Rethinking City Living: The Challenges and the Opportunities

Nobody does over-the-top better than Hollywood when it comes to predicting the future. Post-apocalyptic wastelands, homicidal robots, Kevin Costner-helmed Waterworld –you’ve probably seen them all and shrugged them off. But the reality is that we are facing significant challenges. City populations are growing and our resources are under strain. That’s why we need to rethink city living – not tomorrow but now. Fortunately, many forward-thinking city authorities are showing us a way to address this, based on connected video technology.

Truth is stranger than science fiction

Most experts are on the same page when it comes to the immediate future. The picture they present is not a pretty one and the statistics are a cause for concern.

Today, the global population stands at around 7.9 billion people. The United Nations projects that it will reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with developing countries responsible for more than half of that growth. A staggering 70% of the population will be living in cities.

So, what’s the big deal with big cities?

70% of the world’s population will be city-dwellers by 2050 Image source: Mendar Bouchali

The lure of wealth and a better life is what attracts people to big cities. Ironically, this has an adverse effect on cities. The problems start when too many people attempt to live in a place originally designed to fit a certain number of people.

Here are some of the issues that come with growing populations:

  • Increased crime: Already, over-populated cities are witnessing a steep rise in crime. As cost of living goes up, living conditions will further deteriorate. Too many people mean fewer jobs; and unemployment is always a trigger for crime. Streets will become unsafe. Theft, break-ins and vandalism will become commonplace.

  • Pressured infrastructure: With cities bursting at the seams, the mobility infrastructure in most big cities will be stretched to the limit. Traffic jams, breakdowns in public transport systems, inadequate parking spaces and the resulting pollution from large numbers of vehicles are likely to go up in the future.

  • Environmental challenges: Waste disposal and management, and littering will become a challenge. Levels of pollution will go up. Pressure will increase on resources like clean air and fresh water.

How we choose to manage these issues will have consequences for us in the years to come.

Now for the good news

Today, there are 33 mega cities in the world, each with a population of over ten million people. Most of these cities are under mounting pressure to provide services across a wide range of areas to improve safety and security, enable mobility and address growing environmental pressures.

The good news is that some cities around the world have realized this and are already taking serious steps to fix these problems.

Cities like Singapore, Amsterdam, Seoul, Barcelona and New York have taken notice and are leaving no stone unturned to provide a better quality of life for their citizens. These cities will hopefully inspire and motivate other cities to implement similar solutions.

The common denominator is connected video technology.

Singapore: a vision of what the future could be

Connected video technology is the gateway

Connected video technology is at the center of the most compelling solutions that ease the pressure of growing populations in cities. An interconnected network of cameras, sensors and intelligent software can unlock new insights about our cities. With the proliferation of these connected devices and tools, rich new streams of data will be generated. This data can be analyzed and the insights generated from it can be used to make cities safer, more productive, and overall, better places to live.

Connected video technology can help with:

1. Protection of people assets and property
2. Faster emergency response
3. Real-time visualization
4. Increased situational awareness
5. Intelligent incident management
6. Increased operational efficiency
7. Better information sharing and collaboration

These capabilities translate to increased safety, smoother mobility solutions and a healthier environment for citizens.

For the rest of us, the time to act is NOW

Technology, analytics and progressive policies are emerging as new heroes that will deliver safe, sustainable, efficient environments for citizens. The last decade has shown tremendous growth in video and related technology deployments around the world, and happily, the pace is picking up. But this is no time to play a wait-and-watch game. It may not be too late, but the time to act is now.

Rethinking safety in cities: The invisible guardians

Centralized video solutions allow faster emergency response times and better collaboration between services. Image source: camilo jimenez

Real-time visualization and emergency response can prevent crime and save property and lives. This might seem futuristic, but a network of cameras, sensors to detect noise levels like gunshots and breaking glass, and video wearables are just a handful of the technological wonders that are already keeping many cities safe. Video technology, big data and advanced analytics will evolve further and become available to more and more cities around the world.

Picture this. A multi-vehicle accident happens on a busy city road. Video cameras and sensors transmit detailed information to the relevant departments so that they can assess situations more effectively and respond faster.

An intelligent system triggers emergency response actions, including sending first-responders to the exact location of the event. The police may also be alerted to deal with the traffic disruption. Automated digital signage can also be brought into play to reroute motorists.

Rethinking mobility in cities: Unjamming the grid

Traffic flow analytics are helping cities to restructure transport systems. Image source: Iwona Castiello d'Antonio

The number of vehicles on roads is expected to double in just this decade. In the future, the ever-increasing traffic will quickly outstrip the ability of road networks to cope with it. Building more roads is not the answer. It would be like loosening your belt a few notches to deal with obesity.

We need to rethink traffic flow, intelligent traffic lights, smart parking spaces and ways of responding to accidents and emergencies.

Smart parking is being enthusiastically adopted in many cities. A combination of video management solutions and sensors inform motorists when and where spaces are unoccupied. License plate recognition is another increasingly common technology. It enables motorists to breeze through toll booths or access-controlled parking buildings without taking a single action.

In all scenarios, the data on traffic flow and trends can be collected and funneled into one place by the city. This can inform future transport infrastructure planning or help identify and address problem areas.

Rethinking sustainability in cities: Big data to the rescue

Water level monitoring is primary and costly concern for many cities. Image source: Nastya Dulhiier

Proactively monitoring pollution levels, and air and water quality with connected sensors will help reveal the impact of different times, activities and congestion on pollution levels. In the event of deteriorating air quality, citizens could be re-directed to less polluted areas, traffic could be re-routed, and more informed city planning could ensure that residential areas, popular outdoor spaces, and schools are less impacted by pollution levels.

Data can also influence sustainability actions. Given that cities account for 75% of the world’s carbon emissions, gathering and using such data is a growing imperative.

Another potential application could be the building of energy systems that optimize the demand and supply of city's energy infrastructure. Solutions in this service area could monitor a variety of systems using sensors, advanced meters, and digital controls. The data could be fed to applications and analytics tools to automate, monitor and regulate energy consumption.

What next?

The examples showcased above are just a teaser of what's possible. Connected video technology can deliver a real impact in terms of citizen benefits – whether it’s minimizing crime for increased safety, time savings for commuters or opportunities to influence sustainability initiatives.

It’s easy to overlook the impact that rapid population growth will have on cities and on our society. But be warned, it will be significant. Urgent measures need to be taken now if we want the next generation of city dwellers to enjoy a better quality of life. Connected video technology will be key in addressing these issues.

 

If you want to learn more connected video technology for safe cities, download our free ebook: Let’s Rethink City Living.

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