The 5 technologies that are going to define the next decade in cities
Cities have always been hubs of technological experimentation, shaped by the people who inhabit them and the tools they use. We can still see the marks, both charming and garish, from technologies of years past — from old aqueducts to telephone booths to the damage done by cars.
The next wave of real-time technologies that will define the next decade are software (rather than hardware) upgrades to the city that will nonetheless transform the way we work, play and live in our physical environments — our “brick and mortar” cities. And these technologies, each transformative in their own right, when used in combination to develop new products and experiences, will have a multiplying effect on the rate of change we see in urban environments.
The real power of these technologies will be unlocked when we combine them.
Fifth-generation wireless (5G)
Demands on networks are doubling every year. At this rate, with a bit of quick math, we can see that in the next decade we will have 1,000x the demand for mobile data.
Computer vision (CV)
Of all the sensors available, video-as-a-sensor will emerge as the most important tool — and maybe the most controversial — for helping us understand cities over the next decade. Sound, air quality and others are important, but CV allows the broadest range of possibilities and supports the greatest number of possible use cases. From understanding density of populations, to usage patterns, to speed of traffic, to how resources are being used, CV will quite literally be the eyes of the city.
Mixed reality (MR)
Where virtual reality, augmented reality and plain-old reality mix together to bring digital overlays that incorporate real physics and computer graphics and create immersive experiences with the best of the physical and digital, we call this mixed reality. MR has perhaps the most limitless possibilities of all five technologies listed here, and likely will serve as the eventual replacement to the mobile phone.
Autonomous vehicles (AV)
Autonomous vehicles not only have the potential to change the idea of car ownership and last-mile travel, but also radically change the way we manage logistics and delivery of goods. We will see cities’ use of space and people’s travel habits change dramatically over the next decade, enabled by changes to vehicle sizes and the addition of intelligent routing, breaking down car travel into everything from package-delivering drones (think Amazon Prime Air or Starship), to micro-buses making commutes efficient and cheap, to intelligent, tiny, easy-to-use single-person rideables.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
With learning systems that can scale massively in scope via cloud computing and maintain responsiveness across billions of interactions on the most minute level via in-device edge processing, AI is the most unpredictable and existential technology of the bunch. It has the potential to bring things together to help us solve critical macro issues — we can use AI to make vastly better use of our resources, solve equity issues and prevent crime — and the smaller, more personal challenges, like finding a better way to get to work, meet a mate or optimize your schedule to better suit your desired lifestyle.