The Future Smart City - How could this look?
It is hard not to imagine a dystopian vision of the city when we think about how technology will affect our cities but of course technology has the power to make incredibly positive changes to our cities. Technology can make urban life more enjoyable, more sustainable, safer and healthier.
One only has to visit a city like Copenhagen to see how bicycles can really help to transform a city. The Danes cycle in sunshine and rain, in families and alone. Bicycles may be a primitive technology, relative to new transport developments, but the age old bike provides a healthy, enjoyable and pragmatic mode of transport. It’s great for the environment, great for our health and takes up a lot less space than motor vehicles.
It leaves plenty more space in our cities for recreational and pedestrian friendly activities and provides a lot more surface for planting, which is good for the environment in terms of carbon dioxide absorption, stormwater management, local temperature management, biodiversity and the visual feel good effect.
While we do of course see value in the use of electric and automated vehicles, which will soon replace petrol vehicles, we believe that the primary mode of transport in the urban centres for most towns and cities should still be the bike. New technology therefore can focus on assisting bike travel. Electric motors can already be purchased for ‘hilly’ cities. We imagine that mini-drones may be used for individual users to provide shelter in rain.
In what was originally just a network of elements providing street lighting, this network can be enhanced with a network of signal towers that provide light and digital information. They can utilise emotional recognition technology to tell when people are in distress and either alert help if needed or disperse emotional calming technology, such as aromatherapy scents, music or other still to be developed technology to calm down aggressive behaviour as needed.
Bringing together improved urban design and technological advancements, future smart cities offer plenty of fun too and we all know that keeping people occupied, particularly our youth, can help deter them away from getting into trouble. Offering physical ‘gaming’ Largely cleared of cars in built up urban areas, streetscapes can become a playground of Augmented Reality enhanced games providing entertainment, learning opportunities, physical exercise and social interaction.
Driverless vehicles provide almost limitless possibilities. While we believe they shouldn’t be the primary mode of transport in cities due to the congestion issues they will continue to cause comparative to non-automated cars, they can still provide lots of interesting opportunities such as transportable work spaces, urban kitchens, maker spaces, teaching spaces, accommodation and so on.
We imagine that these pods could also help with creating diversity across the city, allowing people from different parts of the city to temporarily work or live in other parts of the city. It could be on a volunteer basis in the lower social economic areas or also on a social algorithm basis.