Smart Cities

Smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, create economic development, and enhance quality of life factors for people living and working in the city. It also means that the city has a smarter energy infrastructure. Smart cities use various physical devices connected to the Internet of Things to optimise efficiency. 

There are many cities around the world that are adopting the smart city strategy including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Columbus, Dubai, Dublin, London, Manchester, Madrid, Malta, Milan, Milton Keynes, New Songdo City, New York, San Leandro, Santa Cruz, Stockholm and many cities in India. Also Singapore has embarked to become the first Smart Nation. 

So what are some of the features that make a smart city ‘smart’? Smart Cities will endeavour to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services. This includes access to water, electricity, affordable homes, education and health services and IT connectivity.

A greater number of government services will be offered online, known as e-governance, which will work especially well on mobile phones, making public services more affordable, and enhancing accountability and transparency. Citizens will be active participants in government, and would be able to provide feedback on e-groups.

Urban mobility will be enhanced by increased access to public transport and innovative solutions such as Smart Parking, Intelligent Traffic Management and Integrated Multi-Modal Transport. Neighbourhoods will be more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. Citizens will be able to walk or cycle to places where key administrative services are provided.

Smart City governments will redevelop poorly-planned areas such as slums, endeavour to make neighbourhoods less disaster-prone, create new living spaces to accommodate a growing populace and create and maintain open spaces such as parks, playgrounds and recreational spaces to alleviate urban heat effects and enhance the standard of living. Video surveillance will be used to track criminal activity and security measures are taken to protect senior citizens, women and children.

Efforts will also be made by cities to generate energy and create compost from waste, reduce the amount of waste generated by the construction, restoration and destruction of buildings and manage water resources more effectively. 

However good these smart cities may sound, there has been a lot of criticism surrounding them. One of the main critiques is that in low-income countries, smart cities are irrelevant to the majority of the urban population, which lives in poverty with limited access to basic services. A focus on smart cities may worsen inequality and marginalisation.

Humanity has come a long way since the very first cities began to emerge more than ten thousand years ago. The possibilities for what can be achieved are endless, and the smart city is one exciting area where things will really start to take shape.

Future Of Gaming

Gaming is without a doubt one of the most popular sources of entertainment with more than 2.5 billion gamers worldwide. As technology advances, so will the quality of video games and how we play them. So what does the future of gaming look like?

One of the main changes in gaming is as technology evolves, as will how powerful gaming consoles will be. As a result of this, loading times on games will shorten and graphics will improve. In the not-so-distant future there will be video games that are indistinguishable from real-life. There will not only be traditional gaming consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation, but Virtual Reality headsets and games compatible with Augmented Reality that will be played wearing a pair of glasses or even smart lenses

At the moment, Virtual Reality is still in its infancy but it has the potential to become a lot more. Current hardware just includes a user wearing a headset and using a controller to move in-game.However, the end goal for Virtual Reality companies such as Oculus, will be a fully immersive experience that puts the player directly into the game. 

As exciting as the whole Virtual Reality movement may seem, future hardware will likely need a range of ethical and usage guidelines. There is a very real risk of people staying in a virtual reality for too long and suffering physical consequences, or struggling to differentiate between virtual and physical realities. As depicted in the film Ready Player One, which is definitely worth a watch. 

As the popularity of gaming increases worldwide, so has the competitive gaming scene which is known as eSports. It is a billion dollar industry with hundreds of millions of viewers annually. eSports is unquestionably going to see an increase in popularity over the next couple of years and there are a number of factors that will drive the growth that include diversity of game genres, geographic expansion of leagues, regulation of competitions, ownership of media rights and alignment of traditional and digital media. 

It is likely that in the next couple of years, you will not buy individual games but there will be subscription-type services for games using a Netflix-type model.

The future of gaming is definitely an interesting one and I will be keeping a close eye on new innovations related to the industry. The potential is limitless, especially with the predicted advancements in technology. It is likely that gaming in 100 years will be completely incomprehensible to us now.

China’s Social Credit System

In 2020, China is aiming to introduce a ‘Social Credit System’ that assesses its citizens’ and businesses’ economic and social reputation or also known as credit.

The aim of the social credit system is reinforce the idea that “Keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful” according to a Chinese government document. 

A person’s credit score can fluctuate depending on their behaviour. Things that will influence your score include bad driving, smoking in non-smoking areas, posting fake news online and buying too many video games. 

If your social credit ranking goes below a certain level you will start to receive punishments and sanctions. These include banning you from flying or getting the train, slowing down internet speed, banning you or your kids from the best schools, stopping you from getting the best jobs, banned from the best hotels, getting your dog taken away and being publicly named as a bad citizen. 

