Digital Cities: digital dreams?

Half of the world’s population are already city-dwellers, and the trend towards increased urbanization is accelerating rapidly. The future of the majority of the world’s citizens is undeniably urban – 70% will live in cities by 2050 – but how exactly that city of tomorrow will look, and how smart living will be implemented and experienced remains largely uncertain.

Public transport will become more efficient and predictable, cars will drive and park themselves, carbon emissions will be reduced as electric vehicles replace current models; and houses will be energy-efficient, with self-cleaning carbon-neutral buildings tapping into an array of renewable energy sources and sending power back to the smart grid.

Smart cities will be green cities with e-generators routing power efficiently in response to demand “allowing real-time interactive exchange of information with customers and reducing carbon emissions by 27%”, tele- and video-conferencing replacing business travel and electrical appliances automatically switching off in response to demand. Smart healthcare and home automation will offer higher quality health care and enable elderly people to stay at home; smart governance will reduce costs whilst increasing safety and efficiency.

The limits of smart applications are the limits of our imaginations with personal health applications fixed to clothes or beneath the skin sending back constant streams of data to medical centres and providing for real-time alerts or diagnoses; biometric identity devices, always-on mobile access to social networks, and people-to-object digital connections. Smart education will empower the educationally disenfranchised through e-learning and m-education; devices and services targeted at the elderly and disabled will increase inclusion.

Turning even the digital dreams of today into reality, not just in the privileged developed world but also in the developing world. Ubiquitous, universal broadband access can be achieved in a number of ways: through spectrum management to free up this ever scarcer resource in an increasingly data- and video-hungry mobile world, or the creation of a new investment model based on infrastructure-sharing; or next-generation wireless technologies. The early collaboration of all stakeholders, from industry, government, regulators, urban planners, research companies and civic society alike is vital.

The city is essentially a form of cooperation, we can do nothing completely, but together we do, make and accomplish anything.


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