Future Cities and Big Data

The line between what we conceive to be reality and science-fiction is becoming thinner as technology continues to advance. If we can open a wormhole to the time dimension and transport an average human from the eighteenth century to our current date, there will be no doubt that everything would seem to be supernatural in his or her point of view. Now, what if we could extend this wormhole so that we jump into the mid-twenty-first century? What we would see and how we would conceive things? One matter of fact is that cities won’t be the same.

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The city of the future will be smart and built on big data and information technology. As long as technology continues to advance, cities will persist in becoming more intelligent, more connected, sustainable, fun and safe. Smart cities will probably think like human brains where artificial intelligence and internet of things will occupy the most prominent part of our daily lives.

Buildings will become aware of their occupants, keeping them at the right temperature and making sure they stay healthy and safe.

Data collected from sensors, cameras, and satellites will be integrated and connected in networking systems that monitor and control the city by artificial intelligence. Information systems will be used to deliver better-quality services for citizens, like simulating traffic systems, waste management and even wind flows.

Streets will be filled with driverless cars and pods. Shopping places will offer rich, interactive and customized shopping experiences with augmented reality; I was attending this year a conference about disruptive marketing; one of the speakers who is the CEO of a high-end watch brand was speaking about “how retail shops should not display their items in the stores anymore and instead turn the stores into a fun place that adapt towards enhancing customers’ experience.” So, imagine a customer walking into a fashion shop and being immediately presented with an interactive changing room, the store would instantly know the fitting size and use AI to offer a selection of clothing it thinks the customer will like based on previous purchases and upcoming social calendar.

We are already witnessing an evolution in the transportation systems by the introduction of connected and driverless cars like “Tesla”. In fact, Dubai is working on a hyperloop that will be operational in 2020; the Hyperloop will allow passengers to commute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (140 KM) within 12 minutes. In future cities, we will see flying cars and people being driven around in driverless pods. Technology will help in increasing safety on highways and streets by decreasing accidents that are resulted from human errors.

Technology will transform cities into a vibrant and exciting place for sure. But I hope that technology will have a role building better societies with fewer crime rates, more education, more employment, better care and healthy lives.

Rabih Soueidi

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