Though we see futuristic cities in movies, in the real world, things are still pretty low-tech, with every major decision being handled by humans. However, a new city in Portugal promises to change that and usher in what may become the future standard of sustainable urban living.
Dubbed PlanIT Valley, the 4,000 acre test city that is currently under construction in Paredes near Porto in Northern Portugal, is a collaboration between the country's government, Living PlanIT a start-up focused on sustainable living, and technology giants like Cisco and Microsoft. If everything goes according to plan, when completed in 2015, it will be the world's 'smartest' and only city, run by a giant computer with an Urban Operating System.
The Urban OS will work like any other Personal Computer Operating System, running critical functions and in this case also, parsing data from the over one million sensors placed around the city. The information obtained will be used to make decisions about everything, ranging from traffic control to the water and heating systems and also, in dealing with any emergencies that may arise.
If for example, a building catches fire, the computer will not only sound the appropriate alarms, but also, light the way for the safest routes for the residents to escape and, divert road traffic so that fire trucks can access the building rapidly - All with no humans involved!
And, that's not all - In the future, through a system called Place Apps the 225,000 residents of PlanIT Valley will also be able to program their Smartphones to interact with the city's Urban OS and use it for things like switching on the oven or turning down the lights in their homes, from a remote location.
PlanIT Valley is also being built to be as 'green' and sustainable as possible. And, the best part is that this experimental city is not going to cost an exorbitant amount. In fact, Living PlanIT and its partners believe that by using state-of-the-art technology, the construction costs will be lower by between 30-40% that of conventional cities. Not only that, thanks to the automation, it will also be cheaper to maintain. They therefore hope that more countries will follow Portugal's lead in building cities like PlanIT Valley, and help make urban living more sustainable, not to mention cooler, that it currently is!
Resources: BBC.co.uk, Dailymail.co.uk, Living-Planit.com