Getting to the root of sustainable city living

Just over a decade ago, the balance tipped. For the first time in history, the number of people living in cities globally was greater than the number living in rural areas. By 2017, the gap had increased with the world’s urban population growing to 55%.  By 2050, it’s projected that this figure will be more like 68%.

According to the UN, cities currently account for 60% of both economic activity and greenhouse emissions, so the pressure is on to make changes now that will keep business blooming while contributing to a cleaner planet and better quality of life.

What is prescribed to make cities healthier?

The “WHO Manifesto for a healthy recovery from Covid-19”[1] outlines six prescriptions for positively channelling the massive global investment being made in the wake of the pandemic. Number 5 is, quite simply, “Build healthy, liveable cities.”

This is a clear recommendation for helping to resuscitate communities and countries in a sustainable way. But it’s also very broad. How can decision makers pinpoint where to start?

A city is its citizens

Anyone who lives or works in a city knows that they seem to have a character and a life of their own. Cities aren’t just places where lives happen; their history, the way they are built and the way they grow shapes everything that goes on there.

If you go back far enough the word ‘city’ has its roots in the Latin word civis, meaning ‘citizen’. It then morphed to mean ‘a community of citizens’. A city and its people have always been inextricably linked.

So, it makes sense that if a city’s population is to thrive, then the city itself needs to contribute. It needs to be part of the solution not the problem. The best way to work out the route forward for each city is looking to the people who live there and the way they live as the foundations for change.

Data is needed for the right diagnosis

The WHO Manifesto cites pedestrianisation, cycle lanes and improved public transport as ways to build healthy, liveable cities. But doling out the same surface solutions for all cities without assessing the underlying problems first is unlikely to lead to lasting, beneficial change. Municipal managers are looking for partners, projects and technology that can deliver value on many levels.

Data is the key to digging deeper to discover what actions will be best for each city.

When cities can measure data from across the entire urban area, zone in on particular streets or neighbourhoods, and analyse how citizens are currently interacting with the environment, then their short-term and long-term decisions have real substance.

The potential uses of the insights from outdoor technology are what drive us at Amscreen. Over 250 sensors in our products measure everything from temperature and air quality to traffic, footfall and noise levels. According to a 2018 Smart Cities report from McKinsey Global Institute[2], “cities can use smart technologies to improve some key quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30 percent – numbers that translate into lives saved, fewer crime incidents, shorter commutes, a reduced health burden, and carbon emissions averted.” That sounds like a genuine formula for healthier, more liveable cities.

To find out more about how our unique Remote Device Management (RDM®) software and analytics suite puts data in your hands 24/7, get in touch.

[1] WHO Manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19

[2] Smart city technology for a more liveable future | McKinsey