The Rise of Smart Cities

When one thinks of urban transformations, megacities like Shanghai, Dubai and Hong Kong come to mind. In the case of technological advances, San Francisco and the Silicon Valley soon come to mind.

But, in general, cities at the forefront of this growing urban revolution have a much more discreet presence on the global stage.

In Kalasatama, an area near Helsinki, Finland, a new smart city is being built with networks connected to major urban systems such as buildings, energy and transport. According to those responsible for the pilot project, after completion in 2030, residents will save an average of one hour of the day in their usual activities.

Never again will they be trapped behind a garbage truck in the streets. Engineers installed an underground and vacuum waste collection system. Just put the garbage bags in collectors. As the collectors fill up, a sensor triggers the firing of the waste that goes into the collection centers.

In order to save time, city planners focused on building buildings such as schools, hospitals and public transport in specific, easily accessible areas.

"This logistics saves children time to school, commutes to work and provides more leisure time," said Kerkko Vanhanen, director of the Smart Kalasatama project, to CNN.

According to a United Nations report published in 2018, it is estimated that in 2050 cities will concentrate 68% of the world's population. Therefore, it is essential to think of innovative urban projects to reduce the environmental impact and guarantee the quality of life.

Humanity has dedicated itself for centuries to better explore the place where it lives. The urban planning of ancient Mesopotamia and the seventeenth-century construction of the canal system in Amsterdam are examples of man's intervention in his environment.

But now the focus is more technological. The Internet of Things (IoT), the digital interconnection of everyday objects with the Internet, has revolutionized the concept of urban environment. In the integrated system of intelligent houses it is possible to control lighting, temperature, the activation of appliances and the alarm, among other tasks of the day to day.

The city of Matera, in southern Italy, is also investing in an innovative project. Selected by the European Union as the European Capital of Culture in 2019, Matera wants to be one of the first cities to adopt the 5G high-speed network in Europe.

Local authorities want to turn the city into a digital tourism center with the help of the 5G network. The high-speed network will allow the use of virtual reality technology to show the cultural and artistic heritage of the city, included in 1993 in the list of World Cultural Heritage of Unesco.

"There is tremendous interest in revitalizing this area to stimulate tourism and attract investment," said Jonathan Reichental, a specialist in urban technology innovation.

However, technology is a threat to privacy. "Personal data is shared on the internet and on social networks. Increasing the amount of data available in the digital world requires setting criteria for the use of this information, "Reichental noted.

As smart city projects evolve, citizen privacy standards need to be revised and constantly updated, said Udo Kock, deputy mayor of Amsterdam, where an open data policy is transforming the city into one of the most innovators in Europe.

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