IDTechEx: Smart Cities without infrastructure

An image to illustrate smart cities.
©iStock/IR_Stone

Peter Harrop, the chairman of IDTechEx has produced a report on smart cities without infrastructure.

The creation of smart cities is becoming an increasing priority for Europe, and globally. Over half of the global population lives in urban areas, according to the United Nations.

“A large proportion of the cost, disruption, pollution and exposure to natural disasters in a city would be eliminated if there were no infrastructure. Imagine no sewage or gas pipes, electricity poles or even sidewalks from which people leap into the face of approaching traffic. Poor sanitation such as leaking pipes kills half a million children under the age of five annually and costs $200 billion a year in healthcare costs and lost income worldwide,” Harrop writes.

“We have seen a beginning of independence with houses ceasing to require telephone wires because mobile phones are used. However, a city where buildings are fully independent seems like a pipedream. Until now. The smart materials and robotics approach to smart cities is far more powerful than the initial IT and sensor centric approach and it is cracking the problem.”

Sanitation infrastructure

“Passivedom Corporation sells a residence that grabs its own water from the atmosphere and treats its own sewage, its electric power being from its own solar panels. Separately, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates unveiled a futuristic toilet in November 2018 that does not need water or sewers and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertilizer. His foundation has committed $200 million and expects to spend the same amount again before the toilets are viable for widespread distribution.”

“The current toilet simply sends the waste away in the water, whereas these toilets don’t have the sewer,” Gates said. “They take both the liquids and solids and do chemical work on it, including burning it in most cases.”

According to Harrop, “He expects the market for the toilets to be over $6 billion by 2030. There is big money in smart cities based on smart materials. Solar roads that self-deice and charge vehicles at speed are being installed in China in 2022. They cost millions of dollars per kilometre so this will become another multi-billion dollar zero-emission business with good payback.”

The IDTechEx report

The IDTechEx report, “Smart City Opportunities: Infrastructure, Systems, Materials 2019-2029” includes the independence of food, power and water for cities and even the buildings within them. It lists ways in which a city can produce hundreds of megawatts itself.

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