Technology has changed nearly every aspect of our 21st century world. From cellular phones that are virtually personal computers to new advancements in membrane bioreactors for wastewater treatment, it’s safe to say that technology will play a vital role in the future development of our cities, towns, and villages.
Here are some of the most interesting trends and developments in technology that are helping to shape the world as we know it.
Objects that retain or help generate electricity
From solar roads to tiles that harness kinetic energy and turn it into electricity, many are developing solutions that address our need for energy but in a more sustainable manner. There are obstacles to overcome before these types of innovative energy producers becoming mainstream, however. Overall, the technology does work, but making it more affordable compared with other traditional energy sources will be the key to commercial viability.
Online community involvement and reporting
We are already seeing the beginnings of this trend with websites dedicated to public projects, online community comment sections, and social networks designed for providing and giving information in real-time. This trend is continuing to expand with the development of apps that help citizens report community issues in via smartphones, such as SeeClickFix. These apps allow residents to snap pictures of problems, send problem coordinates via GPS, and give other problem details directly on the problem site, in little time and with low hassle.After a resident reports an issue, the correct city department or civic group is automatically sent the issue so that problems are seen and solved as quickly as possible. In addition, municipalities get the added benefit of one online record per issue, rather than multiple phone calls for one issue flooding a single call system.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
We may not be the Jetsons just yet, but we are getting closer. ITS uses integrated wireless communications in transportation infrastructure and vehicles to help prevent collisions, keep traffic moving even in heavily crowded and populated areas, and help reduce environmental impacts through more efficient travel. If you recently bought a new car, you are getting a preview into the future: automatic cruise control speeds, assisted parking, and alerts when your car moves outside of designated lanes. California, Texas, and Virginia have already adapting laws and are making needed infrastructure improvements to allow for self-driving car testing on certain roads.
For more information on ITS and self-driving cars, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ITS website.
The possibilities of drones are seemingly endless, from easy-to-access aerial views to possibly delivering your next Amazon package, and now engineers in the U.K. are developing ways to use drones as infrastructure improvers. The University of Leeds is using drones to develop a national infrastructure of self-repairing cities. The research team is currently working on three drone designs, each performing a specific set of tasks. One type is called the “perch and repair,” which will perch like a bird on tall structures and make small repairs to items such as streetlights. The “perceive and patch” drones will be responsible for potholes by automatically inspecting, diagnosing, repairing, and preventing. And the “fire and forget” drones are tasked with monitoring and repairing utility pipes.
By using drones to detect and fix these small issues early on, the city benefits from avoiding difficult and costly repairs in the future.
Drone and Moon by Don McCullough / CC BY 2.0