Over the last decade or so, smart devices have gradually started to become ubiquitous. From smartphones to smartwatches, we have just gotten used to the idea that everything around us can be improved by adding some technology to it. It turns out that cities are no exception.

Smart cities are cities built upon IoT devices, cities where everything is talking to everything else. Ever played Watch Dogs? Well, that might not be far off our future! But what exactly makes a smart city? There are three key features.

Connectivity

A defining feature of smart cities, perhaps the most significant feature, is that they are built on interconnected networks. In a smart city, a car’s GPS systems could one day talk to the city networks when planning which route to use. This would enable dynamic pathfinding that could adjust itself on-the-fly in order to maximize the efficiency of the users’ journey.

For individuals, this will be much more convenient. However, on the level of an entire city, it will represent a massive reduction in emissions. This will have knock-on effects on public health, as well as potentially revolutionizing the way that we approach public transport.

Data-Driven Planning

Data is everywhere around us today. The enormous power potential of data has been laid bare over the last few years, with data analytics being used to swing elections, formulate marketing strategies, and plan our cities. As we move closer to truly inter-connected smart cities, this data is going to become even more important.

Data is already used for many aspects of civic planning, but it is currently restricted to areas where we have been able to build useful mathematical models. However, machine learning has opened the door to doing much more with our data – things that people are literally incapable of. Machine learning algorithms are able to identify patterns in data that are far too complicated for people to understand.

Smart cities will utilize a constant stream of data in order to help us plan cities in ways that haven’t been possible until now.

Microcontrollers Everywhere

A data-driven approach to city planning is only possible if the city is able to constantly gather data. Similarly, a truly interconnected city with a citywide network will require physical devices to connect the individual components. Even if the actual transmission of data is entirely wireless, components are required to send, receive, and store data as needed.

Microcontrollers are going to underpin just about every aspect of the smart cities of the future. Anyone who wants to get ahead of the curve in terms of the technology, or anyone who is considering getting involved with the design of smart cities, should start brushing up on microcontrollers, and PCBs in general. Getting yourself a Raspberry Pi is a good starting point, but you can also learn a lot about PCBs by trying out some PCB design software.

There’s plenty of electronics design software out there, but the design software from Upverter.com offers a free browser-based option. If you’re looking to learn how the tech that will underpin our smart cities works, learning about the design of PCBs is the place to start.

As the internet of things begins to take shape, the possibilities for the future are both exciting and seemingly endless. An entire city built on IoT devices would become like a single AI, able to direct its own public transport and emergency services using a constant input of data. Of all the smart innovations on the horizon, this is one of the most exciting.

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