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The way we define our cities changes as our civilizations evolve. The way we form cities, however, remains the same. The innately human activity of building homes, infrastructure and communities are the building blocks of urbanization. Once we add reliable food and water, gainful work, and social connection, you have yourself a booming city.
This pattern is so reliable that the world is now home to many megacities – metropolises with populations of 10 million people or more. Today, there are 33 across the globe, with these three giants topping the list, according to the UN:
However, the UN projects that by 2030, this number could grow to as many as 43 megacities. Doing the math, that could be 100 million more people in our biggest cities.
As our numbers grow, our cities swell and the places we call home become more dense and disparate. As well as the strain on natural resources and the economies of each region, the challenge in creating transport routes – for inter and intra connection – is greater than ever.
The very basics of this challenge lie in devising ways for megacity inhabitants to get around. That includes adapting existing routes, and creating new ones.
This only becomes more complex when you consider the huge variability in these cities. Take the big three, for example: in Delhi, there are long stretches of packed, sprawling roads, in Shanghai, bridges to cross from the mainland to the islands, while Tokyo has high vertical density of people. At the same time, our location intelligence also needs to evolve at pace.
The UN says: "In 2030, a projected 752 million people will live in cities with at least 10 million inhabitants, representing 8.8% of the global population." No matter the economic standing of a nation, or the modernity of its systems, the best transport means and methods are useless if they're constantly overrun. Or worse yet – if they're not truly accessible.
Scale must become the dominant consideration as the sheer volume of use grows, whether that’s citizens walking between neighbourhoods, or freight traveling from one megacity to the next.
A drone's eye view of Tokyo: the biggest megacity in the world, soon to be overtaken by Delhi.
Today, a city is much more than lines on cartography paper. It’s a living collection of humans, plus the literate, buzzing companions that are artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and all the technologies embedded into our daily lives.
The way forward is for businesses and governments to tie their real-time data silos together, combining this rich data for the unified goal of future-proofing their city. The secret sauce to turn this data into practical, useful information? Location.
Cities who make the best use of joined-up location intelligence will achieve efficient and faster travel, fewer safety-related incidents, and a cohesive travel and transport system, where people and goods actually arrive on time.
At HERE Technologies, we’re designing the systems that make these goals a reality, with practical solutions to break down some of these silos.
Unifying data is just one step on the road to masterfully designed megacities. Another huge task involves shifting mindsets.
Governments need to be guided along the journey of elevating their practices and policies. In turn, this will shift budgets and resources from potholes to cloud-based solutions, from hiring administrators to hiring data analysts – from maintaining and monitoring, to future-proofing districts.
There's only so much land Mother Earth can offer. As a result, our megacities will be forced to capitalize on the space above the ground. As buildings get taller, location data will need to get better at showing you the vertical details in a section of space, not just the ground footprint.
For example, every person in Tokyo, has an average of only 19 square meters to live in, so most people are stacked on top of each other, rather than living side by side. A pin on a conventional map could miss the fact that many homes or offices are situated in one building. By creating a 3D view, you can see the world more realistically, and crucially, more accurately.
So rather than taking our old approach of connecting two points on a map, we need to start connecting data from as many devices and sources as possible: like drones, sensors, connected cars, cameras, chips and more.
And instead of thinking only about how we interact with the land around us, we need to broaden our scope, considering the relationships between people, places and things. This way, maybe, just maybe, our megacities can keep flowing, and be the exciting places to explore that we know they can be.
Want to see how HERE Technologies is pioneering location intelligence? Meet our vision of the Autonomous World of 2050.