How ‘smart’ cities will change the world

Urban sprawl: By 2050 it is predicted that 75% of the world’s population will live in cities.

Should we be excited about the future of cities? In 2050 the modern metropolis could be made of micro-homes, sensors, and cyber infrastructure. Here are five ways our cities may change…

1/ Big data = cyber cities. The "internet of things" is coming. This could turn ordinary objects like dustbins and signposts into mini computers logging our every move. All this data may ease traffic and help authorities respond to disasters.

2/ The rise of “smart” infrastructure. Street lights will react to their surroundings. Rubbish collections will be replaced by pneumatic tubes that suck trash away. And raised cycle highways will let cyclists ride above roads. According to Wired, all this already exists in some cities.

3/ Neighbourhoods of micro-homes. In the UK the proportion of 25-year-olds who own their own homes has halved since 1996. Rising demand could make houses even more expensive. The solution? Supply cheaper "micro-homes" close to city centres. Kasita, a housing company, is creating a house that is just 350 square feet.

4/ Big-brother style advertising. Just imagine: you rush out of your micro-house, having no time for breakfast. Your belly rumbles as a message flashes on a screen above you: your favourite breakfast is half-price in a shop around the corner. Facial recognition could make this a reality.

5/ Cities floating on the ocean. "Seasteading" is the concept of building cities on platforms on the ocean. Author Joe Quirk claims that floating cities could "enrich the poor, [and] cure the sick."

Would you like to live in these kinds of cities?

Building the future

“This all sounds quite scary,” say some. Facial recognition and sensors could be used for surveillance — ending privacy. We should build more affordable homes, not squeeze citizens into ever smaller boxes.

“Lives will transform for the better,” reply others. Sensors will make our lives more efficient. And smaller homes will make us ditch meaningless clutter, and focus on what is important.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to live in a micro-home?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you are an architect and have been tasked with designing a futuristic skyscraper. Draw out your design and label the special features it has. Try to make your building as distinctive, unique, and exciting as possible.

Some People Say...

“The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”

Desmond Morris

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
In 2015 the UK government allocated £40m to research involving the internet of things. And in 2014 a Pew Research study found that 83% of technology experts believed that it will have wide and beneficial effects by 2025.
What do we not know?
We do not know exactly how advanced personalised advertising will become, and how one screen will be able to target multiple people at once.

Word Watch

Internet of things
Connecting everyday objects to the internet by embedding them with computer devices. This allows them to send and receive data.
Already exists
Smart streetlights illuminate the sidewalks of Los Angeles. Mecca in Saudi Arabia deals with its rubbish with pneumatic tubes. And cyclists in Holland use the Hovenring to bypass a busy intersection.
Halved
According to a report from December 2016 by the Local Government Association (LGA).

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