June 23, 2021

How smart cities can defend against pandemics

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Can cutting edge technology and strategic urban planning stop the spread of a deadly virus, such as the coronavirus threat that our world is experiencing now? Smart city proponents think they can, by using data tracking, surveillance, and robot intelligence to make social distancing easier to accomplish and outbreaks more efficient to track. 

A smart city is an urban area that uses IoT sensors to track and collect data, and then process the insights to make decisions. Wuhan, where the new coronavirus originated, is just one of many smart cities throughout China. The Chinese government has touted the smart technology used in cities as one of the keys to stopping the spread in China.

Here are a few ways smart cities may help city leaders, government officials, and urban planners defend against pandemics: 

Disease Tracking

Artificial intelligence makes tracking viral outbreaks and other medical conditions easier by using data tracking to collect and interpret clusters of infection in real time. 

Such has been the case with the novel coronavirus, which was first identified as a “cluster of unusual pneumonia cases” in Wuhan by a disease tracking software company BlueDot. This data tracking software alerted its users of the outbreak 10 days before the WHO made any public announcement about the virus. 

Autonomous Delivery

No-contact delivery is a lot easier to accomplish if you can eliminate the delivery person from the equation. Autonomous delivery methods, such as delivery drones or self-driving vehicles, make this possible. Medical supplies, foods, and other goods can be transported into a city without bringing in delivery workers through the use of robotics. 

In pandemics in the future, city leaders can streamline this process and even use smart tech to make projections on the number of supplies needed. 


Did you know that your phone is tracking you through geolocation technology? This data tracking, which tracks your movements throughout the day, can be helpful in a pandemic because it can predict human behavior patterns. 

City leaders can use geolocation to determine which parks and other public areas should be shut down first due to foot traffic in times of social distancing. 

Drone Surveillance

One of the more controversial features of smart cities is their surveillance methods. Many Chinese cities utilize drone surveillance, that can be outfitted with facial recognition software and thermal cameras, to track whether infected persons have left quarantine. 

This surveillance method helps reduce the risk for law enforcement to roam the streets when it could harm their personal safety. Yet, ethical questions remain over whether this type of surveillance could be used for more harm than good. 

As our world gets smarter, so does our response to threats such as the one the world faces now. Many lessons can be learned from the use of technology during this tim  in order for urban planners and city leaders to make changes to their pandemic protocols and responses in the future. 

Smart cities can help defend against pandemics in the future. Interested in learning more about smart cities? Check out this visual from The Zebra below! 

What is a Smart City?

SOURCE: The Zebra

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