The Post Pandemic Smart City – Lessons and Opportunities

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4Q 2021 | IN-6353

The COVID-19 pandemic is still a major concern around the world. As cities are learning to adapt to a new normal, there is still the need for investment in technologies that help prevent the spread of infection, improve the health of citizens, and maintain health services.

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COVID Is Not Over, But Are We Prepared for What Is Next?


While fears exist of spending yet another winter battling COVID, we need to ask ourselves: What is next? There are a few different threats to public health that are of concern to scientists and governments; most notably, pollution-related diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

Many of the different technologies and techniques used in the COVID-19 pandemic can also help in the fight against other major health concerns. This is a key motivator that can be used to engage cities and maintain their interest in smart technologies that can help keep their citizens safe.

What Has Been Done?


With around 70% of the global population expected to be living in cities by 2050, it is important for these cities to be prepared for future crises. Around the world different cities have used technology to help deal with the pandemic; for example, Singapore, which recently topped the Smart City Index for the second year running, was the first country to release a COVID-19 contact tracing app. Further, the California-based startup Zipline trialed drone delivery of COVID tests in Ghana’s two largest cities, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) was widely used to monitor crowds and the potential spread of infection in Ghana as well.

Digital twins are powerful planning and monitoring tools that can be used by cities to try to decrease the risk of viruses and bacteria spreading. For example, digital twins were used to model air flow in hospitals to see if there were any areas that required better ventilation. They can also be used in real-time crowd-flow management to understand where people tend to gather or stop in order to determine better people management and cleaning frequency.

What Is Next for Smarter, Healthier Cities?


There are the many different technologies that can be used to improve a city’s health and to decrease the risk of disease spreading. Smart healthcare is a growing industry that has been accelerated by the pandemic. The ability to consult with people from their homes, to contact specialists from around the world, and to allow patients to return home earlier can be enabled by smart technologies, but it is only one area regarding the health of citizens. Cities should be investing other technologies that can help to decrease the burden on its healthcare services and to prevent major disruptions caused by any health crisis.

Pollution-related deaths are on the rise, but cities can combat this in a variety of different ways by improving public transport, banning vehicles that pollute, increasing the number of green spaces, and increasing green corridors. The proper monitoring of pollution through environmental sensors is a popular technology that is deployed in cities—acting on this data will be the next vital step.

There are also different technologies available for cities to help combat and manage the spread of infections. These technologies can be used at different stages, including event planning, absorption (the ability to minimize event disruption), recovery, and adaptation. Planning technologies that can be deployed include digital twins, AI, and ML. Block chain, AI-enabled surveillance, e-governance, and automated services are all technologies that can be used in the absorption of disruption during an incident or pandemic such as COVID-19. Technology can also make essential contributions to ensure continuity of basic functions and to support overstretched sectors during recovery from such an incident. The final stage is the adaptation to a new way of living; there will always be some type of change to a city’s way of life after a major event.

COVID-19 has been a great accelerator for the use of technology in cities. It has demonstrated the need to fully utilize assets with better communication among siloed groups and has highlighted areas in which smart cities can help to improve the health and well-being of their citizens.