Smart cities are the ultimate goal in future living. Imagine urban paradises where people and communities are self-sufficient, consume very few resources and address the needs of everyone. Technological advances will enable them but, in the end, their benefit is in what they do for the people within.

Take water. The city of Bellevue in the US monitors its water systems, including pressure and quality. When a local hospital faced an outbreak of Legionella, the city was able to use its internet-connected sensors to check that chlorine levels in the pipes coming out of the building were high enough to prevent growth of the bacteria¹. Given Legionella develops into the potentially deadly Legionnaire’s disease, the ability to stop it from spreading is a no-brainer when it comes to ‘smart’ actions.

The example, while a great commendation for the utility of smart technology, serves to illustrate the importance of its implementation around citizens and their needs. By using data and sensors, there’s no limit to what can be achieved, as long as governments ensures that people always remain at the centre of the equation.

There are many smart cities that are putting into practice methods and technologies that will enable economic and social change, such as Barcelona, Melbourne and San Francisco. Successful cities will be those that think about their inhabitants’ lives. Saving energy, space and water, as well as enabling better traffic management, health and public safety are just some of the goals that should be at the heart of smart planning.

According to this infographic, developed by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, in just eight years’ time there will be 88 smart cities in the world. That’s good news, because there will also be almost another billion people to accommodate. With clean water diminishing, traffic becoming more congested and energy use rising, only a smart approach to development will allow for sustainability.

Infographic: Smart cities, smarter lives