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Disruptive Technology: Welcome To The City Of The Future

Welcome to the city of the future. In today's’ tour we look at what city life will be like in a connected world. Which disruptive technologies will have the biggest role in improving peoples’ lives and what barriers we’re facing before they can be adopted on a mass scale. From infrastructure to transport to agriculture, here’s what to expect in the connected city of the future.


Connected City of the Future

The city of the future is divided into separate districts which all play a role in making the city sustainable. From landing at the airport to being greeted by robots and travelling via driverless cars to the housing, agriculture and energy districts.

Welcome to the city of the future.

Robots & Artificial Intelligence

Arriving at the city of the future:

You’ll probably be greeted by a robot who can speak hundreds of different languages, direct you around the airport, recommend places to stay and even tell you how busy the roads are. These robots can hold conversations, provide information and even understand intent to make interacting with the robots that much more intuitive.

How will technology make it possible?

The technology behind robots varies dramatically; Microbots offer the potential to explore areas too small for humans and machines. Intelligence robots can access data, serve information and hold conversations. While Exoskeletons can support physical movement for those with physical disabilities and impairments.

Barriers the technology is facing:

Aside from the costs and skills required to mass produce robotic technology, it’s the public concern that’s worrying most companies. Reduced employment, skills and responsibility are all concerns as well as tackling sensitive topics and the threat of robots being hacked or used in unethical ways.

Robots & AI in the cities of today:

With Japan set to host the Olympics in 2020, robot prototypes in Tokyo have been designed alongside the government’s vision for the Olympic games: Service robots greeting guests in different languages, smart wheelchairs meeting Olympians at the airport and robot taxis driving visitors all around the city.

Robotic Technology

Connectivity & Infrastructure

Communicating with the city of the future

As you look out the window of the autonomous vehicle you’re travelling in, you’ll notice that everything seems to be running smoothly. There are no car horns blaring, and no huge traffic jams on the roads. A pretty unlikely sight to see in the city right?

How will technology make it possible?

This seamless flow of traffic is partly made possible by sensors, placed all around the city, whether that be on traffic lights, beneath the roads, or on the pavements. Measuring everything from wear and tear to CO2 levels in the air, these sensors are the backbone of the connected city. By communicating through a rapid and secure network, the sensors can detect anomalies and relay information to the rest of the city, which will respond accordingly.

Barriers the technology is facing:

There are numerous challenges that arise with this concept. Firstly, fitting a large range of different sensors around the city would be a huge task. Once they have all been placed though, they need to be able to communicate with each other across the whole city. Not only does this mean that the network they will ‘talk’ through has to be extremely fast and invulnerable to interferences, but it also needs to be impenetrable so that hackers cannot tamper with the data.

Smart lighting in the cities of today:

Chicago’s future is looking brighter, thanks to a huge project to switch from inefficient High-Pressure Sodium lighting technology to LED lights across the whole city. Not only will the lifespan of the lights be greater and the energy consumption reduced by half, but the program also features a wireless lighting management system to detect outages in real time so that maintenance teams can respond much faster.

Sustainable City

Transportation & Autonomous Vehicles

Traversing the city of the future

Getting around the city will involve a self-driving car. Think voice assistant meets sat-nav meets taxi driver, just let your car know where you want to go and which radio station or TV show you’d like on and let the car do the rest. With additional safety, efficiency and convenience, driverless cars will become a common sight around the city.

How will technology make it possible?

With significant progress made in computer vision and computer learning, we are getting closer than ever to mastering the technology needed to make autonomous vehicles available to the public. Not only would this make our roads safer as all autonomous means of transport could communicate and synchronise with each other’s movements, reducing emissions by streamlining the way that we move around, but it would also make our commutes to work a lot less stressful. Just get in and let your vehicle do the rest.

Barriers the technology is facing:

A major issue that the technology is facing are the rules of the road; to teach systems things like where speed limits change and which signs mean what, there’s an unimaginable amount of data which various cities would have to provide, and more than likely don’t already have.

Self-driving cars in. the cities of today:

With the opening of Uber Advanced Technology Centre, a fleet of 20 self-driving Uber cars were designed and tested in Arizona. The cars themselves included lasers, cameras and radars with the end goal of reducing the cost for riders and increasing the wages for drivers.

