Modern cities are as inspiring as they are problematic. Humanity faces ever-increasing challenges from mass urbanization. How will we deal with this? Like we always do: with smart city inventions. Billions of dollars are being invested into creating the smart cities of the future and many enterprising companies have come up with inventions that benefit both cities and citizens. So let’s take a look at some smart city inventions that should be implemented in every city.
21. Bright Bike Lanes
Cycling in any busy city can be hazardous, but there are ways city planners can keep cyclists safe. Take this bright idea from a town in northern Poland.
This bike path was created using thousands of tiny ‘luminophores’, a synthetic material that emits a low level of light for 10 hours, then ‘recharges’ itself during the day. The self-sufficient bike paths don’t require electricity and provide safety to those cycling at night, which is the definition of a win-win. And they look pretty amazing too.
20. Pedal Chargers
Around 20 different cities all over France have already implemented this exciting invention that allows you to charge your phone by using pedal power.
Mainly situated in train stations and airports, the bike & charge table created by sustainable energy company WeWatt aims to promote an active lifestyle while making sure your phone doesn’t die. Bike users can also enjoy free Wi-Fi. They should have these at fast-food restaurants.
19. Rolling Benches
While this may look like a modern version of an old-fashioned clothes dryer, it’s actually something that could keep your pants drier.
The Rolling Bench was created by South Korean designer Sung Woo Park to solve the problem of soaked benches in city parks. If the bench’s exposed surface is wet, you can just turn the handle to reveal the dry side, and your seat is ready. Super simple stuff from South Korea, but a great solution to the tired legs versus swampy cheeks dilemma.
18. Speeding Ticket Robot
As any police officer will tell you, routine traffic stops can be dangerous and officers would rather conduct them from a safe distance. Enter the Speeding Ticket Robot.
This real-life robocop allows officers to question drivers from their patrol car by use of an extendable arm on which the robot sits.
The robot has a camera scanner for documents and deploys a spiked arm in front of the offender’s wheels to stop them fleeing. The robot can print and issue tickets, so just think of it as a Xerox machine with a badge. They even gave it it’s own helmet.
17. Adopt A Tree
Increasing the number of trees, and hence the canopy of urban areas is one of the most cost-efficient and effective strategies for mitigating the urban heat island effect and adapting to climate change.
But lots of trees in major cities are dying out as they age or are crowded out by the concrete jungle. To incentivize tree planting, the city of Melbourne created the urban forest visual. The website helps incentivize people to plant new trees. Different species of Individual trees are marked by different symbols. Their color represents their life expectancy.
This gives individuals and city planners the information needed to efficiently plant more diverse tree species.
16. Bus Fair
New York City is known for its heavy traffic – but imagine if you could change the traffic signals to your benefit… Surprisingly, the Big Apple’s new electric buses can do just that.
Sensors in both the buses and traffic lights allow buses to either extend green lights or change red ones as they approach. This prioritization technique has already led to a 20% reduction in travel times. The zero-emission buses are also charged via an overhead power arm that attaches to the roof for quick and easy turnaround.
Taking the bus just got a whole lot faster.
15. Sensor Cities
The Internet of Things is a network of connected devices that communicate with each other through the internet. A system like this could provide the key to smart city optimization.
Networks of sensors are already used to monitor air pollution levels and traffic concentration. We could see these sensors extend into other areas, such as waste collection. In Amsterdam, for instance, over 2,000 bins are equipped with sensors that tell waste companies exactly when the bin needs to be emptied, which ultimately reduces the time spent emptying half-full bins.
This has made the city cleaner as overflowing bins are emptied on time. The uses for an IoT comprised of sensors is potentially limitless, which definitely classifies it as a genius invention.
14. VR Urban Planning
Picture this: there’s a large development going on in your neighborhood and you’re not sure how you feel about it. At the moment, it’s an ugly construction site, so how do you know what it’s going to look like? UDLR studios have the answer in their combination of architecture blueprints and virtual reality.
VR-enabled designs will allow locals and prospective buyers to immerse themselves in the finished building project, well before it’s completed.
The technology could help to solve community issues with urban planning and give potential pre-buyers a better idea of what their property might look like, inside and out.
13. Smart Street Lighting
As energy-saving ideas go, smart streetlights really live up to their name. These lights can adjust their brightness according to surrounding light intensity and can sense the movement of people and vehicles.
If there’s an emergency, streetlights can be increased to maximum levels for visibility, and they’ll also let engineers know if they’ve stopped working. Smart street lighting has already seen widespread implementation in cities like Miami, Paris, and Madrid, which now boast between 225,000-500,000 connected streetlights each. New research shows that wider deployment of smart street lighting could save up to $15 billion by 2023.Talk about shedding light on inefficiency.
12. Internet Exchange Safe Zone
The online marketplace can be a treacherous place to purchase goods, but it’s often where the best deals are found. Sometimes people meet up in person to make an exchange, which can be even more dangerous. Fortunately, there’s a solution: the Internet Exchange Safe Zone.
The Cal Maritime Police Department in California has designated one of these safe zones outside their station so that people can trade their goods securely under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera. Local governments in the US have already made their own exchange safe zones in response to a spate of meet-up related crimes. I think they should be everywhere.
11.Intelligent City Trees
Air quality control is a serious problem for cities, but the German company Greencity Solutions could provide an answer. This is the CityTree, which the company claims as the world’s first biotech air quality filter.
