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How Smart Cities Can Defend Against Future Pandemics

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As the virus causing COVID-19 spreads across the planet, people are questioning if governments and officials had the right plans prepared to handle a threat like this. Populous areas such as New York City are being hit the hardest, as the population density makes transference seemingly unavoidable. 

While we still have a long way to go to eliminate the threat, social distancing appears to be working by flattening the curve. Other countries such as China successfully implemented this strategy months before, and have toted smart technology as a way to easily monitor city ordinances and get residents the supplies and goods they need as they keep their distance. 

Smart cities allow us to service a large number of people in a very short time by using data sensors to gather and process information. City leaders and scientists can then use this data to track diseases, deliver autonomously, survey infected citizens, and make predictions about human behavior.  

By the year 2050, it is estimated that more than two-thirds of the planet’s population will live in cities. This will make urban planning even more crucial for future generations as they prepare to protect themselves from future pandemics.

Read on to discover how smart cities can defend against pandemics. 

Tracking Diseases

Disease-tracking software allows city officials and scientists to track the spread of viruses in real-time through artificial intelligence. So how does it work? 

Artificial intelligence can be used to gather large sets of public data and information from thousands of databases and other sources. This data is used to track the spread of viruses and significantly improves response time

With information like this, countries cannot not only monitor themselves but also other countries around the world. For example, a company that specializes in disease tracking that is headquartered in Canada was the first to speak up about the spike in pneumonia cases specific to Wuhan, China. This was over a week before the World Health Organization (WHO) released anything to the public.

Robot Delivery

Due to the danger of the virus and its ability to quickly spread, many countries ordered their citizens to practice social distancing. This means staying at least six feet apart, not gathering in groups and avoiding any crowded places. Cities in China, Italy and other countries have issued shelter in place orders, which require citizens to stay in their homes.

Many delivery drivers, food chains and grocery stores have been working overtime in dangerous conditions to fulfill orders and keep up with demand. This will decrease significantly in smart cities as robot delivery services become more available. 

Smart cities can prioritize the distribution of medicine, food, and other goods through autonomous delivery.  Cities that have already adopted robot and autonomous delivery services like drones and driverless cars and trucks will have a much easier time moving food and supplies during a pandemic. 

Geolocation services

Geolocation data has the ability to predict human behavior in an instant. Your phone is likely tracking your movements this very instant, so why not use this data-tracking feature to help slow the spread of coronavirus and other pandemics? 

Data like popular dining and shopping times can give city officials insight into how they should create their plans and structure ordinances for future pandemics.

Drone supervision

After many questionable incidents, people have a right to their privacy concerns with drones. However, they have been a great help to cities like Wuhan, where drones replaced the need to have police officers on the ground to enforce shelter in place orders. Even Italy used drone supervision to alert citizens on the streets to go home and social distance. 

Thermal surveillance

Granted their reliability is still up for debate, but thermal cameras are designed to measure individuals’ body temperatures as they pass by to check for anyone running a fever. Some of these thermal cameras are also outfitted with facial recognition software.

China has thermal cameras installed on street corners so that if a citizen has a fever, city leaders or law enforcement can be dialed in and respond quickly. 

One of the first and most common symptoms of COVID-19 is a fever. Thermal cameras are smart city technology that can be implemented even in cities today to help officials monitor the spread of disease.

Smart Energy

During the time of a pandemic, one of people’s biggest worries is using power. Finding ways to power cities and provide energy in a time of crisis will be the key for smart cities during future pandemics.

The future of energy is going to go in a completely different direction than it has in the past. Rather than have a small number of large plants distribute energy, future plants will be scaled smaller and in higher numbers. Energy will run at the local level, allowing every person to generate energy.

Energy is becoming something that we can control through the internet. Appliances will soon be designed with interconnectivity.  This means the appliance itself uses digital systems so that we have full control over how energy is stored and used in each appliance. Buildings will also become more power efficient.

Internet capabilities

The way we communicate and refine information has transformed because of our evolving digital world. For example, keeping residents up to date during a time of crisis has completely changed over time. Television was a huge change for people as they could get news within hours. Now you can get updates and news just seconds after and they occur by using social media like Twitter and Facebook. 

This is something that wasn't possible just 15 years ago. When people can get information that quickly, and in the palm of their hand, actions like a stay at home order can be issued very fast. Most cities already have wi-fi in many buildings and restaurants for almost a decade, but be ready to get it almost anywhere you go in smart cities.

For people that are older or those that can’t purchase a smart device, many cities have smart kiosks scattered throughout. These can be updated as quickly as a smartphone so that information can be shared with those people who need them.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shocked citizens and leaders all over the world. One of the most challenging obstacles for scientists and researchers has been the lack of information about the virus. New technology, however, can track data in real-time and could be the deciding factor for the outcome of this pandemic. Nations that are divided have come to work together to improve pandemic responses, and smart cities will be a big part of that improvement. 

Karlyn draw inspiration from trending news and unique features. She has experience creating content for digital, social media, television, and print platforms, and working both in advertising and in media.