Big cities need to be smarter.

The cities we live in are about to be transformed. More than half of us live in urban areas. By 2050, the population of the world’s cities will increase by roughly seven billion – the size of today’s global population.

Take London. In February 2015, the population was about 8.6 million and, according to the mayor’s office, it will reach nine million before New York City does.

This growth means cities have to evolve to keep up with the inevitable overcrowding, climate change, traffic gridlocks and housing crises.

The solution: using digital technology to plan, operate and develop our urban sprawls. In 2016, countries ranging from South Korea to Saudi Arabia will experiment with “smartifying’’ their cities: some will be born digital, such as Songdo in South Korea, while others, including Amsterdam, will be updated road by road, with intelligent infrastructure.

Singapore is testing the most advanced inventions, from self-driving cars to city-wide flood sensors. In the UK, Crossrail will be a digital railway, and innovative local data projects such as Bath: Hacked are using open data to track areas of local deprivation, find a parking space or rent a bicycle in town, and report on air quality.

In China and India, almost 300 smart-city pilots are planned, and Arup predicts a global market for smart-city technologies and services worth $408bn by 2020. David Cameron recently announced a five-year, £10m partnership with the Indian government to develop three smart cities: Amravati, Indore and Pune.

Technology will not be the answer to everything, but it must be part of the answer

Currently, 80pc of the world’s megacities – those with a population of more than 10 million – are in the South: Asia, Africa and South America. These cities don’t necessarily have the infrastructure for high-powered sensors and complex control systems.

A lab led by Professor Gerhard Schmitt at ETH Zurich, Switzerland’s premier technical university, has projects running in 20 of these cities, including Addis Ababa, Lagos and Jakarta, working on projects such as digital energy grids.

As Ed Vaizey, the digital economy minister, told the Telegraph’s Britain’s Smart Cities conference in October, “If we, and our children, and their children, are to live well and prosperously, we have to get cities right. Technology will not be the answer to everything, but it must be part of the answer.”

This article was posted on http://www.telegraph.co.uk on 4th Jan 16, written by Madhumita Murgia – Telegraph head of technology. Amongst the many sharing possibilities provided by the newspaper, WordPress is unfortunately not listed.

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