Cities have always been hubs of technological experimentation, shaped by the people who inhabit them and the tools they use. We can still see the marks, both charming and garish, from technologies of years past — from old aqueducts to telephone booths to the damage done by cars.
The next wave of real-time technologies that will define the next decade are software (rather than hardware) upgrades to the city that will nonetheless transform the way we work, play and live in our physical environments — our “brick and mortar” cities. And these technologies, each transformative in their own right, when used in combination to develop new products and experiences, will have a multiplying effect on the rate of change we see in urban environments. (And clearly, in the future, all technologies will have two-letter acronyms.)
Fifth-generation wireless (5G)
5G is just a marketing term right now, but there is no denying that mobile data consumption is exploding, and all of our future technologies will require vastly faster, ubiquitous wireless connectivity. Demands on networks are doubling every year. At this rate, with a bit of quick math, we can see that in the next decade we will have 1,000x the demand for mobile data.
To meet these skyrocketing demands, we need to densify the mobile networks of years past. This means moving from macrocell sites that cover neighborhoods to small cells that cover blocks, down to femtocells and picocells that bring high speed, synchronized connectivity to your home and human-scale settings. Bandwidth has become the lifeblood of cities as much as water, good roads or electricity have supported thriving cities in the past. It’s really the base technology that all others are built on. Look for ubiquitous gigabit-speed wireless in leading cities over the next decade.