Kenn Dodson’s travel workbench
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“Experience the world as a Happy Accident.” – Kenn Dodson

Smart Cities and travel

What will cities look like when you travel in the future? Will they retain their classic characteristics that make them so valuable to human senses? Or will they fade into a virtual mesh of pre-ordained blandness powered by algorythms? With the birth of Machine Learning, explosion in Artificial Intelligence and our increasingly Tech-Centric culture, they may look much different than most people expect. Perhaps a little like Westworld and Bladerunner combined. With a hefty shot of Pre-terminator thrown in for good measure. Sounds bleak huh? Well, if technology has shown humans one thing, it is its ability to be misused by the very humans that created it. Why would so called “Smart Cities” be any different?

As a licensed Landscape Architect working in the Tech industry and who loves to travel, I see great untapped potential to adapt innovative technologies to empower those who design destinations and those who get us there. If used properly, technology could improve our cities for residents – and for those wandering their streets for just a week or two. As these professions become increasingly involved in the Smart Cities process, they would be wise to begin educating themselves about the emerging technologies that could make or break their cities as travel destinations friendly to wanderers.

So to prepare my fellow wanderers for their unexpected future visiting more sustainable environments, I offer up my top 5 predictions on the future of travel in SmartCities:

By 2025: Use of a single city wide digital platform to unify all operations, data aggregation/analytics, and actions across agencies will become popular. This will pull data from all city sensors, cameras, end points, databases, etc. and then aggregate that data into a single source, all in real-time. This data will then be pushed back out for immediate use by city leaders, agencies, businesses (including design firms), universities and even citizens to take immediate actions that result in better outcomes for all. For wanderers this means your every move, word, and perhaps even thought will be captured in real-time.

By 2030: As Smart Cities become the rule rather than the exception, local governments will have to adapt their planning methodologies. This will result in the inclusion of language into municipal building codes and Unified Development Ordinances requiring and regulating types, uses and even quantities of digital technologies for buildings, land development and roads. This will initially reveal itself through minimum requirements for sensors, WiFi and other network infrastructure. This can be beneficial for wanderers, giving us free and widely available access to information in the cities we visit. It should also increase our safety. But again, new technologies have always been corrupted by those who wish to take advantage of others, so beware.

By 2035: The use of artificial intelligence by operators of tourist destinations, hotels, and other services will include the presence of fully mobile androids who will serve as liaisons between technology and humans. They will also serve as base guides, providing feedback and tours to popular destinations. They will also be given authority as protectors.

By 2040: The responsibilities of travel advisors will shift significantly as self-aware technologies increase their role in planning travel itenararies. This will allow various professions to become so efficient that they will be able to merge into a single unified profession. This evolution will also empower the human workforce to engage in more high-level decision making and free them to be more creative in general, spurring a renaissance in travel as well as a much happier workforce.

By 2045: We will be able to create a living, breathing manifestation of a city – an entity endowed with its own self-awareness, but existing virtually. These self-realized cities will begin collaborating with each other, ultimately planning new communities on their own and building them using automated tools and large scale 3D printers. This will spur unbounded creativity that manifest as highly desirable travel destinations. This technology will also help restore entire ecosystems consisting of thousands of acres.

Will these predictions come true? The years may be off, but in time, yes. It is a fascinating view from which I find myself these days; immersed within the rising framework of future technologies but somewhat subdued by their potential because I feel environmental outcomes are not yet being fully utilized in the process. But this is just momentary. For in the end, the Smart City itself may become designer and builder – the sole-source originator of community. And determiner of where we wander.

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