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Do we need smarter cities?

There are many ways in which a city may be ‘smart’, but what they have in common is that they use of smart technologies and data as the means to solve sustainability challenges – economic, social and environmental issues.

Smart technologies range from the very infrastructure of cities themselves, such as smart energy grids and autonomous vehicles, through to much lower cost solutions such as smartphone apps, online platforms that crowdsource people’s sustainable ideas and low-cost environmental sensors. Data is central to smart cities, in particular, the use of big data and open data.

seven-fold increase in extreme flooding
Only half of the world’s population lives within walking distance of a public transport system.
UN Global Goal 11 aims to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
UN SDG 11 seeks to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient & sustainable.
59 per cent more precipitation in winters by 2050
Cities are responsible for around 70 per cent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021, United Nations.

Engineering a net zero world

Engineers have always been key to the development of our cities to provide the essential infrastructure we need to live, work and play.

But in the age of smart cities they’ll be required to act as innovators, who can find new ways to think about how digital technology may help to address low carbon challenges.

So what are the benefits of our cities becoming smarter?

Digital means improving efficiency – doing things faster or for less. Digital also enables things to be done differently. But for smart cities to succeed everyone with a stake in the urban environment – from communities to businesses and decision makers – must work together.

Ask an engineer

"Place-making describes the way that civil engineers and other professionals work together to make best use of the space, including sustainable measures.

In planning these places, we will be using information or data to help make decisions about transport, schools, hospitals, sport stadiums, utilities (gas, electric, water), safety, and many other elements which are all essential to sustainable modern living.

While smart cities can help us to gather the information, we still need to understand and make choices about what a good quality of life actually looks like. There is no single solution because each city is starting from a different stage of development and people may have different ideas and needs for their own community.

It will take real vision and a deep understanding of community values from civil engineers and other place-makers to make each smart city be the best it can be. ”

Peter Greenhalgh

Project case study

Gujarat International Finance Tech-City (GIFT City)

GIFT City is a business district, currently under construction, on the banks of the Sabarmati river in India.

Project designers aim to build ‘state of the art connectivity’ and urban transport systems from the ground up.

Innovations include a district-wide cooling system and automated vacuum waste collection.