In the face of rapid urbanization, cities are under more pressure than ever before to plan integrated services and smart infrastructure to meet citizens’ needs.
Given the need for smarter, more efficient infrastructure, what role will blockchain technology have in the development of smart cities?
How rapid urbanization is driving the need for smart cities
In the 1950s, only 30% of the world’s population lived in cities. Now that percentage is more like 55% according to The World Bank. The United Nations predicts that the number of cities with a population of 10 million or more is expected to increase from 33 to 43 between 2018 and 2030.
To cope with rapid population growth, cities will require a new approach to urban design, governance, investment, and housing. Urban population growth is already putting undue stress on urban centers, with increased homelessness and the need for infrastructure upgrades to roads, water systems, and power grids. However, expanding public services won’t solve the problem alone, as the key piece is more efficient services and resources.
How blockchain technology will make cities smarter
Blockchain technology can improve many aspects of urban management: from identity verification on transport networks to tracking energy use in suburban homes.
Given blockchain is a decentralized ledger, it is able to record information from various sources, verify it, and create an accurate record that can be audited by all of the participants.
The blockchain’s capacity to be the ultimate record keeping system is unrivaled in the world of technology. Below are some applications of this technology in smart cities.
Smart Energy Markets
With climate change high on cities’ agendas, technology that supports green energy is integral to smart city design. Solar energy is already becoming more prominent in private dwellings around the globe and renewed focus on hydrogen could be a game-changer for how energy is delivered to suburban households in the future. Along with these green energy shifts, a push to more decentralized infrastructure hubs is growing in popularity.
For example, solar rooftops are able to produce local energy for an individual building and supply it with the power it needs for its domestic operations. Crucially, solar rooftops also tend to produce an excess of electrical power that can be fed back into a city-wide electricity grid.
Coordinating a market with thousands of micro producers is very difficult. Managing the sale of the extra energy requires an active marketplace where participants can interact with each other freely. This is where blockchain technology can add incredible value to cities.
A decentralized ledger can log all the households that are currently producing excess electricity, record that information on a ledger and feed that info into an active market. Energy production can be accurately attributed to local energy producers, bought and sold with confidence that the ledger is correct and distributed fairly to the people and communities that need it most. And because energy markets can be peer-to-peer, the need for brokers is reduced if not eliminated.
The increased energy production efficiency would make smart cities much more affordable and sustainable. The only technology capable of creating a fair and transparent market for all these micro energy producers is blockchain.
Future Public Transport
As cities grow, the need for integrated public transportation options will increase in a bid to alleviate pressure on roads and transport corridors. Integrated urban transport is growing in popularity in many countries and in smart cities, communications devices and smart sensors powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) will replace ticketing infrastructure.
Underlying this, blockchain technology will enable efficiency and reduce red-tape for commuters and local governments. For example, most modern public transport services offer discounts if you use two services in sequence. The complexity of these types of systems can increase quickly if we take into account several users and multiple services all with different routes.
Additionally, coordinating the maintenance of the public vehicles, tracking that their insurance is up to date, and tracking driver activity is a daunting task. All of these different services are currently managed by different systems and government departments or private companies.
This creates a lot of duplicate work, registration inconsistencies and increases the potential for human error and corruption. A blockchain-based system can transparently track all transport system data and also serve as the settlement layer for payments without having to be administered through different systems. The efficiencies created have the potential to change public transport forever.
Blockchain can improve city governance. Right now, municipalities work using election cycles. Once a candidate has been elected, he/she has very little incentive to engage with the electorate until the next election is close. In many countries, there is often a disconnect between those representing the population and the actual citizens.
Blockchain can allow for deeper community engagement on important issues. The distributed ledger can be used to quickly set up voting on an important matter for the city. That way the citizens can show their preferences more often and be more involved in a city’s development. Who knows, perhaps politicians as we know them will one day be irrelevant!
Yet, that is only the beginning. A new way to create a representative democracy is being developed called liquid democracy. In it, representatives are allocated voting power by those they govern, but instead of being fixed like in an election this voting power can be reallocated at any moment. If a representative is not performing as promised, the citizens can immediately move their power to a different candidate without having to wait for the next election.
Blockchain technology can track voting. If the ledger is centralized, then the voting system can be corrupted easily as no individual person can be sure their power is allocated correctly. A distributed ledger can track all of these choices, make them public, and fair for all participants.
Blockchain is the future of the global economy and soon it’ll be at the core of urban planning. The technology being built today will be the foundation for a more representative and equitable future.
The secure management of assets and shared treasuries is key for this future, and Unido is creating the technology to enable governments, corporates and organizations to manage business on the blockchain. This includes the ability to sign smart contracts and manage private keys, which are core to Unido’s business and governance-focused technology.
Unido offers enterprise-level crypto self-custody solutions for SMEs, sophisticated corporations and institutions that want to leap into crypto, invest in DeFi and provide crypto access to their customers.
Our technology is based on a state-of-the-art fragmented private key-signing engine that enables enterprises to distribute transaction signing at the blockchain level. That, combined with our user-friendly dashboard and point-and-click business tools, provides enterprises with the level of corporate governance workflow and security they require to confidently do business on the blockchain.
Financial Information Disclaimer
The information presented in this content is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, needs or financial situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate for you before making an investment decision.