WASHINGTON, DC—It is not news that the urban sphere is becoming ever important. But more than that, urbanization—just like globalization—has become a fundamental process defining the human experience in the 21st century as never before.
Cities currently house over 50% of the world’s population and generate 80% of the world’s GDP. The UN estimates that continuing urbanization and population growth will add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, with nearly 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. By 2035, the demand for energy will increase by 33%. And by 2050, demand for water and energy will increase by 55%. As people migrate to cities, existing infrastructure will need to be improved or we will face significant shortages.
In this Spring edition of Diplomatic Courier, we wondered what makes cities smart and what makes them global. For the answer on the first, we looked for inspiration in pop culture: how did films imagine future cities? It appears the world of film has made some great predictions in the fields of transportation, language, city planning, energy solutions, and more.
We also delved deeply into the 2018 edition of the Future Today Institute’s annual emerging tech trends report. According to the report, in 2016 78 cities applied for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Smart City” challenge, which would award the winner $40 million in federal grant money to upgrade their urban transit systems. DoT selected Columbus, Ohio, as the winner for its proposal to deploy self-driving electric shuttles, launch smart cards to provide free car-sharing services, and develop a connected traffic light system to reduce traffic jams throughout the city. And in Australia, the City of Melbourne has launched a Smart City Office, which includes open data projects, a 24-hour pedestrian counting system and city-wide free public Wi-Fi.
Public-private partnerships, affordable technology, long-term urban and budget planning, and equal access to all citizens are just a few things that make cities smart. And it should come as no surprise to our readers that the world’s smartest cities in 2018 include Dubai, Boston, Berlin, Doha, Zurich, Hong Kong, New York, Seoul, Osaka, San Francisco, and Vancouver. After all, these are also global cities—according to AT Kearney, they firm that ranks them.
What will the smart, connected, global city of the future look like? We can write our own script, say the authors of our lead feature. With big data, ubiquitous sensors, computer intelligence, and transportation technology (autonomous cars, flying cars, Hyperloop, etc.) we can imagine central systems that are far more efficient and offer far greater performance than the ones around today.
The implications of exponential technologies on cities is vast, and in our lifetimes, we will see exciting developments that blur the lines between science fiction and reality.