We often talk about how technology is changing the way we live our everyday lives. But what if we were to take a peek into what the future might look like? Let’s imagine what it would be like to live in the smart city of the future.

Realism vs sci-fi

Through the ages we’ve seen some pretty outrageous predictions of future life. Looking back now, we can laugh at the idea of flying a jetpack to work or having the post delivered by a robot – but in other ways, reality has exceeded the imagination of sci-fi writers. Based on the development in the last couple of decades, what would be realistic to expect the future to bring?

Energy and resources
The modern city is smarter than ever, and will continue to develop better ways to manage its resources. Smart electricity grids are already managing shifts in demand, adapting to daily fluctuations. This will continue to trickle down to individual energy management as more households adopt smart meters that help them manage their own energy consumption.

With the continuing growth of cities and urban areas, it’s also likely that alternative energy usage will shift towards a more joined-up model. If you have solar panels on your roof but don’t use all the energy it generates, you will be able to share it with your neighbours – and vice versa.

For cities to continue to thrive, transport links will need to grow even smarter. Roads, bridges and traffic lights are already sending and sharing data that helps with traffic flow and maintenance management, but they will soon need to adapt to an increase in driverless vehicles on the road. Cars will in turn send live information to traffic control centrals for traffic planning and diversion routes.

With the increased sharing economy – and the large number of people unable to buy or store a car – shared ownership of cars will become more common. One example is the car-on-demand model which was pioneered by ZipCar in the UK.

Innovation will continue in the area of public transport, too. Payments will continue to be simplified, while travellers will be able to predict their journey in much more detail thanks to immediate updates on delays or disruptions with alternative services being suggested.

The Internet of Things will soon be an ingrained part of our everyday lives. We will be able to extract data from sources and objects all around us, helping us solve problems quicker and adapt to changes.

Just imagine these scenarios:

  • Is your washing machine broken? Don’t worry – it will not only tell you what’s wrong, it will also send the data to your local call-out repair people and schedule a visit based on your availability.
  • Going shopping but forgot your wallet? No problem – just look into a sensor at the check-out and scan your retina, and the supermarket will charge your groceries to your registered card.
  • Buying a new house? Download a complete report on energy consumption, broadband speed, damp levels, noise levels, planning applications, local incidents and weather statistics.

The future of education is going to be just as much about people-learning as machine-learning. Schools and universities will be able to take even more advantage of the information gathered about how students respond to their education, and provide intelligent systems that support them better.

Dynamic information portals, access to personalised training programmes and interactive books will allow students to experience a much more tailored education. This will make sure that many young people with disabilities and learning difficulties will be able to keep the same pace as their fellow students.

It’s been widely recognised that the traditional desk-based learning is not as effective as it once was, and schools will be adopting new technology such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence to visualise and simulate scenarios and situations that teach the students real-life skills.

Many of us are already using trackers to monitor key values for health and wellness purposes. In one possible future scenario, we will extend the use of trackers to include all inner organs and functions to facilitate complete body monitoring and self-health checks. This would not only reduce the pressure on the public health services, but would also lead to an improved general awareness of personal health. An additional service could be the provision of “DIY kits” for early detection of cancer or other serious illnesses, enabling faster treatment.

Biometrics will likely play a major part in health innovation, as it can provide immediate access to personal data. We’ve already seen implanted microchips being introduced on humans. Although in this example they are only used for access and ticketing, monitoring health data would be a logical future step.

But what about privacy?

Whatever the future holds, we can be certain that it will involve a whole load of data. Whether we like it or not, information about our lives and activities will be gathered in various places – sometimes with our knowledge, sometimes without.

Although the aim of most of this data collection is to improve our societies and future life, the ethical conversation will continue. Are we becoming more vulnerable the more we share? The technology of the future will need to carefully mitigate the risks in light of personal integrity.