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If you think cities were crowded 10 years ago or even today, projections for the future growth of these metropolitan areas is mind-blowing. Urban areas occupy just 2.6% of our planet’s surface. However, they are currently home to more than 50% of the world’s population. They also produce 80% of the world’s GDP while consuming 75% of its natural resources.

The United Nations estimates that our global population is going to soar to 9.6 billion by 2050. Furthermore, the percentage of that population living in cities is going to rise to 66%. Since we know this growth is on the horizon, we have an opportunity to manage it. This will take a coordinated effort that will benefit both businesses and the citizens who call these areas home.

Here are 8 business and technology ideas for cities of the future. These ideas keep in mind the need for sustainability in an environment of increased urbanization.

 

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1. Air-Purifying Billboards

Pollution will likely always be an issue in urban environments, which is why there need to be innovative solutions. Lima, Peru, has billboards that suck in polluted air for a 5-block radius, cleanse it, and then pump it out again.

 

2. High-Tech Waste Management

Preserving resources and limiting waste will become essential in our cities of the future. One way to do this is with high-tech trash cans that signal waste management when they become full.

 

3. Sharing Programs

Instead of everyone who lives in an urban environment owning their own car, bicycle, and other space-hogging items, apps are allowing us to share. Bike-sharing programs have sprung up in major cities throughout the world. Also, there are now apps that allow you to share a car and other household items. In this way, you only pay for something when you need it.

 

4. Clearinghouse for Leftover Food

When there are millions of people living in a city, poverty is often an issue. Likewise, there is also the unnecessary waste of food. Cities can now use an online clearinghouse to make better use of food so that it goes to nonprofit organizations.

 

5. Mobile Payments

You can not only use your mobile device to pay for parking in most areas now, but some cities also allow you to make mobile payments for small infractions such as parking tickets.

 

6. Traffic Monitors

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had the most up-to-date information about traffic and weather conditions in your area? You can not only get this through several apps, but some cities such as Helsinki have kiosks that provide this information. Using these kiosks, residents can choose the best route to their destination. Los Angeles continuously analyzes its traffic patterns and adjusts traffic control systems. This allows the city to lower commute times by 12 percent.

 

7. Permeable Pavement

When population density skyrockets, there will be a strain on public infrastructure for natural resources. A new permeable paving surface allows excess rainwater to escape through to the ground, lessening flooding issues and adding resources to the city’s aquifer.

 

8. Multi-Function Lighting

A city’s lights can not only be more energy efficient by using LED technology, but they can also be multi-functional. In Newark, the lights double as security cameras. These systems can also alert people to inclement weather or an increase in pollution.

 

 

Preparing for the Future

Cities are increasingly preparing for the future now that there are innovators stepping up to fill the need. City planners and designers, in partnership with tech companies, are looking to make their urban areas smarter, more sustainable, and more efficient.

The Consumer Technology Association estimates that the market for urban technology will reach $34.4 billion annually by 2020. Each innovative victory provides a blueprint for other cities around the world to manage growth in the coming years.