In the tech-savvy 21st century, technology touches almost every aspect of our lives. We use it for work. We use it to learn. We use it to travel. We use it for entertainment, for self-improvement, to stay connected, to make purchases, and to find soulmates. We may not even be far from Total Recall‘s robot-driven cab or the sentient operating system of Her.
Across the globe, a handful of cities have embraced technology above and beyond the standard. These technological hubs continuously push the boundaries of innovation, wowing the rest of the world with their advanced designs and ingenious applications. If you want to know what the future will look like, these are the places to watch.
Here are seven of the most advanced cities currently shaping the next generations of cutting-edge urban living. Fingers crossed our future is a little more Jetsons and a little less WALL-E.
Tokyo is famous for its beguiling blend of tradition and modernity. One minute you’re exploring the sacred grounds of a Shinto shrine; the next you’re shaking hands with Asimo, Honda’s robotic humanoid, or ordering a meal via tablet screen. Hotels in Tokyo offer state-of-the-art stays, with technology seamlessly integrated into every aspect of the rooms (even the toilets). The 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be the most futuristic yet, with rumours swirling that driverless taxis, facial recognition technology, and an artificial meteor shower will make appearances.
Singapore produces heaps of consumer electronics, and is home to an extremely high number of programmers and venture capitalists, but those aren’t the reasons it makes this list. The city-state is also highly committed to green living, and has deployed a variety of innovative tech to make it happen. Top of the list is the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, a canopy of artificial trees that act as vertical gardens. The supertrees generate solar power, collect rainwater, and function as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories.
Seoul, South Korea
In just a few short decades, Seoul emerged from post-war poverty to become what Smithsonian.com boldly called ‘the city of the future.’ Residents of the South Korean capital are amongst the earliest adopters of new technology in the world, and the city boasts an extensive network of free WiFi connections. Seoul’s many ‘smart’ initiatives and features include a program to distribute second-hand gadgets to low-income citizens, roads that recharge electric vehicles, digital countdowns at bus stops, and virtual stores.
The only European city on the list – in fact, the only city that isn’t in Asia – Amsterdam isn’t as advanced as some of the other entries, but it’s made a few notable strides towards everyday tech integration. The city has launched smartphone apps like Happening Amsterdam to help locals discover and experience the best the capital has to offer, and an initiative called TreeWiFi outfitted the city with high-tech birdhouses that detect air pollution levels and provide free WiFi. Lawmakers have also announced that they hope to ban gas and diesel cars by 2025 in favour of electric vehicles.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai loves few things more than outstripping and outshining other cities, and tech is no exception. The extravagant city wastes no opportunity to go big (the world’s tallest building, largest shopping mall, and biggest indoor theme park all call it home) or push boundaries. It has built a group of man-made islands and an underwater hotel, and more recently announced plans to construct a tropical rainforest inside a skyscraper. Dubai even has Smart Palm trees that use solar power to provide free WiFi and phone charging.
The 2016 GfK Connected Consumer Index ranked Hong Kong first for popularity of computers, mobile and wearable tech, connected cars, and smart home gadgets. Hong Kong boasts lightning fast internet speeds and invests significant money in R&D and innovation activities. Worth special mention is the Octopus card, a reusable contactless smart card used for making electronic payments in a mind-blowingly wide range of online and offline situations. Hong Kong also makes extensive use of biometrics, including in schools and offices.
Songdo, South Korea
Songdo has been dubbed “The World’s Smartest City” and “Korea’s High-Tech Utopia.” An experiment in connected living, Songdo is a ‘ubiquitous city’ where all major information systems (residential, medical, business, governmental, etc) share data, and computers are inserted into every building and street. The ambitious project is not yet complete, but already has tens of thousands of residents and played a starring role in Psy’s viral “Gangnam Style” music video. Learn more about Songdo on the official website.