The large green installation, which doubles as a bench, uses specific moss cultures to filter out particulates and nitrogen oxides. The CityTree has fully automated water and nutrient supply that utilizes IoT technology to decide exactly what the plants need, while also monitoring the nearby air pollution. According to the WHO, 7 million people die per year from air pollution, so what exactly are we waiting for?
10. Solar-Powered E-Tree
They say that money doesn’t grow on trees – but electricity can, according to Israeli company Sologic, who have invented a tree-shaped arrangement of solar panels.
The tree generates electricity but also provides a shaded area with benches, free Wi-Fi, charging points and a water trough for animals. The tree also lights up at night and has a useable LCD screen, which has proven popular with locals in Bethlehem. The eTree now has locations in China, the US and France.
Part of its genius is that it seeks to blend renewable energy and community into a shared space. Not only that, but it also gives us a glimpse of what robots will plant in the post-human future.
9. Autonomous Goods Trains
One of the main problems in highly urbanized areas is the presence of large, noisy, polluting vehicles delivering goods; but since we’ll always need goods, how can we change this situation? This concept video by Volvo proposes a goods train made up of self-driving carriages that can split off and recouple according to the changing needs of suppliers and customers.
The electric carriages would be charged up as they are loaded and unloaded, reducing emissions and downtime.
The idea itself is pretty revolutionary. It would take a lot of investment to develop, but the potential increase in efficiency and ecology would certainly be worth the money.
8. Neon Traffic Poles
Ukraine has employed a simple but effective solution to traffic light visibility: LED signal poles.
The bright green and red signal poles make it hard to miss a change in the signal, but they also look very futuristic. They’re useful if a large vehicle is blocking your view or if you’re too far forward at an intersection. The aim is to reduce road rage and cut the time in which vehicles remain at a standstill after the lights turn green. While not the most advanced technology, I think we’ll see more of these poles in the future.
7. Smart Parking Spaces
Parking in cities like London, Amsterdam, or San Francisco can be a nightmare.
Would it be so hard if you knew exactly which spaces were available? Smart parking company ParkEagle offers a solution in the form of a smart sensor that can sense if a space is free or not.
The sensors can also communicate with one another to check spaces where there aren’t any sensors. They then send this information to users so they can navigate to a space via ParkEagle’s app. The app could potentially reduce emissions and wasted time as drivers will spend less time searching for a spot.
6. Wastewater Filter Nets
Plastic pollution is a serious worldwide crisis, but this mini-city in Western Australia may have found a small-scale solution. Residents of Kwinana attached large nets made by the company Storm Water Systems to two large drainage pipes in order to protect the nearby Henley Wildlife Reserve from plastic pollution.
The nets collected 815lbs of trash in just a few months and only cost the city US$13,900 to design, manufacture and install. This simple, cheap, and effective solution demonstrates how easy it can be to reduce plastic waste. The idea will surely net big investments in the future.
5. High Heel Grilles (Grates)
High heel wearers in cities everywhere can finally relax. No more will you have to worry about getting your heel stuck in a grate, and possibly having to take the whole grate home, like this girl did. With these thoughtful steel footpads which are commonplace in Calgary and parts of New York, you can stride over those metal death-traps with confidence.
Are these really necessary, I hear you ask? You bet your stilettos they are.
4. Train Foot Spa
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m on a speeding intercity train, this thought always pops into my head: ‘I could really use a foot spa’. As it turns out, the Japanese train companies had the same thought and turned my dream into a reality. I give you the Toreiyu, a high-speed train that features two soothing footbaths, each 2.4m long and able to seat four people side by side.
Every traveler is allowed 15 minutes of relaxation and gazing out of the window with feet submerged. The foot spa is designed so that water cannot splash out even when the train sways hard.
3. 3D Train Floor
For many people working in cities, the daily commute can be a real bummer. But would staring at the carriage floor be so depressing if it had a watery 3D ripple effect? To promote a University-Level Olympics competition in 2017, the Taiwanese subway replaced its flooring with tracks and fields from various sports, including the surface of a swimming pool.
The successful campaign boosted morale and increased attendance at the event, which shows how even temporary aesthetic changes can generate lots of fun, as well as funding.
2. Skyrise Greenery
There are many reasons why Singapore is a model city, but one of the things that makes it so beautiful is its use of vertical gardens. The Tree House is arguably the best example of this, ever since it set a Guinness World Record in 2014 as the world’s largest vertical garden.
The lush foliage on the outside of the building filters out pollutants and the insulation provided by the plants massively reduces the building’s cooling costs, saving up $19,000 per year. This vertical green lung is an excellent example of the kind of things smart cities will need to introduce in the future – not because of any particularly complex technology, but because it acknowledges the need for clean air and vegetation in the urban environment.
Tired of your sidewalk not doing anything useful? Well, this company has come up with a ground-breaking new way of using your footsteps to generate electricity.
PaveGen states that their electromagnetic induction technology uses compressible tiles to generate around 5 watts of energy per footstep – enough to run an LED street lamp for 30 seconds.
The company also collects footfall data that retail business and advertisers can use for specific ad-targeting, so walk on it at your informational peril.
Have you come up with any smart city inventions that every city should implement? And which one of these ideas would you like to see in your city or town? Let me know in the comments section below. Until next time! Thanks for reading!