This article introduces IoT for All’s Smart City Series. It argues that Smart Cities are urban developments that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to redesign them to serve changing needs.
Defining Smart Cities
Urbanism in World History
Before charging forward, we must remember first to look backward. The stories of human development and urbanization are deeply intertwined. As homo sapiens transitioned from loose populations of hunter-gatherers roaming across the natural world to massive communities densely packed in steel megalopolises, we’ve seen an increase in life expectancy, better access to knowledge, and the rise of global connectivity. Cities have been the epicenter of technological development. They’ve hosted large-scale efforts to cure the main ailments of human life—from the temples at Ur and the terraced farms at Machu Picchu to the oncology centers in Houston, Texas to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Our species has recognized the benefits of urban life. We’ve accelerated our migration out of the boundless rural terrains and into neatly stacked metal boxes reaching thousands of feet into the sky. The World Bank reports that in 2017, 54 percent of the world’s population was urban. That’s over four billion people! In “developed countries,” which lie at the center of our global economy, this number is much higher (North America’s average is 82 percent). At our current rate of over 1.3 million people moving to cities each week, the UN reports that the global percentage of humans living in urban areas will hit 68 percent or 6.3 Billion people by 2050.
A Straining World
It’s no secret that our transformation into highly urbanized technological societies has brought about a host of seemingly insurmountable problems. Despite the accumulation of a majority of global talent and economic activity into extremely connected geographical clusters of activity, we face more challenges than ever before.
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