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We still speak as though the ‘digital city’ is something that’s just out of reach of our finest technological prowess, or at least our ability to apply it. Perhaps that’s because emerging technologies keep changing our perspectives on what is possible. Today we’re dreaming of driverless cars, intelligent sensor systems and the Internet of Everything. How will you live differently when the digital city becomes a reality?

  • You won’t sit in heavy traffic. Not like you do today, anyway. Nor will you be at risk of crashing. Driverless cars are coming, and they’ll eventually remove the element of human error from driving. Not just human error in the sense of us crashing our cars into each other, but the human error of us being terribly inefficient drivers. When traffic flows with mathematical precision, traffic jams should, in theory, be a thing of the past. Check out these 19 companies aiming to have self-driving cars on the road by 2021.

  • You’ll be more involved in your community. Many city dwellers of today feel a sense of detachment from their communities. Individualism reigns. Governments are already making efforts to use digital connectivity to bring back the feeling of community, putting out applications for citizen engagement and encouraging people to have more of a say on how to improve the city. Listen out for the term ‘real-time democracy’ as policy matters are taken online and discussed in the moment. Read these lessons from Seoul on how ‘eGovernment’ drives citizen engagement.

  • Wherever you are, you’ll walk the streets at night and feel safe(r). This is a contentious one. Because of human nature, no amount of technology can ever make us feel completely safe, but advances like predictive policing, LED lighting and Internet of Things sensor systems will contribute to reduced crime rates. Here are the views of a former state trooper turned smart city safety expert.

  • You’ll take extra steps to preserve your privacy, because Big Brother will be watching. At the expense of improved safety often comes less privacy. If a city has a predictive policing program and a camera-sensor system that doesn’t miss a beat, you might soon feel like you’re living in a George Orwell novel, if you don’t already. It was recently reported that it could soon be possible to look up body cam footage from your local police online.

  • You’ll use your digital device to interact with everything around you. Walk down the street of any city today and a decent proportion of the people you pass will have their necks craned down and their faces staring at a smartphone screen. In the future smart city, you’ll see more people pointing their phones at things instead, because everything will be Internet-enabled. More on that here.

  • You’ll use an app on your handheld device to find and purchase any service you need. You might already be using Uber, and you can expect every service industry to go in a similar direction. The ‘gig economy’ rising out of digital connectivity means you’ll hire plumbers, hairdressers and accountants through an ultra-convenient app. Read this defense of the Uber-ization of everything.

  • You’ll find it easier to enjoy what your city has to offer. When everything is connected to the internet, and your device is connected to everything, you’ll have an easier time navigating the city and finding all the cool things it has to offer. Being a tourist in your own city will take on a whole new meaning. Here is a perfect example.

  • You’ll be more aware of your environmental footprint. Governments and environmental activists have done a lot in recent years to make us more aware of our personal contributions to waste management problems, climate change, energy consumption and so on. With increasingly cost efficent technology making our usage more efficient and more visible, we’ll keep getting more eco-friendly. Learn how EcoReco is changing the Bay Area commute.

Want to learn more about the digital city of the future and how it’s being created? Listen to my recent webcast hosted as part of SAP’s Live series.