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Construction’s Future in Building Smart Cities


Science Fiction for decades has tantalized us with dramatic sweeping images of futuristic neon-lit cityscapes, hovering cars meandering their way through foggy skies past billboards that know the vehicles’ occupants and serve up ads targeted specifically for them.

We’re not there yet, but cities are definitely changing. Smart cities are very much on the radar of architects, developers, city planners and even mayors as the city of the future will look and function very differently than it does today, and technology will play a big part in how those cities are designed, with the goal of creating a better life for all residents.

Construction Exec writes that a city’s approach to projects like airports, roads, bridges and tunnels, telecommunication build-outs and water and energy projects is a key indicator whether it’s following a “smart” path. Those types of projects signal that a city is laying the groundwork upon which the cities of the future will be built. 

Utilities, infrastructure and communications will all eventually be connected in a way never seen before.

According to the Smart Cities Council, a smart city “uses information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance its livability, workability and sustainability. It collects information about itself using sensors, devices or other systems, and sends the data to an analytics system to understand what's happening now and what's likely to happen next.”

Local governments collect scads of data about their cities as a routine part of keeping things running smoothly. Everything from resident income levels to energy use and traffic patterns to crime, fire and health statistics is routinely gathered and crunched to make decisions about everyday things like traffic light locations, placing fire hydrants, and where to put playgrounds and hospitals.

This data collection and examination helps city officials determine the needs of its residents, and bring about changes to cater to those needs as necessary.

The technological conduit that will enable much of the anticipated changes coming with smart cities is our mobile devices, which will be able to communicate with things like smart kiosks, walls, elevators, front doors and more. Anything ICT solutions can be integrated within has the potential to connect with us and facilitate our communication with other people or AI helpers as we go about our daily lives.

Utilities, infrastructure and communications will all eventually be connected in a way never seen before. According to IoT One, the estimated global market for smart grid technology will be $220 billion. By 2030, $500 billion will have been spent globally on smart grid initiatives. These projects will open up opportunities for everything from reducing traffic congestion, energy efficiency, public safety and services improvements.

A Frost & Sullivan report noted that by 2025, more than 58% of the world’s population, just over 4.5 billion people, will live in cities. This population influx will push to their limits electrical grids, roads and public services, necessitating assistance through smart technology to accommodate all residents. According to Constructech, eight of the most “smart” items most important to develop a smart city are governance, building, healthcare, mobility, infrastructure, technology, energy and citizens. 

The smart city of the future will function almost as an organism, with every “organ” in constant communication.

City living comes with a host of headaches, from the high cost of living to traffic problems to pollution. But the potential for smart cities is far more than just talking lobby desks and stop signs. The smart city of the future will function almost as an organism, with every “organ” in constant communication. It can self-monitor its health in myriad ways and communicate its suggestions for improvement. That has the potential to make life for city dwellers a lot easier, safer and maybe even cheaper.

Along with information technology and telecom companies, construction is one of the industries poised to be at the forefront of the push for smart cities, which poses a challenge given its historic tendency for technophobia. Companies will be needed that can handle the workload of the coming smart city future, so it would behoove forward-thinking construction firms to educate themselves on the technologies set to change cities as we know them in the coming decades, because that work will be in high demand.

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