a city of the future. With IoT connecting various devices in a seamless web, it’s much easier for government agencies and their partners in the private sector to communicate and to address challenges with smart solutions.
Behind IoT is another critical technology, which is real-time data replication. It doesn’t matter if everything is connected when you don’t have software that simplify high-volume data movements because at its core, IoT is all about data. Real-time data systems are already at play in various industries, like banking, retail, and transportation. It’s only a matter of time before they are adopted to address public service concerns.
Like robotics, artificial intelligence sometimes is a source of apprehension. This may be attributed to the way media portrays the technology—that is, as having the capability to take over the world. But like robotics, the advantages of AI especially, in terms of data management and analysis, cannot be denied. Of course, the nuances of analysis should still be left to humans since these fine levels of distinction still can’t be replicated by any present form of software or program. However, when it comes to organization, processing, and spotting patterns, nothing can be more efficient than AI.
Various AI applications can be used in conjunction with IoT and robotics in delivering smarter public services. These include transportation planning, traffic management, healthcare, public safety and law enforcement, and even resource management.
Smart cities shouldn’t only focus on improving the quality of life of its citizens, but also on making services more sustainable. After all, we won’t be living long in our smart cities if the planet isn’t able to sustain life.
This is where green technologies come in. Beyond providing clean and renewable sources of energy, green technologies play a key role in enabling more sustainable construction and manufacturing. For instance, 3D printing has already made headway into making the process of building houses much faster and cheaper without sacrificing structural integrity. There have also been innovations that transform the negative aspects of the environment to positive applications. An example is the Science City Campus, located in the Honggerberg Campus of ETH Zurich. The project involves storing waste heat during the summer using ground probes, and then reusing a refined form of that energy for winter heating.
Right now, the goal of cellular mobile communications providers is to be able to support 5G connectivity—a paradigm shift that the entire world will soon benefit from. However, this goal will soon change and will continue to change as technology also moves forward. The bottomline is that we will need stable, high-speed network connections in order to facilitate the processing and exchange of massive amounts of data that will characterize the future of our communication. Without the help of powerful communications systems, it will be nearly impossible to provide timely and suitable solutions to address various public service concerns.
Technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and with it, the way we apply technology in transforming our way of life. Cities of the future are not coming—they are here now and are continuously changing for the betterment of humankind.