We are always connected: design the city as a smart network

Via the internet we are always connected to each other and to everything. Nowadays, that sounds normal, but it is very exceptional, especially to planners, spatial planners and urban planners. For the first time in history, humanity lives as a network, like a swarm. The Internet gives concepts such as time, place and distance a new meaning. That is the real change of this new industrial revolution. And that also requires a different design approach for our regions, cities, villages and communities involved.

The core of technological development that led to the current industrial revolution is due to the communication network that we have built over the past century and a half between people and things, between people themselves and things themselves. It started with the first telephone line in 1855 and has become the mobile internet that we have now. The next step is a 5G network. 5G promises that a continuously operating very fast mobile internet network will be created without white spots. It will be an improved version of 4G: more reliable, more bandwidth and much faster.

But the real innovation is that it is swarm technology. Because as soon as 5G exists, computers can operate like swarms. An example of swarm technology is self-driving cars, which must constantly communicate with their environment to know where they are and where the others are. Another example is drones that fly over the city like swarms, constantly in contact with each other and their environment. From the perspective of spatial planning, that is the biggest change compared to a less reliable network such as 4G. Thanks to 5G technology, the city can be arranged as a flexible object. However, it is still difficult to understand what that entails. Just like as it is complicated to oversee the advantages and disadvantages. It is up to spatial planners, planners, urban planners and landscape architects to design using this.

More and more electronic devices are being connected to the internet. Devices that enable communication between people, but also devices that communicate with each other or with a central computer. This is sometimes referred to as the internet of things, but just like with any other part of the internet, it is a collection of computers that communicate with each other exchanging data.

The question is whether everything should be connected to the internet of things? Every industrial revolution has its inventions that, for one reason or another, do not become successful. In this industrial revolution, could that be this constant connection of everything?

This is a pre-publication of the book “A smart city, this is how you do it – Connected, flexible and meaningful: make the real future city”. With theory in the form of essays. And few practical examples of how our regions, cities and villages have already changed. Want to read more? Go to this page to order the book for free.

The original version of the book is in Dutch, click here to order the original edition. From this book is made an English summary. In the English version, we focus on trends.