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Future cities:
A look at
the smart city
of the future

Author: Sue Poremba

Cities of today can be congested and difficult to navigate, with commuters spending an hour to go a couple of miles and large buildings potentially impeding data signals. Cities in the future, however, will not look like the urban areas with which we are most familiar.

Instead, expect the city of the future to be energy efficient, cleaner and smarter.

Future cities: What the smart city of the future could look like

With dependable internet connections and the ability for more people to work and learn at home, cities in the future are expected to reflect more compact attributes.1 During the pandemic, people learned they didn't need to commute, and many residents became more in tune with their neighborhoods as a result. Urban planners will need to consider such lifestyle changes into account.

Take, for example, an urban plan from Sorbonne University, which details the "15-minute city," where every need is within 15 minutes of one's residence. Such a concept could, in turn, be applied to suburban areas, and perhaps even rural communities. Forbes also suggests the city of the future will be built around an "anchor company," which will further reduce commuting needs and make for simpler travel to work.

Sustainable developers foresee goals of 15% green space and 30% for streets and sidewalks in new cities, with a minimum of 150 residents per hectare. With less need to drive, expect to see more bike paths and charging stations for electric cars and bicycles. As for public transportation, one idea is mobility as a service that combines "all shared vehicle platforms (cars, bikes, scooters, etc.) to reduce the statistic that says that cars are parked 95% of the time," according to Tomorrow.City.

Planned city or smart city?

Planned cities offer an example of how many of these concepts can be applied by design at the outset. Comprehensive city planning is not a new idea—New York City and Washington, D.C. were designed and built to certain specs, in part because of the landscape conditions, such as swamps and rivers. The modern-day planned city can be expected to be designed to be sustainable and self-sufficient. The growing trend to urbanization (nearly 70% of the global population is expected to live in cities by 2050) combined with the challenges of climate change are prompting a greater focus in urban planning on integrating services, from water and electricity to broadband connections.

Most cities that exist today were not designed with these issues in mind. Planned cities can and will be designed to be modern smart cities. A smart city could use connected technology and data to improve the efficiency of city service delivery, enhance quality of life for everyone and increase equity and prosperity for residents and businesses, according to Smart Cities Connect.

Smart future cities will depend on Internet of Things (IoT) devices to share data to make everything from traffic signals to waste management more efficient. To meet this demand, expect to see more devices deploying edge computing on 5G networks. Rather than send data through a data center, edge computing will analyze data close to where it is generated, while 5G should increase the amount of data and the speed at which it can be communicated.

What will the city of the future look like? It will look smart, and thus be more efficient and sustainable, and it will be fascinating to watch these cities get built around the world.

Discover how Verizon is supporting the transformation of future cities through State & Local Government solutions.

  • FAQ

What is a future city? +

Future cities are planned cities that take into consideration new technologies and concerns, like climate change. They are sustainable, smart and efficient.

What does a sustainable city look like? +

Sustainable cities have substantial green spaces, eliminate fossil fuel energy sources, use green construction practices, are easily walkable or bikeable, and rely on smart technologies to help cut down on waste.

What will cities look like in 2050? +

Cities may be more densely populated but with less traffic, as people will walk more and rely on public transportation. There will be fewer buildings (think vertical neighborhoods), more green space and more technologies.

1Deloitte Insights, Urban future with a purpose, September 13, 2021.