04. September 2019
Smart Cities, DLT Style: The Future Is Here.
For as long as humanity has been living in a community, there has been a fascination with the cities of the future. Each epoch projecting its ideas forward and striving to meet up to the exalted cityscapes the collective (un)conscious has created.
The difference between those times and these is that our current capacity for growth is reaching forward into our futures, and we are getting closer to the point of being able to create our dreams and live them concurrently - we are no longer dreaming forwards, we are (almost) dreaming our ‘now’.
Smart cities of the future are in the -high speed- process of becoming a fully realised reality. Cities around the globe are already under the knife. Undergoing the procedures to make them the models of the next generation, as ‘smart’, becomes the new normal: a necessary answer to a world where, according to the UN, 68% of its population will live in urban areas by 2050.
"A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects”.
UNECE and ITU, October 2015
The continued rise in the global population indicates a concerted need for the machinations of life to be managed in ways that differ from today. They must take into consideration the needs of globally urbanised, ageing, dynamic populations, alongside the compounding issues of environmental sustainability and resource management.
The collaboration between the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations (UN) is part of the necessity for a multi-disciplinary, trans sector, global cooperation between finance, technology, and social agencies to revolutionise this field. The use of disruptive technologies such as the distributed ledger technology (DLT) of blockchain is being implemented with an aim to reduce the global strain placed by densely urbanised humanity, as well as increasing the ‘livability’ of these urban sprawls.
Building Blocks, Not Ivory Towers
The momentum and the concept of growth with Smart Cities are developing at such a pace that the acquisition of Slock.it by Blockchains LLC heralded the purchase of 67,000 acres of desert land in the Nevada desert, with the expressed notion of creating a Smart City on its soil.
Slock.it appears to have been in the sights of Blockchains LLC as a result of their Incubed product, which allows the connection of appliances and vehicles to the Ethereum blockchain. This connectivity and the potential for other Internet of Things (IoT) devices to be ‘integrated’ with the Ethereum blockchain is of particular interest when the way in which it occurs utilises minimal bandwidth and power. This is a key aspect for Smart Cities, which will evidently have vast power and connectivity needs. To be able to manage these in as minimal a way as possible carries positive environmental and social implications as well as real management issues.
How to Train Your City
Dubai, New York City, India, and Sweden are all cities, or wider social governance, which have roadmaps to the use of DLT for their Smart City ideas and are leading the way in this urban reformation. And so to the ground-level benefits of Smart Cities. The daily impact on individuals is of supreme importance, and the decentralisation of data will aid the security of the vast amount of information needed to manage these cities. The high level of ‘trustlessness’ possible within a blockchain structure for governance of a city has the potential to revolutionise citizen engagement with transparency of asset information, clean voting systems, and levels of automatic democratic process ensuring resolution on a coded, determined action.
Safe data storage within healthcare management and the use of the data from the IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are systems which can support positive actions, such as automatic medication checking or home temperature control to align with seasonal requirements. The ability of blockchain to be the ‘connector’ between different systems and technologies-- linking devices to provide seamless actions-- is one of its main strengths in the Smart City scenario.
Finance and insurance have the chance to minimise their asset losses as a result of these ‘less’ hackable technologies. A situation which one hopes would benefit the consumer, as well as the businesses. Cleaner energy, with a less-is-more style of consumption, is a clear environmental draw. The ability to utilise and ‘buy’ energy, p2p, on a needs basis, has great financial implications for individual households, as well as driving environmental awareness and gains.
Decentralised Denizens, Cosmopolitan Citizens
There are multiple opportunities for identification schemes, even linked to ‘reward schemes’. These can then offer compensation for positive behaviours, such as regularly using public transport, reducing electricity usage, or increasing positive environmental behaviours, like recycling.
In short, there are many applications for enhancing urban life by utilising this cryptographic resource. Positive, practical solutions to many of our energy and social issues. If, and that is an advised ‘if’, these processes are used for the greater good. They also have the potential to create a ‘knock-on’ effect of a higher level of social confidence in the urban environments, within which billions of us will live.
Secure It, Speed Up, and Scale-Up
In the finance-driven global marketplace, Smart Cities need to demonstrate Return-on-Investment (ROI) for an increased ‘buy-in’ by governance and citizens. There is a need for the changes in processes, and in technology, to prove its worth. ROI is one such way. After all, we as a species might intellectually see the future benefits of different technologies, but it is the visible ‘payback’ which triggers our immediate, and instant, desires to respond. Smart Cities are not just being created from the ground up; they are evolving from old systems, as part of an ongoing process.
Efficiency has the potential to be impacted by infrastructures which absorb fix-fault-and-maintenance rates, and are coupled with ideas of localisation and control. These watchwords for maximising the capacity of different systems, such as street lighting, or water systems are crucial to demonstrating the new system’s ability to reduce financial, environmental, and social drain, alongside improving people’s quality of life.
Navigator and Guide
Smart Cities are not about utilising tech for tech’s sake; they are about the enhancement of city living for the inhabitants, conscious decisions and transparent processes for the ongoing benefit of citizens and the planet. The dissemination of technology as a global concern is no longer about mind games and academic rigour; it is about finding solutions to the genuine crisis’ which have the potential to plague our species as we continue to grow in population and mass.
The World Economic Forum highlights the many issues that society faces in its Global Risk Report 2019, and water issues are seen as one of these. With the use of technology to assess, prioritise and mediate this precious resources use, and with Smart Cities utilising DLT, the potential to create solutions to social, economic, and resource gaps will revolutionise our global development.
Moving forward through the development of Smart Cities, in practical application as well as in academic developments, you will need to have a navigator, a guide who you can trust, and who will give you the latest metaphorical GPS tech for the up-and-coming scenes. Revain is that guide, melding social and technological commentary together to create the dialogue necessary to propel us forward. Follow the latest developments on Telegram, Medium and Revain, and never get lost again.