Over the past 60 years, global urbanisation has vastly accelerated, due to increased urban births as well as movement of people from rural to urban areas. This acceleration is only going to continue, and it has been estimated that by 2050, 66% of the world population will be living in cities.
Currently, approximately 70% of our resources are being utilised by cities, however this figure will only grow alongside global urbanisation. With this in mind, governments are developing ‘smart cities’ with the aim of improving the quality of city life and global sustainability.
There have been many attempts to define a ‘smart city’. One of the most concise comes from Jo Arne Lindstad – Global Head of Smart & Sustainable Cities for Ericsson – who believes “the smart city is about using ICT to deliver improved services and solve social, economic and environmental challenges.” Key examples of this are cities such as London, Abu Dhabi and Stockholm, who implement a range of services improving overall quality of city life, such as:
For congested cities such as these, the benefits of traffic-related ‘smart’ systems alone are extensive, both in terms of citizen experience and environmental impact.
One of the primary concerns surrounding smart cities is the huge cost required to build them; some experts have estimated a total investment of $41 trillion over the next 20 years by cities around the world into smart infrastructures. Whilst this figure is astronomical, the long-term return on investment is sure to dwarf this, not to mention the vast environmental benefits this will bring.
Another serious concern when dealing with ‘smart’ technologies is the threat of hackers. There have been many debates around this topic, however there are also multiple organisations working to ensure the security of smart cities; for example Securing Smart Cities is a not-for-profit global initiative with a mission to “help the world build smart cities with cybersecurity in mind.”
One final concern is the lack of skilled workers available to help plan and enact the construction of smart cities. Whilst there has been a global effort to encourage educational establishments to implement courses relevant to smart rural development, this initiative needs to be further pursued.