The 21st century will be dominated by the city. More than half the world's population lives in cities, and the percentage is growing rapidly.
Today’s cities can barely handle the burden of their current populations: core services like energy, water, communications, transportation, and public safety are wasteful, inefficient and decrepit. Even though cities only occupy 2% of the landmass of the Earth, they consume over 75% of the Earth’s resources. The only way to prevent rapid urbanization from being an environmental disaster is to operate cities in a brand new way: faster, smarter, cleaner.
A city becomes “smart” when all parts of its infrastructure and government services are digitally connected and optimized. The city’s intelligent infrastructure is powered by three key technologies that share environment and citizen data constantly: sensors, the cloud and smart interfaces. Sensors, tiny devices that can measure variables such as motion, sound, and bacteria, collect information and send it back to a central database - the cloud. The city’s computing cloud then analyzes the information and changes the city in response to the input it has received, whether from sensors. Residents can also change the city experience, tailoring it to themselves by entering their preferences in touch screen smart applications. For example, if you’re feeling unwell, you could take your blood pressure at home, and the results will automatically be added to your health record, which is stored in digital format in the city’s cloud. If the blood pressure is at a dangerous level, your doctor is automatically paged, and soon, he appears on the Telepresence monitor in your apartment where he gives you a quick consultation.
by Ayesha and Parag Khanna
Macrowikinomics - Mar. 21 2011