As people gravitate towards the world’s cities and adopt urban, technology-laden lifestyles, rich veins of data can be mined for the common good

The stats are startling. The world’s cities will have to find room for an expected three billion more people by 2050. With many city authorities already struggling to provide health, education, transport and other public services, formidable new challenges lie ahead.

Add to that the disproportionate footprint of cities. Urban centres currently account for 70-80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. They’re responsible for a similar proportion of raw material use, too.

“These are unarguable, fundamental challenges that we face as a society at the moment,” says Rick Robinson, executive architect for IBM’s Smarter Cities programme.

Other, parallel changes are under way too. Communications technologies are exploding. Thanks to the internet and mobile phone devices, the potential to communicate with anyone, any time in more or less any place is a reality for billions of people – as it will be for billions more soon. But we’ve not yet “remotely understood” the consequences of such connectivity, according to Robinson.

Along with connectivity comes data. Take the average smartphone. Packed with GPS capabilities, accelerometers, light sensors, sound recording technologies and so forth, it is an info-stacked repository of our biometric data. The introduction of low-power Bluetooth technology means that such data is increasingly accessible to...

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Oliver Balch  smart grid  sustainable cities  sustainable growth  Urbanisation 

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