Smart Cities

As citizens’ awareness heightens, cities start responding to changing needs

The cities of tomorrow

A smart city is a municipality of any size that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and its citizens’ welfare.

The idea is that using technology can make cities ‘’smarter’’ and result in improvements in the lives of their residents. Speaking of residents, they are becoming increasingly aware of global trends and concerned with the quality of the air they breathe, the soil their food grows in, and many other parts of the ecosystem that surrounds them. Today’s youth are highly aware of climate change and feel responsible for reversing its effects and ensuring governments and municipalities worldwide adopt planet-sustaining policies going forward.

What makes cities smart?

We said that one way of making cities better is by using new technology to solve problems in creative ways. How are municipal administrations utilising technology to enable lasting change?

In 2015, in a first-of-its-kind initiative, Belgian bank Belfius and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced a joint programme aimed at boosting smart city development in Belgium.  In the three years since the program induction, 200+ city projects around Belgium have been able to take advantage of the support offered as part of the initiative, along with various favourable conditions in exchange for developing smart and sustainable city services. The qualification criteria for participating projects include environmental sustainability, climate change friendliness, improvements in air quality, and more.

So, what is some of the most promising tech that is certain to improve life quality and reverse the effects of global warming? We take a look at five promising alternatives below.

Windfarms

Cities around the world have already begun harvesting green energy by building wind farms in areas with high levels of air current. Wind farms require significant investment up front, which isn’t within every city’s budget but turbines do pay off in more than one way, and are certain to leave no negative footprint on the environment – the type of green technology we all need to happily budget for.

Car sharing

Despite being banned and challenged by governments and municipalities, car sharing services like Uber, Lyft or Grab and car borrowing services like ZipCar, Car2Go, or DriveNow continue to thrive around the world. Although these services are now, for the most part, government-regulated, the principles of sharing resources and reducing one’s carbon footprint are more valid than ever. As re-urbanisation continues to take place globally, not owning a car is a prevalent trend in people under 40, and having access to one only when you need it simply makes sense.

The same applies to bike sharing and bike rental services, which also do well in bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Munich or Brussels. Villo!, Velib, ByCyklen, and Obike are all examples of successful bike-sharing services that save busy city residents time and money, while keeping the air clean.

Smart houses

More architects, builders and private homeowners are beginning to put fuel and resource consumption first when it comes to designing and building new dwellings. Just like windfarms, building self-sustaining, economical houses and apartments requires upfront investments as existing infrastructure wasn’t built to support alternative means of electric supply, heating, plumbing and sewage systems. Circumventing the grid requires ingenuity, creativity and a knack for problem-solving.

Solar panels, self-heating solar tanks, composting systems are some examples of the way technology can make homes more self-sustaining and resource-saving. Through IoT devices and sensors, future-minded home automation systems monitor and control every aspect of the smart home, including lighting, temperature, appliances, home security and alarms.

Biomass fuels

A promising new type of renewable fuel is biomass. It is basically made of waste, including but not limited to household trash, municipal solid waste, wood, animal waste (manure) and perished crops. Burning these materials in special boilers releases chemical energy in the form of heat, which can be used to power systems and plants traditionally powered by burning coals – which is both polluting to the environment and highly unsustainable.

The energy produced by burning biomass is considered renewable, because there will always be more waste we can use for this purpose. Unlike wind farming or solar energy, the supply of biomass is predictable and can thus meet energy demands without disruption, which also makes it reliable.

Energy stations

Have you ever tried to park in what seems to be a too-good-to-be-true parking spot right in front of the office or shopping centre entrance in a completely packed lot, only to find out it’s reserved for electric vehicles? Welcome to the world of tomorrow – when all vehicles will be green, their emissions – close to zero, and electric charging stations – completely free. Okay, they probably won’t be free forever but many of them still are, so do take advantage of the free go-power while it lasts.

Forward-thinking states like Norway are already committed to significantly reducing the number of non-electric vehicles on their roads by 2020, by introducing taxes that render gasoline-powered vehicles too expensive to own and drive. Cars with higher emissions are already banned in the inner rings of many European cities, including those in Germany.

Which futuristic smart city invention is the one you’re most likely to take advantage of? Let us know @PegusApps

Copywriter: Ina Danova

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