Urbanizing Our Way to Smarter Cities

Urbanizing Our Way to Smarter Cities

Previously we covered the future of smarter homes through automation and IoT. But on a larger scale, another topic comes to mind: smart cities. With increasing levels of urbanization and influx of people moving to urban areas, the concept of smart cities has become prevalent, with some cities becoming models of what these smart cities will look like in the future.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas and projection rates of urbanization are increasing at a steady rate. With this trend, urban development policies have shifted towards a more data and technology-driven approach to address the increasing needs of urban areas. Many urban areas are unable to properly address the rising concerns of things such as waste management, food security, transportation, public services, environmental friendly practices, health services and more. By integrating information and communication technology (ICT) as well as internet of things (IoT), the concept of smart cities is paving the way for how cities around the world can become more efficient, sustainable and inclusive.

So how would this all work? The basic idea of smart cities is that by merging ICT and IoT together, the quality of life will improve because real-life monitoring and predictive analytics will be able to anticipate potential inefficiencies in various aspects of urban city life. These smart cities will be able to overall improve city operations by regulating traffic, transportation, telecommunications, range of services provided to civilians and more. Sensors would be strategically placed to transmit and gather information, and big-time data would be used to point out flaws and help city officials remedy those flaws. The hope is that gathering this information will provide insight on potential urbanization solutions that will lower costs, protect the environment, provide essential services to civilians, reduce carbon footprint and improve traffic conditions to name a few. The other primary benefit of smart cities is that city officials would have a better way to communicate with civilians about the issues the civilians are running into. This in turn would also create more accountability on the civilians to be more proactive in civic participation, improving the quality of life in urban areas not only for themselves, but for other civilians as well.

There are already various cities around the world adapting to the smart city concept. Although smart cities aren't as developed as we expect, these cities have become models of what cities can potentially look like with smart city upgrades. Most cities on this list have already implemented policies such as smart cards, reduced carbon emission, smart streetlights, air quality monitoring sensors and etc. Below are some examples of cities currently working towards a smart city system:

  • Barcelona
  • Singapore
  • London
  • Amsterdam
  • Tokyo
  • In theory and on paper, the concept of smart cities is very appealing and seems to pose a great deal of benefits for urban development because they are designed to be more eco-friendly, accessible, sustainable and profitable. However, one of the primary concerns we need to take into consideration is privacy. City officials could put privacy policies in place where the cities vow to protect individual privacy, but how protected would our privacy actually be? If we lived in a space where information is constantly being passed around and used, privacy is something we could lack, and the feeling of constant "policing" could make civilians feel uneasy. Another potential problem could be to get people on board with the whole smart city concept and the likelihood of everyone adopting the smart city lifestyle. One of the main purposes of smart cities is to get civilians to be more proactive in civic life. If some civilians are pushing against the idea of smart cities, then it defeats that specific purpose. In the end, it makes us wonder, will the biggest obstacle be to overcome the current challenges of urbanization, or to get everyone to accept and adopt smart cities as the future of technology and well, our lives?

    What do you guys think about smart cities? Be sure to share with us your opinions about smart cities either on social media or in the comments!


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