Thursday 21st January 2021

Smart cities: Nothing new under the sun

Published on December 8th, 2020

Check out those images of the city of the future and most of them simply combine New York with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The electric vehicles are a rerun of what happened in 1880, says Dr Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx.

Certainly, trillions of dollars are committed to smart cities but Jericho did not come cheap 12,000 years ago. Several smart cities promise ‘robot maids’, a re-run of the amusing automatons of 300 years ago. Forest City Malaysia will be on reclaimed land but that will scarcely surprise the Dutch, Venice or even the Ancient Romans.

The new robot shuttles never do a U-turn because they are symmetrical but those old trams got there first. Living in harmony with nature and zero-emission travel are far from new ideas. As the comedian said, “It is déjà vu all over again.”

New materials and devices

Peter Harrop

However, although the basic smart city ideas are mainly updates, the materials and devices enabling them are certainly new, and they do add remarkable new functions. Two new IDTechEx reports, “Robot Shuttles and Autonomous Buses 2020-2040” and “Micro-LED Displays 2020-2030: Technology, Commercialisation, Opportunity, Market and Players” promise extreme multi-purposing for example.

The robot shuttle will double as everything from parcel delivery to mobile library, taxi, hire car, fast food delivery and school bus, its all-round Micro-LED windows showing the current purpose and selling advertising to cover costs. It is the basis of Toyota’s promised “Woven City”. Being so bright, long-lived and low power, Micro-LEDs will join the world of smart windows, huge animated billboards and artwork. Light-emitting solar plazas that self-deice and charge vehicles anyone?

Cities can become independent

The new IDTechEx overview report with 35 forecasts, “Smart Cities Market 2021-2041: Energy, Food, Water, Materials, Transportation Forecasts explains how we shall eliminate everything from sewerage systems to grid lines, pollution, traffic accidents and electric vehicle charging stations. Cities can become independent in food, water and energy, just like thousands of years ago.

Conventional farms are replaced by city-cultivated meat without animals, vertical farms in city buildings and the like. We shall more than cope with rising sea levels and threats to drinking water. IDTechEx drill-down reports such as Plant-based and Cultured Meat 2020-2030” and Vertical Farming 2020-2030“give the gaps in the market, technology timelines and more.

For more information on the report “Smart Cities Market 2021-2041: Energy, Food, Water, Materials, Transportation Forecasts”, Click here.

The Author is Dr Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx.

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