Rapid urbanization and unsustainable development have catastrophic consequences affecting the health of the population. Cities are by far the largest contributors to GHG emissions, consuming 75% of the world’s resources and producing 80% of CO2 emissions. Today, more than half the world’s population resides in global cities like New York, Toronto, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc. and the share of the urban global population is expected to rise to 60 percent by 2030. Currently, there are almost 400 cities in the world with over a million residents.
Smart cities are uniquely tailored to the specific conditions and needs of their communities and offer tangible solutions to contemporary urban problems. Researchers have estimated that by 2030, the world will have over 90 billion sensors connected across large wireless networks, providing enormous amounts of data including environmental monitoring, healthcare monitoring and transport monitoring. With the right systems, real-time supervision, data quality control and analysis, smart city infrastructure will have substantial potential to improve the quality of urban life. Smart city technologies, with thousands of possible applications, will work efficiently to make daily commutes faster, monitor humidity in parks to determine how much watering is needed, deliver energy-related information to residents such as current energy prices and consumption patterns, measure foot traffic across the city to help entrepreneurs map out areas to open new businesses, etc. to name a few.
Why do we need Smart Cities?
Unrestrained human activities, rapid population growth, and the uncontrolled depletion of natural resources result in unsustainable ecosystems. As a progressive and futuristic society, we must recognize urbanization as a source of economic progress. Cities generate 80% of the global Gross Domestic Product so, urbanization must be viewed as an opportunity rather than a problem, as it has historically been.
It is possible to create sustainable solutions for our cities by propelling the development of smart cities across the world. Many modern-day urban problems can be addressed by implementing integrated action plans that include urban renewal, restoration of nature, optimizing energy use, tracking air quality, water, and waste, resulting in reduced emissions and waste generation.
Singapore topped the 2020 Smart City Index, followed by Helsinki and Zurich. The future of smart cities is optimistic, as policymakers and urban development authorities have begun to rely on smart city projects to overcome the challenges posed by urbanization and to address social issues such as healthcare, access to green space, infrastructure, transportation, and education.
In 2017, the Government of Canada announced the Smart Cities Challenge (SCC) to encourage municipalities to build new partnerships and adopt a smart cities approach to address community issues. Post-pandemic, Canadian cities will need to transform how they deliver services to their residents – building smart and resilient cities is critical to that transformation.
By Devanshi Kukadia, Research and Communications Manager, Clean Air Partnership