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Today’s cities teeming with populations well into the millions are a mere foreshadowing of tomorrow's urban areas—and the challenges they will face.
Currently at more than 7 billion, the global population will swell to 8 billion by 2024 and then, 18 years later, will hit 9 billion. Most of the growth will take place in cities. The 3.5 billion urban denizens at present will nearly double during the next 30 to 40 years. By that time, the number of metropolitan dwellers will rise to make up more than 70 percent of the planet’s population.
Such massive growth will present serious challenges in the delivery of sufficient water, food, energy, communications and transportation. These services must be robust enough to attract educated high-income workers who can help support the tax base necessary to provide the essentials to everyone.
Cities also face the challenge of attaining increased energy efficiency and decreased carbon emissions to help battle global climate change.
To be ready for the future, cities will need technology that can automate their operations far more efficiently than is possible today. Whether picking up trash, turning off unnecessary lights, or better managing vehicle traffic, cities will have to become "smart" to be as efficient as possible.
Wireless sensors will collect data that can help lower service delivery costs, improve planning and increase efficiency. An example might be using sensors to activate traffic lights when they are needed, or providing alternate routes to drivers facing long delays at intersections.
But technology alone doesn’t make a city smart. Governments must intelligently plan for expansion, formulate tax policies that attract and retain business and adequately fund education.
Using the IHS definition, there are 24 smart cities in the world today. Each one incorporates information and communication technology in three of the five following areas: mobility and transportation; sustainability and energy; physical infrastructure; safety and security; and governance.

The next step is to move beyond smart cities to truly intelligent ones that can turn information into better decision making and operations. This will require attention from the public and private sectors on three areas.
First is by creating central repositories of information, rather than silos of data. Second, citizens need education to learn what data are collected and how their privacy and security are safeguarded. Third, smart cities must document their progress and return on investment.
Only by enabling integrated decision making, gaining trust and showing progress will smart city initiatives get the support they need to make the necessary changes for the future.
Lisa Arrowsmith is associate director of Connectivity, Smart Homes, and Smart Cities for IHS Technology

Posted December 5, 2014

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