Cities are a focal point in the mission to create a sustainable planet for future generations, as urban areas are at the heart of unprecedented population growth and subsequent global challenges such as a changing climate, resource scarcity, transport capacity and housing shortages. What will our future cities look like? How can we ensure we create and manage resilient, smart and sustainable cities? As part of our ongoing speaker Q&A series, we asked smart cities experts for their predictions for the field, over the next 5 years.

What new developments in our cities can we expect to see in the next 5 years?

Alar Vork, CEO of Cityntel: We are still quite in the beginning of Smart Cities development but, I see that there will be lot more integration of different systems. Today there are too many fragmented solutions which from one side do not allow to unlock full potential and other side increase the cost as many parts are duplicated which could be run as a shared solution or platform.

Lola Fernandez-Redondo, Co-ordinator of Digital Greenwich: Advances in digital infrastructure and new technologies will enable the development of an intelligent technological layer, which will offer live information on infrastructure performance, resource consumption, people, goods and vehicular flows, citizens’ behaviours and needs, etc. This will transform the way we live and work, and in response, the built environment needs to be designed to continue meeting our needs. Urban planning will lead in this transformation.The full implementation and adoption of BIM Level 2, and further development and implementation of BIM Level 3 will enable the construction industry to effect its own paradigm shift and bring substantial economic, operational, managerial and financial benefits to the industry.The widespread use of smart devices and APIs are already transforming the way in which citizens are engaging with services such as transport, energy and health care. The further development of social media tools is also revolutionizing the way in which public and private organisations are engaging with citizens in more formal processes such as planning and policy making.Digital infrastructure and new technologies will facilitate a more intelligent control and management of resources. Data capture, integration and open availability will enable city stakeholders to make more informed and responsive decisions to the benefit of our environment and communities.

David Correa, Research Associate at the Institute for Computational Design: In the next 5 years, I am not too sure what will be achieved, but it does seem that there is a growing interest in breaking away from the status quo. It depends greatly on the foresight and flexibility of a City, its willingness to take on some level of risk, and the public's tolerance for 'testing' new ideas. Finding the right solutions may mean trying things that fail, which in my mind is still much better than continuing to do things that we already know do not work.

Allison Dring, Co-Founder of Elegant Embellishments: Architecture will prioritize performance: from the construction of IoT/sentient building materials, to energy-producing, to the absolute expectation that facades interact with the urban environment. Instead of balancing the energy or carbon equation, we will see buildings giving back, acting as agents of urban improvement. We will see the act of building as a catalyst for positive change- which is an iteration beyond the traditional idea of sustainability.

Enrico Motta, Project Director at MK:Smart, and Professor of Knowledge Technologies at the Open University: It really depends on the level of investment but certainly we should be able to see wide-scale deployment of sensor technologies – e.g., to improve mobility by allowing people to go straight to a parking space without driving around and increasing congestion. The combination of electric vehicles, solar panels (or other sustainable energy solutions), cheap batteries and intelligent control systems could also allow individuals and cities to reduce dependency on non-renewable sources, inline with national and local targets. None of this is actually science fiction. These are solutions which are right now being developed in MK:Smart. The challenge will be to ensure large-scale deployment of these technologies.

Niraj Dattani, Head of Communications at Spacehive: You can already see it happening but in 5 years time our buildings, streets, monuments and other physical assets will be much “smarter”. By that, I mean they will be connected to us or each other, working for us rather than being worked by us, and will start to play a proactive role in influencing how we interact with the city beyond their actual physical location. For example, they could be collecting and distributing information or energy, or reacting to our behaviour or the elements around them.

Thorsten Klaus - Head of Building Systems, AlphaEOS: Many national building codes are now requiring new projects to meet net zero energy standards. The next logical step is to push beyond zero energy to net positive buildings — that is, buildings which can produce surplus energy to help meet the needs of the existing building stock (thus reducing the need for costly and resource-intensive renovations). To help manage the complex flows of energy which will arise as more buildings become micro power plants, intelligent building automation and energy management systems will become ubiquitous. Infrastructure for electric vehicles will likely become a more prominent element of the access concept for new projects, and this will allow innovative new scenarios for urban users — for example, the possibility of charging cars and bikes at the workplace during peak solar production hours and bringing some of this energy home to use during peak demand hours. Bike and car-sharing systems may also be integrated explicitly in many new developments to offer users a wider variety of mobility options.

These cities experts will be speaking at the 3rd annual RE•WORK Connected City Summit in London on 16-17 March 2016. Other speakers include Julie Alexander, Siemens; Paul Wilson, Bristol is Open; Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen; Kevin Menice, BigBelly and more.  Tickets for this event are limited, register early to avoid disappointment.