The development of smart cities and what blockchain’s got to do with it

As the urban population continues to swell, there’s an increasing need for smart cities. But what role can blockchain technology play in this?

Smart cities are no longer a feature of the future. More and more areas are building the infrastructure to counter the challenges of urbanisation. The urban population will nearly double by 2050 when it will account for 68% of the total global population. This will increase the need for safe, sustainable, and resilient solutions to provide tangible benefits to all citizens.

Many cities large and small already implement projects that enable digital public services and a more interactive administration. They combine user-friendly technology with innovative urban planning, transportation, and energy management.

Blockchain as a framework for smart cities

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for smart cities, as each community requires diverse solutions to their urbanisation challenges. Having a unique set of rules and rigid best practices for smart cities is currently impossible. However, blockchain technology could potentially provide a framework for increased efficiency.

Blockchain could be extremely efficient at automating public services and improving the quality of life in urban centres.

Let’s take taxes for example. If the city had a digital ledger where every property was registered along with its relevant information (utility use, ownership, mortgage balance, contractors), authorities could automatically calculate taxes and perform any other administrative tasks required.

At the same time, the blockchain in question would become a secure network for every house owner. They could pay taxes automatically, hire new contractors, or sell or rent their property. Everything would be possible from one single platform that guaranteed the security of its users.

Public entities could achieve quite a lot by implementing blockchain-based solutions. Every component of the smart city could theoretically be connected to the blockchain.

Public transportation and parking

Providers could use blockchain to track bus maintenance systems in real-time and improve traffic safety. At the same time, people could use their digital wallets to pay for public transport, and cars could integrate digital wallets to pay for parking autonomously.

Blockchain technology could also be used to implement the MaaS system (Mobility as a Service), where citizens get access to multiple means of transportation from one single platform for increased efficiency.

Effective energetics

A blockchain-powered energy market could make each property more energetically efficient. Using data stored on the network, property managers could optimise the consumption of water and energy to make each building a healthier (and cheaper) environment for the people inside.

Money transfers and smart payments

Citizens and businesses of all sizes could use blockchain for faster money transfers and instant payments to peers and business partners. The technology could facilitate municipal payments as well (including welfare, payroll, city programmes, or assistance).

Smart contracts

Authorities could use smart contracts to automate bureaucratic processes. Together with digital identities for citizens, smart contracts could help to remove the paper from public institutions and implement digital ways of identifying citizens, voting, paying taxes, or proving ownership of assets.

Transparency

Governments and local administrations could use blockchain technology to share information with the public more efficiently. Citizens could then use apps to get access to accurate and reliable data published right from the primary source.

This would help increase awareness about introducing new taxes or municipal budget decisions, for example.

Waste management

Blockchains could be used to track plastic through the recycling process in an attempt to reduce its impact on the environment.

Plastic Bank, for instance, is an example of a blockchain-powered initiative to reduce waste while helping people in poor communities.

Smart cities around the world: Dubai

Dubai aims to become the model of implementing the smart economy for all other communities to follow. Through the Smart City Initiative, Smart Dubai plans to become the first blockchain-powered city by 2021.

Local authorities are looking to use both blockchain and AI to eliminate paper documents from the city over the next two years.

Currently, they’re using blockchain to speed up government transactions and provide transparent governance processes across all departments, including the police, healthcare, and public transportation.

Smart cities and IoT (Internet of Things)

Smart cities and IoT combined are an industry expected to reach some $62 billion by 2026. Fast-growing technologies will transform urban areas as we know today into more efficient centres, where people can live better and benefit from transparent digital services.

Blockchain and its ability to keep track of information flow and transactions could be the glue that holds the network together, enabling effective communication between authorities and citizens and a sort of “collaboration” between humans and technology.

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