Smart glass, green roofs and the metaverse were among the technologies changing the face of urban development around the world, in a year that saw cities continue to reinvent and revitalise themselves in the face of the pandemic.
A city without cars or streets is announced for the Neom development
Seoul plans to deliver public services through a metaverse platform in 2022
New urban use cases will propel the uptake of digital twin platforms in cities
Whether The Line, a zero-carbon, hyper-connected city in a 170km straight line on the Neom development in Saudi Arabia, will achieve its aims of reimagining the future of urban living remains to be seen but its bold ambition has to be admired. A city with no cars and no streets would have been simply unimaginable a few years ago and The Line stands as a symbol of how far the smart city movement has progressed.
Little wonder, then, that it proved to be one of our most-read stories of 2021, which was also the year in which SmartCitiesWorld celebrated its five-year anniversary. With Seoul announcing that it intends to develop a metaverse platform to deliver public services in 2022 and big things predicted for technologies like digital twin and smart traffic platforms, we can look forward to plenty more invention from cities throughout 2022 and we’ll be here to cover it.
Before we get ready to meet the future though, here is a look back on the most popular stories on SmartCitiesWorld in 2021.
The challenge was established as a worldwide innovation competition that encourages and spreads cities’ most promising ideas. In June, 50 cities from 29 nations across six continents were chosen after mayors from 631 cities in 99 countries submitted their most promising ideas for consideration. This was nearly double the number of cities that applied in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ previous Mayors’ Challenge, held in the US in 2018. Finalists were elevated based on four criteria: vision, potential for impact, feasibility, and transferability. Bloomberg said the ideas provide a powerful snapshot of the innovation priorities of the world’s cities.
The $5bn futuristic megacity without cars and streets located near the Red Sea attracted huge attention from our readers when announced in January. The Line is a zero-carbon, hyper-connected city in a 170km straight line on the Neom development that aims to “reimagine and revitalise the future of urban living”. The urban development has been designed around people and nature. Walkability will define life in the city with all essential daily services, such as schools, medical clinics, leisure facilities, as well as green spaces within a five-minute walk. Ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions will make travel easier between the communities and give residents the opportunity to reclaim time to spend on health and wellbeing. It is expected no journey will be longer than 20 minutes.
In March, the 2020 Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard reveals Bogotá, Colombia, and Bucharest, Romania, top the list of the most congested cities in the world with drivers losing 133 hours and 134 hours a year respectively. The 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard from transportation analytics and connected car services provider, Inrix, ranked congestion and mobility trends throughout the pandemic across more than 1,000 cities in 50 countries. With the coronavirus crisis reshaping everyday lives most employers were forced to introduce work from home policies, while governments around the world imposed, lifted and re-imposed lockdowns to help limit the virus’ spread. Unsurprisingly, these policies resulted in large decreases in travel across all modes, the likes of which are unprecedented throughout the entire period vehicular, rail and air travel data has been collected.
In April, a report by a group of global smart city partners highlighted how a new generation of smart lampposts that can read body temperatures and detect overcrowding could help to stop the spread of Covid-19 and to regenerate cities. Shining a Global Light drew on case experiences from Barcelona, Copenhagen, LA, London, Munich and Singapore to demonstrate how smart lampposts are being used to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The report demonstrated how latest generation lamp columns go beyond street lighting by incorporating sensors that can receive and transmit information about crowd density, and even the body temperature of individuals. The report was commissioned by city transformation expert UrbanDNA, infrastructure and lighting technology provider Itron, Lucy Zodion and Signify, integrated aluminium provider Hydro, and the Smart City Infrastructure Fund, an investment vehicle for the development of sustainable urban ecosystems.
In November, Seoul’s municipal government announced it was developing a virtual communication channel for all its administrative services. Provisionally called Metaverse Seoul, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) intends to create the metaverse platform in three stages from 2022 onwards and apply it across all city tasks from economic policies to civil complaints. Investing KRW3.9bn (South Korean won), the city aims to complete creation of the platform and showcase it to the public by the end of 2022. Starting from a ‘virtual’ New Year bell-ringing ceremony of Bosingak (large bell pavilion) this year, Seoul’s various facilities and services, including the virtual Mayor’s Office, Seoul Fintech Lab, Invest Seoul, and Seoul Campus Town will be created on the metaverse platform.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) announced in January that it was installing smart glass windows as part of its terminal expansion to help ensure passenger health and experience. The glass, from connected buildings specialist View, will be used in Terminal D where four new gates are being added. It will showcase DFW’s “gate of the future”, which demonstrates a fundamental rethink of gate design. The expansion marked an airport first when it came to deploying View’s latest smart building digital network, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning powered environmental sensor modules, and transparent ultra-high-definition displays. View Immersive Experience transforms the smart windows at DFW into transparent, ultra-high-definition digital canvases, which can be used to communicate and entertain passengers by displaying meaningful information right on the glass.
A report published by ABI Research in January revealed that the installed base of digital twin deployments was expected to increase from a scattering of pilots showcasing limited capabilities to more than 500 cities by 2025, driven by urban use cases across vertical markets. The Smart Cities and Smart Spaces quarterly update predicted the widespread deployment of the technology as multi-purpose urban decision and management tools was ‘imminent’. Key factors behind the growth include Covid-19 requirements in terms of achieving increased resilience levels and optimised asset and demand-response resource management.
Green solutions in roofs, windows and even concrete were identified in January as major trends in the Business Research Company’s smart buildings market research report. It forecasted the market to grow from $36.42bn in 2020 to $59.30bn in 2025. The global smart buildings market size reached a value of nearly $36.42bn in 2020, having increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.5 per cent since 2015. From 2025, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8 per cent from 2025 to reach $87.25bn in 2030. Green roofs, typically covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium have a number of reported benefits: they last longer when compared to conventional roofs; help to reduce energy costs with natural insulation; lower the temperature (heat and cold) by absorbing and trapping them; and reduce storm water run-off, filter pollutants and carbon dioxide out of the air and help to increase wildlife habitat in built-up areas.
In June, telecoms company Orange and emergent blockchain technology company Smartkey unveiled a blockchain-based smart cities solution. It claimed to be the first Blockchain-of-Thing (BoT) Sim card designed to enable access control and other smart city functions to be managed on a phone. The technology was due to go live in more than 80 cities in Poland already using Orange smart city facilities and are integrated with the global Live Objects IoT platform which will be extended around blockchain technology. It aims to create a universal standard, through Smartkey, to enable Blockchain-IoT Sim cards to operate the smart city of the future. The first use case for the partnership will be an extension of Smartkey’s Rescue without Barriers pilot. This involved rescue services in Olsztyn, Poland, using Smartkey to gain immediate access to every secure district and building in the area.
A study from Juniper Research, in February, projected smart traffic management systems to save cities $277bn, by reducing emissions and congestion globally by 2025. Smart intersections were identified as the key technology behind these savings (rising from $178bn in 2021), by enabling a reduction of 33 hours of time spent in traffic per annum per motorist by 2025. Smart intersections include areas of high traffic that leverage connectivity and AI-based automation to monitor and manage traffic flow based on real-time data to reduce the time wasted by road congestion. The report, Smart Traffic Management: Technologies, Use Cases & Market Forecasts 2021-2025, predicts that more than 95 per cent of the $277bn savings will be attributable to congestion reduction. The research also said that vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies are critical to the enhancement of existing smart traffic management services.