Today we have smartphones, smart TVs and, before long, smart cities. Take a look at different countries, and you’ll notice these cities growing all over the world. Why are these hi-tech, interconnected urban areas becoming so popular, and what’s next for them?
Other “smart” technologies, like phones and home appliances, became popular for their convenience or versatility. The rise of connected cities tells a similar story, but it goes deeper than that. Like many technological advancements, these hi-tech urban areas come mostly out of need. To understand why the cities of the future look this way, you need to know the shortcomings of today’s metropolises.
More people are moving into cities than ever before in human history. Experts predict that 70% of the population will live in cities by 2050, compared to roughly half right now. If you’ve ever lived in a large urban area, you’ll know why that could be a problem without changes.
When an area becomes crowded, everyday activities can turn into hassles. For example, your daily commute can be stressful in the face of slow-moving traffic. Without making some changes to how they function, cities’ growth could mean a lower quality of life.
This trend towards urbanisation could increase environmental concerns, too. Cities generate more than 70% of the world’s carbon emissions, and with more people, this would only increase the need to take advantage of technology and step into the future to combat potential issues.
Benefits of Smart Cities
Transitioning into smart cities may be the solution to all of these growing problems. Establishing internet-connected infrastructure throughout an area won’t give it more room, but it will make things flow more smoothly. When all aspects of the city can communicate, it creates a more cohesive, functional environment.
Consider the example of traffic again, but this time imagine the roads use a network of connected technologies. Stoplights could analyze real-time data about congestion and change to help alleviate traffic jams. Public transport could use the same data to adjust their routes, getting people to their destinations sooner.
The advantages of smart home technologies can translate into a city-wide scale. Gadgets like smart lights automatically adjust to save energy, and cities can use this technology, too. Street lights and other utilities could measure their energy output and work to use less on their own.
Europe’s Current Connected Cities
These ideas aren’t just speculations about what the future might look like. You can find examples of smart cities throughout Europe more than anywhere else in the world, partly because the European Union is actively working to develop these areas with private partnerships.
One of the most famous examples of a connected European city is Amsterdam. Amsterdam has been implementing smart city technology for more than ten years now. One of their most noteworthy changes was sharing traffic data with private companies to reduce congestion.
Copenhagen is another leading example, and the results of its connected city campaign are already evident. The city has a remarkably small carbon footprint and hopes to be carbon-neutral by 2025, thanks to its smart grid. Other noteworthy cities becoming smarter include Vienna, Barcelona, Stockholm and London.
Smart Cities in the Future
While these areas are all making substantial strides, none of them are quite there yet. The smart city of the future will be one where nearly every aspect of the area is connected. Many European cities are close, but there’s still a ways to go.
In the next few years, current connected cities will become smarter, and new ones will emerge. The first areas to follow this trend are usually hubs of business like Berlin, Madrid and Dublin. As the business culture in these areas thrives, smart technology will follow to sustain them.
Major cities will experience this shift first, followed by up-and-coming business centers and then smaller cities. Since some experts predict smart city spending to reach €120 billion by 2021, this transition could happen sooner than you’d think. A focused, combined effort from both governments and corporations will need to take place first, though.
The Future of European Cities
Europe is already leading the world in the development of connected cities. As issues like sustainability and overcrowding become more prominent, this movement will only gain steam. As the world moves towards this goal in the next few years, all eyes may fall on European cities. If these trends continue on their current path, nearly all major European cities could be smart within ten years. Given the benefits they bring and the world’s current needs, connected cities are all but inevitable. It’s no longer a question of “if,” but one of “when.”
Written by Megan Ray Nichols