The Future of London
More people than ever before are living in cities, and this trend is only set to continue. In fact, by 2050, it is predicted that 66% of the global population will be living in urban areas. London is no exception to this trend, with the population of the capital only going up. To cope with the increasing demand that more people bring, and to ensure the cities of the future meet the needs of their inhabitants, creative ‘smart city’ concepts and technology are being developed all the time.
Let’s take a look at some of the top ideas that have already been proposed to improve the efficiency of how cities function.
- Traffic monitoring
Sensors which monitor traffic flow and patterns collect data which can then be used to help traffic control systems. Sensors will analyse patterns of vehicles and use this information to alter traffic signals accordingly, improving the flow of vehicles throughout a city, across the day. LA has already introduced such a system and managed to drop commuting times by more than 12%.
- Parking space sensors
Trundling around in your car trying to find a parking space – wasting time and fuel – could become a thing of the past. Dedicated parking space sensors can incorporate ticket machine data, underground sensors and cameras to identify free parking spaces. By digesting and feeding this information into an app, drivers can find spaces quickly and painlessly. Such a scheme is already being trialed in Westminster.
- Robotic sewer monitors
Cities may be getting more advanced, but the fundamental basics, like sewers, still need to be ticking over to ensure smooth functioning. Robots have been made to help patrol the sewer system to make sure everything is running smoothly and any blockages of problems can be flagged swiftly. Using a 360 degree camera and lasers, these robots can make sure the city below ground is as it should be.
- Solar power windows
Harnessing the power of the sun to make energy is very sustainable and eco-friendly. Whilst solar panels today can be heavy and a bit clunky, this could be very different in the future. Work is underway to try and create transparent solar panels/solar glass which could be used instead of normal glazing. Currently, the solar panels aren’t completely clear but, in the future, if they could be used to replace plain glass windows, entire cities could be converted into clean energy creating solar farms and you wouldn’t know a difference!
- Giant air purifiers
It’s not news that big cities across the world, from London to Beijing, are heavily polluted and have poor air quality. Smog, dust and particulates from heavy traffic all have negative effects on health. That’s why enterprising designers have created giant outdoor air purifiers to try and clean the dirty city air. From standalone units to multi-function billboards, these could help manage particularly poor air quality areas.
- Energy creating pavements
An inventive idea for creating clean energy in the very cities which guzzle so much power is energy creating floors and pavements. Specially designed floor tiles can harvest kinetic energy from foot traffic and convert this into useful energy, currently used for powering lighting or interactive adverts. This forward-thinking technology is already in place in a few locations in London, including Heathrow and West Ham underground.
- Solar powered roads
If you thought you couldn’t make roads smart and interesting, you’d be wrong! Inventors have devised a way to replace roads with engineered solar panels, complete with heating elements to prevent snow and ice, and LED lights for road lines and signs. Roads, car parks, driveways – they’re all under-utilised space which could be generating vast amounts of clean energy. In the future, this energy could even be used to charge electric vehicles whilst driving.
- Smart lighting and lamp posts
Street lights are another humdrum item due to get a futuristic refresh. Although a lot of London street lights have already been replaced with LED lights, a lot of places still have old sodium bulbs which consume a lot more energy. The next step is to turn street lights into smart hubs. As well as being fitted with sensors which could monitor air quality, weather and motion, allowing the lights to adapt light levels accordingly, lamp posts offer a structure which could support public wifi hotspots, security CCTV, digital signage and electric vehicle charging points.
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