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Cities are getting smarter, and in some pockets of the world, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are helping local authorities to develop innovative urban solutions that can bring multiple benefits to residents and the environment.

The more recent mainstream adoption of AI and IoT technology has enabled urban and city planners to develop innovative models that are helping reshape the way people live, work and move in cities.

Today, more than 4.4 billion, some 56% of the global population, live in cities, according to The World Bank. This figure is set to increase in the coming decades, at which point around seven in ten people will reside in urban areas by 2050.

Ongoing population growth in cities across the world has placed immense pressure on existing infrastructure, calling for authorities to take a more modern and technological approach to introduce innovative urban design solutions that can enhance how cities operate on a day-to-day basis.

Although AI and IoT services are readily spread throughout several industries, bringing these tools to the forefront of city planning will give urban developments more insightful data and forward-looking predictions.

Speaking on the topic is Gunangad Singh Maini, an expert in energy management and smart cities who has more than a decade’s worth of experience in strategic planning and project management.

Understanding future needs

According to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects report, Delhi, Shanghai, Dhaka, Kinshasa, Chongqing, Lahore, Lagos, Cairo, and Beijing are considered to be among the fastest growing cities globally – and the population is continuously growing.

Delhi, India, is expected to see an increase of more than 2.73% in the urban population in 2023, with more than 32 million residents residing within the city. Lagos, Nigeria, will have more than 15 million inhabitants by the end of the year, while cities such as Beijing will tip over to more than 24 million residents this year.

According to Maini, cities experiencing rapid expansion and growth due to technological innovation and economic needs will continue to see a sharp influx of new inhabitants in the coming years.

“Cities are above and beyond our general understanding. Today they offer people refuge, work, stability, and an improved quality of life. The more technology grows and develops, the faster people will leave rural regions to relocate to smart cities that can provide them with a better quality of life; this includes present and future generations,” Maini.

Understanding the needs of residents is perhaps the biggest task. Knowing where to build more housing, erect parks, where roads should go, how to divert traffic flows, water and energy needs, commercial space, and everything else becomes an enormous problem for future residents if current urban planners do not have access to the correct data.

Climate change and environmental tasks

We’ve already seen how technology can help us reduce our carbon footprint with innovations such as lightweight electric vehicles, cleaner biofuel, and more predictive models.

In city planning, AI and IoT technology will help authorities better understand how to analyze current pollution levels and predict the outcomes over the next couple of months or years. Using the available data will enable them to make more environmentally conscious decisions to help reduce the effect on the environment.

As cities grow, so will the demand for energy and water. As of 2021, a person consumes on average 20,993 kilowatt-hours per day, up from the recorded 12,965 kilowatt-hours of energy consumed per day in 1965.

“Unequivocally, we can no longer rely on fossil fuels to fulfill our energy demands. We need to take more actionable measures, and this involves designing cities that can solely rely on renewable energy sources,” Maini says. He goes on, “when we shift the way people consume and think about energy and introduce alternatives on a wider scale, such as in our cities, we start to slowly propagate how greener and more efficient energy sources can fulfill our daily consumption needs.”

Climate change has been a massive challenge for most cities worldwide, including many in developed parts of the world.

In more recent times, several countries have introduced more stringent regulations and policies that will make it harder for cities to run on fossil fuels and seek out more environmentally conscious alternatives.

Public transportation

Reliable and accessible public transportation is another requirement if cities look to become more environmentally neutral and provide public services to millions of residents daily.

Combining Artificial Intelligence in how people utilize public transportation, smart city planners will have a more profound analysis to determine future demand.

This not only helps increase the capacity public transportation systems can carry, but it builds a forward-looking model that can help reveal where a greater need for these services will be in the coming years.

Developers and town planners will be able to not only give residents more access to public transportation but it will help them see how they can build systems that do not disturb the natural environment or cut-off communities.

IoT will help systems operate without the need for human intervention, lowering the risk of potential errors.

Trains and subways can be monitored using deep machine learning to see where a greater need for future lines may be needed.

Bus routes can automatically be updated throughout the day as traffic flows increase and decrease.

Other services such as trams, trolleys, and metros will become more self-sufficient, helping to improve onboard security for passengers. Updated routes and maps can be automatically shared with passengers in advance via mobile apps and digital monitors at stations.

The way people move in and around a city can be more accurately mapped out. Planners can better determine where an increased need for public transportation may be, as opposed to other modes of transportation. Sidewalks can be more ergonomically designed, incorporating natural elements and providing enhanced space for cyclists and pedestrian traffic.

Accessibility is key, a challenge many cities have yet to overcome in recent years, even as they extend metro lines, build larger stations, and widen roads. Despite this ingenuity, AI and IoT will become more practical and accurate measurements for planners as population density increases.

Public safety

Multiple elements help to contribute to the overall safety of residents in urban developed areas.

Programs initiated by core groups such as the UN-Habitat have found that several key principles can help produce cleaner, safer, and more resident-centric environments.

Among these elements, the UN has identified; planning and unplanning of cities; management of streets and public spaces; proper governance, and supportive governments are among the facets that can help reduce crime in communities and help create a multi-dimensional approach to improve overall city safety.

Through the capabilities of Machine Learning (ML) and assistive AI, ground personnel will better understand where crime hotspots are located and how to manage complex emergencies.

This technology gives authorities more eyes and ears, especially in pockets of the city where this is limited. Developing native digital tools that can predict how accidents may occur or where potential risks may lie could mean that law enforcement agents have an expert understanding of where their assistance is needed and how to make relevant insights based on previous incident reports.

Maini comments on how public safety in many cities remains an ever-growing challenge, as it’s hard to comprehend the predictability of crime and emergency incidents.

“While some cities have used more traditional models to decrease crime rates, AI and ML concepts will help them have more accurate data that can pinpoint specific crimes they need to target. Instead of now using all their resources and human power to combat larger, more dangerous areas, technology helps them to determine a strategy that can potentially eliminate bigger threats,” he says.

Making cities safer requires a combination of human force and technology. AI and ML ingenuity can develop solutions based on the severity of situations but will leave the decision to the authorities.

With the right software tools, city planners and law enforcement agencies will have a broader approach to tackling separate problems, requiring less physical resources and relying more on analytical points to develop plausible solutions.

Final thoughts

The future of smart cities requires a partnership between human ingenuity and technology; without one or the other, it will become increasingly challenging for governments to meet population demand.

As cities grow and technology only becomes more advance, urban planners will have a better understanding of where specific services are required and how they can deliver more actionable results that help improve the quality of life for residents and decreases possible environmental threats.

“The future of cities depends mostly on how we utilize Artificial Intelligence. If we miss our opportunity, we’re not only falling behind, but we’re holding back the development of millions of people at once.”


Autor(en)/Author(s): Jacob Wolinsky

Quelle/Source: CEOWORLD magazine, 29.04.2023

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