Citizens with a higher social ranking will start to receive benefits such as getting discount on bills, rent things without deposits, better interests rates from banks and China’s biggest dating site will boost your profile to receive more matches.

The social credit system that China are looking to implement has been compared to rating systems in the United Kingdom. The Disclosure and Barring Service Database in the UK collects data on citizen’s credit scores, phone usage and rent payment which filters job applicants, determines access to social services and determines advertisements served.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the system, whether it is an invasion of privacy by the government and an excuse to mass surveil the country’s population. However, there are Chinese citizens that think the social credit system is a good idea or so they say it is. When the system was tested in one area of the country, one citizen stated “I feel like in the past six months, people’s behaviour has gotten better and better. For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don’t stop, you will lose your points. At first, we just worried about losing points, but now we got used to it.”

Personally I wouldn’t want to be part of a social credit system, but it will be interesting to see how it works out once it has been implemented in a couple of years. It does have the potential to improve social behaviour but I think the whole system is massively flawed as it will force citizens to act a certain way because they are worried about being sanctioned as opposed to them acting that way naturally, which would ultimately be the desirable outcome.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of all electrical devices that include software, actuators and connectivity which allows these items to connect, interact and exchange data. This means that not only standard devices, such as computers, smartphones and tablets involve internet connectivity but non-traditional items will be connected also. This will allow these regular items to communicate and interact over the internet, which would enable the ability to monitor and control them remotely. 

In 1990, the number of devices that were connected to the internet was 300,000. In 1999 it was 90 million. In 2010, it was 5 billion. In 2013, it was 9 billion and it has been forecasted that by 2025 there will be 1 trillion products connected to the internet. To get a better understanding of how the Internet of Things work, we should take a look at some examples. 

Having all your household devices connected to one network would allow you to control them using an app or even your voice. This is a Smart Home. Having a Smart Home will allow you to control lighting, climate, entertainment systems and appliances. This will simplify life at home and in the near future will be just as common as smartphones. 

Not only will our homes be connected to the internet but also our cars. A connected car is simply just a car that is equipped with internet access and a wireless local area network. This allows the car to share data with other devices both inside and outside the car. This feature will work well with autonomous cars, as you could be sat inside a self-driving car and you will have the ability to enter your destination from your smartphone. 

Another interesting example of how the Internet of Things will change the way we live is Smart Cities. Smart surveillance, automated transportation, smarter energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environmental monitoring all are examples of Internet of Things applications for smart cities.

So who are some of the big players when it comes to the Internet of Things? Some of the top technology companies are focusing their efforts on products that are compatible with the internet. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and many more have all realised the potential of how big IoT is.

The Internet of Things will definitely be a big part of our everyday as the technology is steadily gaining pace and it has been estimated it won’t be long till the Internet of Things will start to increase in popularity. Eventually it will be against the norm to walk into somebody’s house and they have not got the ability to control every electrical appliance by voice. 

Future Of India

With one of the fastest growing economies and a rapidly growing middle class, India’s future is an interesting one. 

India is the sixth largest economy, recently surpassing China on the world’s fastest growing major economy. India’s growth has been increasing exponentially since 2014 when Narendra Modi became Prime Minster and has helped the country grow by at least 7% per year since then. Also, a fast-growing population of the working age is definitely having a positive impact on their economy and fuelling growth. There are 700 million Indians under the age of 35 and the demographics look good for Indian growth in the next twenty years at least. India is also attracting a lot of foreign investment. Main reasons being is that they have a strong legal system and many english-language speakers. 

Although India is one of the fastest growing economies with a lot of prospects, the country does have some limitations when it comes to growth and development. One main reason being low productivity and human capital. A high percentage of workers and low-skilled and work in small businesses. This most likely comes down to its quality of education where the country does not rank very high. Another big limitation for India is its high inflation and persistent trade deficit. A big reason for its high inflation is that over the past few years, the rate of increase in money supply has varied between 15 and 18 per cent, whereas the national output has increased at an annual average rate of only 4 per cent. Therfore, the rate of increase in output has not been sufficient to absorb the rising quantity of money in the economy. 

We’ve had a look at India’s reasons for growth and limitations, but what does the future of India look like?

In the past couple of years, the startup culture in India has been thoroughly encouraged in India in a big way. By 2020, we should expect to see a lot more Indian start-ups to become billion-dollar companies.

In 2030, India will have a population of around 1.5 billion people which has been predicted to overtake China in 2028 as the world’s largest country. It is said that by then, the country will have three megacities despite the country remaining predominantly rural up to that year. India has been forecasted to be placed among the top five military prowess in 2030 due to its rising population and its “Make in India” movement which will allow India to be self-sufficient in manufacturing defence products.

