More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this percentage will reach 80% by 2050. But have you ever wondered what it takes for a city to work?
The last few decades have seen far-reaching social changes that have vastly increased the number of people living and working in large cities, some of which now have as many if not more inhabitants than some countries. This is how the word ‘citizen’ has gradually acquired greater significance and perhaps come to mean something more similar to what used to be commonly referred to as a ‘city dweller’. Today, half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Large cities such as Tokyo (Japan), with nearly 40 million inhabitants, or Canton (China), which has 33 million citizens, are examples of how cities require very careful management given their large populations and the potential for these populations to grow. Let’s see what has to happen for a city to work.
There are 500 cities in the world with more than one million inhabitants, 70 of them with over five million, 50 with over 10 million, and two of them with a population in excess of 30 million. Isn’t it amazing to think how much technological and human infrastructure is needed to manage these huge cities? But if these major cities are significant, so are smaller cities and large towns, which vastly increases the number of urban population centres in the world, making it very difficult to quantify them.
It is here that we should stop and ask a question: what makes a city work? In other words, how is a city managed technologically so that its services are as efficient as possible and that the average citizen has a more comfortable life?
Just like our bodies, cities have “brains”, which we call control centres. These centres receive the data transmitted by each and every one of the smart systems installed throughout cities (public transport, lighting, roads, pedestrian crossings, water supply, sanitation, etc.) and connect them in a consistent and logical way for us to use.
Data as a contribution to our mobility
These powerful brains are fed with millions of data (imagine what a city like Tokyo can generate, given that artificial and predictive intelligence is part of everyday life for its inhabitants) and they process them to provide us with useful information as and when we need it in our day-to-day lives. Whether it be a public transport timetable, updated in real time according to any incidents that may occur, or the number of public bicycles available for hire, our daily transit through the city is optimised by these control centres.
Three concepts to make a city work: connectivity, security and sustainability
The more cities and citizens there are, the more problems there are to manage. This simple fact is what underlies the three core concepts that help us resolve the problems facing the cities of today and tomorrow:
The concept of connectivity is the most logical. A city should be connected in every sense, whether in terms of mobility, providing its inhabitants with efficient transport services wherever they may be, or of data and information, ensuring that the different critical points offer sufficient data to the control centres. After all, management experts need data and information to make decisions, something that the predictive software solutions of companies like Ikusi, specialists in integration, engineering and technological development services, provide us for our convenience and safety.
Behind everything visible is a part of us that, fortunately, we hardly ever see. This concept is none other than that of security, the one that allows us to travel and move around without worrying unduly about any kind of unpleasant situation. The control centres handle data that interconnect airports, road traffic, train stations, underground stations, trams, hot spots… All this means that if there is a security incident, the public safety services will be alerted immediately, giving us peace of mind at all times.
Just as important if not more so is cybersecurity, which must act as guarantor of critical urban infrastructures, preventing any kind of cyberattack on the systems that control traffic, public transport, electricity and water supply, urban waste management, etc.
Last but by no means least is the concept of sustainability. Cities are responsible for most of the pollution and environmental harm in the world. This is why smart cities have to be designed with sustainability in mind: prioritising sustainable public transport, the coexistence of e-vehicles and their charging stations with bicycles, proper management of urban waste, minimising the environmental impact of buildings and adapting the electrical grid to a smart grid capable of integrating renewable energies.
These are the main challenges a city needs to meet in order to function properly. Much depends on how we behave. Do you accept the challenge?