- Published: 06 September 2021
How the cities of the future will look like and what its features would be no one really knows. But one thing for sure, it is going to need the basic utilities that are necessary to sustain life, and these are gas, electricity, mobility and safe water.
For us to easily remember these four utilities, I have come up with GEMS as a mnemonic device for it.
Depending on our backgrounds and perspectives, we would either agree or disagree that gas is part of energy or not, but as for me, I would favor gas as a separate category by itself, because it could be a renewable resource if it is produced as biogas. Besides, there are still many cities around the world wherein the providers of gas and electricity are one and the same utility companies.
In a manner of speaking, it could be said that using biogas should be mandatory, because it is a natural byproduct of solid wastes that are also a problem on its own. In other words, there is a need to create a demand for biogas so that its available supply could go somewhere, lest it becomes a risk to human life and property.
As of now, there is no data available that would show how much damage the methane in the air is doing to human health, but it is already known that the methane escaping from landfills is already causing a lot of respiratory diseases that is also probably contributing to the high mortality rate in the metropolis. Now and in the future, a city would definitely be dumb if the air is harmful, even if is complete with all the smart features.
It goes without saying that a city could not be considered smart if its sources of electrical power are not renewable. Some might say that a city could be considered smart if its power is stable and affordable, but these positive attributes would be negated if its carbon footprint is very high.
All these would go back to the quality of the air in a city, because again, a city could not be considered smart if the air becomes polluted as power is being produced. One thing for sure, solid waste management is a separate challenge by itself, but there are now technologies that would not just solve the garbage problem, it would also produce the gas and electricity that a city needs.
It was a smart idea to have electric railway cars (trams) in Manila many years ago, and it was a dumb move to do away with them.
It was also a smart idea to combine a power company and a tram operator into one, which has what the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company (MERALCO) was many years ago.
It could be said that it was a dumb move to do away with the tram service, but we seem to have rediscovered the extent of the dumbness many years later when the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) was established many years later, which was really nothing more than a network of elevated railway cars.
Seeing what happened in the past, it would be a good idea to have these trams in the smart cities of the future, provided of course that the source of power would be renewable.
To some extent, it could be said that having electric powered cars is a smart idea, and all smart cities should have these cars. Smart as it appears to be, if would actually be a dumb idea if these cars are plugged into electric charging stations that are not powered by renewable energy.
In contrast, it would be considered very smart if the source of the electricity that is being used in these charging stations would come from solar panels, for instance. What would even be smarter is for these electric cars to be powered by batteries that are already directly recharged by solar panels that are built into these cars. It may just be a matter of semantics, but it would be more accurate to call these vehicles solar powered cars.
Obviously, a city should not even think of proclaiming itself to be smart, if it would not have a sustainable supply of safe water. Although safe water would appear to be a separate challenge by itself, its availability in the future would largely be dependent also on the availability of cheap power.
In the future, the scarcity of safe water would force cities to filter used water so that these could again become potable. Not only that, these cities would have to resort to desalination. That would appear to be a smart idea, but that would only be so if the economics of doing it would be good. Otherwise, it would be a dumb idea to produce costly safe water because of very high costs of electricity.
Needless to say, a city would not be considered smart if it is not connected and is not automated. Of course the only way to do that would be to install so many networks of computers and sensors all over the city.
That might sound like a lot of expenses, but on the other hand, it would also mean a lot of savings, because these computers and sensors would be able to cut down on the costs of gas, electricity, mobility and safe water.
On top of that, the computer networks would also be able to ensure the efficient delivery of all citizen services that are required by a smart city. In closing, I would just end by saying that a city could not be considered smart if it is not green, and a city could not become green if it is not smart.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Ike Señeres