Autonomous Vehicles and Self-Driving Cars

Renewables & The Energy District

Powering the city of future

It comes as a given that the city of the future would be powered by renewable energy, given that cities account for 65% of global energy use and 70% of man-made carbon emissions. So expect to see solar or wind farms surrounding the city, as well as solar panels on roofs to power residences. Buildings would be optimised to make the most efficient use out of the energy they receive, ensuring that there is no wastage by distributing it around the city if they are getting more energy than they need.

How will technology make it possible?

Thanks to the increasing concerns over our environment, we have made significant progress in the realm of renewable energy, especially solar. The challenge here isn’t to invent the technology but to make it extremely cheap, quick and accessible to build at large scale. Furthermore, complex grids will need to be put in place to optimise the distribution of the energy being produced so that the whole city can benefit from it rather than having to rely on another external source of power.

Barriers the technology is facing:

There is some resistance that has come in the form of big oil and coal corporations, who have no financial interest in seeing new sources of energy that would replace their own, which has slowed down the progress that the renewable energy sector is experiencing. However, the other issue is finding where to build these massive solar or wind farms, as they require a lot of space, which is a problem that we can hopefully solve as the technology becomes more advanced and efficient.

Renewable energy in the cities of today:

Barcelona has been pioneering the renewable energy movement since 1999. That year saw the implementation of a bylaw stating that new and retrofitted buildings had to cover at least 60% of their hot water needs with solar energy. By the end of 2012, 90,000 square metres of solar panels had been installed, and that figure has only risen since. Additionally, the city uses the residual heat from a nearby incineration plant and biomass from the waste of the city’s public parks to reduce emissions. The goal for Barcelona is to be 100% energy independent by 2050, and at this rate, it looks like it’s going to be 100% powered by renewable energies too.

Solar Panels and sustainability

Agriculture & Synthetic Food

Feeding the city of the future

The agriculture district is full of bio-domes which house a variety of plant life and species, with different climates and environments that allow these plants to grow in areas they wouldn’t otherwise. Expect to see other plantations growing synthetic foods, a more ethical alternative which causes less damage to our environment.

How will the technology make it possible?

Sensors, drones and smart irrigation systems. While these will be great for reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment, the best approach is localised agriculture, wherein each city would feed itself thanks to its own production of food. How? By using bio-domes to create artificial conditions so that different foods can thrive, meaning that no matter the city’s climate, it could rely on these bio-domes to grow the crops and foods it needs to feed its inhabitants.

Barriers the technology facing?

As you can imagine, these solutions come with their fair share of drawbacks. Synthetic foods, for example, are still very expensive to make, costing thousands of dollars for a single pound of meat. We still need to find a way to grow lab meat affordably and at a large scale before it can become a realistic solution. As for the bio-domes, if they were capable of providing each city with the food it needed for the population, this might have significant economic consequences for smaller nations that rely heavily on agricultural exports, potentially increasing the gap between richer and poorer countries.

Bio-domes in the cities of today:

Project Eden in Cornwall is a futuristic looking park consisting of various bio-domes, featuring different micro-climates to allow for various flora and fauna to thrive. The aim is to explore different sustainable technologies as well as educate visitors on the importance of a healthy ecosystem and what it can bring us. 

Sustainable Agriculture

We’ve only briefly explored the different elements and innovations of the city of the future, but these are the main ways we believe technology will disrupt the way we do things.

The challenge disruptive technology faces before replaces existing tech?

It can’t just be better; it has to be far superior. This means that the tech needs to solve a problem whilst having the costs/resources to make mass-production a viable option. In order to replace existing technology, value must be added to the public, the manufacturers, the distributors etc. There are a lot of hoops to jump through before disruptive technology is adopted at a city-wide scale.

Infrastructure, transport, energy, agriculture – do your predictions differ? How else do you think disruptive technology can be used for good, what barriers are we facing and how can we best utilise this technology to improve our lives? Holla @3SIDEDCUBE.

Innovation Time:

Check out a few of our Innovation Time projects where members of the team have a week to work on personal projects of their choosing. We’ve dabbled in AI, AR, computer vision, geofencing, chained crowdsourcing and a bunch of other tech that’ll be used in the city of the future.

SIMI: The object recognition app for the visually impaired.

Artificial Intelligence: Building a watermelon chatbot.

Data Visualisation: Using chained crowdsourcing to pinpoint natural disasters.

Published on July 19, 2018, last updated on March 2, 2020

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