If things carry on the way they are, by 2050, India will be the second largest economy behind China. Resembling todays Russia and America, India and China would race to the top position in the world. Of course there is no way of knowing what anything will be like in 2050 and this is all just speculation. However, if India carry on the way it’s going, it will become an economic powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with.

Blockchain And Web 3.0

With the huge rise in popularity surrounding cryptocurrencies recently, you may have heard the word ‘blockchain’ once or twice. But what exactly is it?

Blockchain provides a decentralised database of transactions that everyone on the network can see. This network is essentially a chain of computers that must all approve an exchange before it can be verified and recorded. The technology will allow consumers and suppliers to connect directly, which removes the need for a third party.

In regards of how blockchain would work with Bitcoin, blockchain would store the details of every transaction made using Bitcoin. Therefore, the blockchain would stop the same Bitcoin being spent more than once. 

Blockchain was first created by the creator of Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto and when this was released, people started to realise the potential of blockchain technology. The uses for blockchain are limitless as it can be used in any transaction that involves value, goods or services. 

Blockchain technology will power the new Web 3.0, also known as ‘the new internet’. Which is basically how the next generation of applications, data, concepts and people are connected by the new technology. This means that a middleman to ensure privacy or security will no longer be needed. 

To give you a better of understanding of Web 3.0 we should take a look at Web 1.0 and 2.0. The Web 1.0 is all about static websites which were created with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. There weren’t many web apps on the internet. It was just no interaction. Web 2.0 took a significant change from Web 1.0. It started with interactive interfaces and content that was very popular. The Web 2.0 also saw the rise of various popular media consumption platforms such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook. It created a community of like-minded people where it was easy for anyone to share information. Web 3.0 takes the web experience one step ahead by focusing on the human aspect. It will be more inclined towards privacy and against the control of big organizations.

So how will blockchain technology effect our future? It will most likely completely change the way we do our banking today. As big banks and financial institutions will unquestionably use the technology for traditional banking operations. Especially after how successfully it was applied to cryptocurrencies. This will saves banks a considerable amount, which will allow us to conduct faster transactions at lower costs.

It is also believed that national cryptocurrencies will start to appear. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first who proposed to issue “Crypto Rouble” a national cryptocurrency. Although some countries like China still ban cryptocurrency exchanges, we should expect that governments will finally accept the blockchain-based currency in 2018 because of its potential advantages for public and potential services.

Another useful way it will effect our future is its integration with the Internet of Things (IoT). Blockchain can provide a secure and scalable framework for communication between IoT devices and is highly resistive against cyberattacks.

Blockchain in the future will revolutionise business processes in many if not all industries eventually. Nevertheless, in the near future, we can expect that governments will finally accept blockchain benefits and begin to use it for improving financial and public services. Blockchain will force businesses to completely reconsider their processes and by 2020 we will see more examples of successful implementation of blockchain technology.

Autonomous Cars

Autonomous cars, also known as self-driving cars, are cars that have the ability to sense the environment around it with no human input whatsoever. When autonomous cars come to market it will unquestionably shake up the car industry and completely change the way we commute today. 

How these autonomous cars work is that they are built with a variety of sensors to identify appropriate navigation paths, perceive obstacles and relevant signage. 

There are a number of contenders when it comes to who will get their self-driving car on the road first. Waymo, subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. are reportedly ahead of its rivals and are aiming to introduce driverless cars to the public within the next six months. General Motors are not far behind with their Chevrolet Bolt which has been forecasted to come to market in late 2019. They have the backing from Japan’s SoftBank, who have invested roughly £1.8 billion in General Motor’s autonomous drive unit, GM Cruise Holdings. These are the two main companies that have announced they will be expecting to release their self-driving cars before 2020. 

So far in the race to the first autonomous car, there have been numerous road accidents and even some have been fatal. The first death involving a self-driving car was by Tesla when their autopilot feature was first brought to the Chinese market. The Tesla Model S crashed into the back of a van, while in autopilot mode which resulted in the death of the 23-year-old driver and there was no attempt of braking made. 

Autonomous cars will undeniably change the world as we know it. One way it will change the way we live our lives is that we will be less likely to own a car. The need to spend tens of thousands on your own vehicle and spend money regularly maintaining will be unnecessary. People will have a subscription service where they are able to use a car to get from A to B and then the car will go to the next client. 

Driverless cars will also bring big change to city infrastructure. Where autonomous cars move with greater precision as opposed to human driven ones, streets could be narrower, with more space allocated for pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic lights will become obsolete because the cars will know how to avoid collisions. Also with more cars spending more time driving on the road, the space for parked cars will no longer be needed.

While autonomous cars may not catch on with everybody straight away, as some people will still have the desire to actually drive, eventually there will only be driverless cars just because of how convenient life will be with them. Manual cars that will require human input will eventually be a thing of the past and this may happen a lot sooner than you think.