The smart infrastructure that will save us from our dumb cities | WIRED UK
In cities around the world, streetlights are monitoring traffic flow to alleviate congestion, sensors are guiding drivers to empty parking spaces and football pitches are being illuminated by floodlights powered using kinetic energy created by the players’ footsteps.
Together, these technologies have the power to shape the nature of our built environments. But how smart are they as standalone innovations? Arguably, not very. A truly smart city thrives on connectivity. Piecemeal solutions won't deliver city-wide intelligent networks, but if they're embedded into the existing urban infrastructure, it's a different story. A drone is a drone. A fleet of drones flying between ports on otherwise redundant building rooftops is an airborne delivery service.
“When building new transport corridors in cities now, we should be thinking about what may replace present day technology in the future,” says James Stewart, KPMG’s global infrastructure chairman. “When designing and developing new high-speed train lines, we should also be thinking about how we would use the same land and space to also accommodate a hyperloop line or maybe a drone corridor.”
The problem is that urban planning systems the world over are often complex and bureaucratic. Introducing the strategies required to rethink infrastructures with future technology advances in mind is unlikely to prove less challenging. For companies looking to implement technology in high density areas, this is becoming a growing source of frustration. “We need smart buildings and smart cities to install the right charging facilities in space constrained metropolises,” says Tesla co-founder JB Straubel. “We need smart infrastructures.”
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