Watch any movie set in a future that’s not a post-apocalyptic wasteland and you’ll notice the amazing technology that is supposed to be waiting for us in just a few years. From flying cars to transporters and holographic interfaces to humanoid robots, the future looks to be amazing. But what if I told you the future is already here.
The rise of the smart city is pushing us by leaps and bounds into the future. Over the past few years, city governments all over the world have begun to use smart phone apps and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor and track data throughout the urban landscape. And city officials are using that information and new technologies to change the way we live.
First, let’s talk about a smart city’s infrastructure. Using IoT technology and an unprecedented amount of real-time data, city management and utility companies can monitor water and air conditions, electrical distribution and emerging traffic patterns and actually do something about it as soon as it happens. Think about how this could benefit cities and their citizens. Water and air monitoring could have prevented deadly catastrophes like the Flint Water Crisis and London’s Great Smog of 1952, while a better electrical grid monitoring system could have prevented the Northeast Blackout of 2003. And live traffic monitoring allows traffic lights to adjust their cycle lengths to allow more congested traffic to flow through intersections easier.
A smart city also means a city where its citizens have easier access to civil services. A perfect example of this is the Smart Dubai initiative where the government has created an app called Dubai Now that gives citizens access to more than 50 smart services from 22 government agencies, allowing app users to pay citations, utility bills and vehicle registration. Plus, smart cities allow citizens to take an active part in maintaining their municipality with programs like Adopt-a-Hydrant by Code for America. The map-based app allows people, small businesses and community groups to make sure fire hydrants are shoveled out of snow drifts in the city of Boston so firefighting services never have to hunt to find water during an emergency.
A Safer Commute
While it’s not quite mainstream yet, driverless cars are coming. When they get here, they will provide a safer commute with much less traffic. Interactions between automated cars will prevent accidents and allow for a smoother flow and transition of automobiles through traffic. This will reduce the number of auto accident fatalities (almost 23,000 in the U.S. in 2012) and give the riders a quicker and less stressful commute while allowing them to catch up on work, video chat with a friend, read a book or watch their favorite show. Plus it will help save almost $99 billion that is spent annually on automobile accidents, medical fees, emergency services and cleanup.
By embracing IoT technology and data analytics, the connected cities of today are quickly becoming the smart cities of tomorrow, saving us money, keeping us safe and getting us involved.