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Report examines how smart cities will impact defence

The report by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory looks at how the changing face of cities and increasing urbanisation will impact defence in the future.

The implications of smart cities on defence are examined in the Dstl report
The implications of smart cities on defence are examined in the Dstl report

Smart cities is one of the areas of focus in a new study by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). Future Cities Trends and Implications examines global trends in city development and predicts how cities are likely to evolve.


Analysts from the Defence and Security Analysis Division looked at a broad range of factors, including the influence of technology and smart cities, climate and demographic changes, economic integration and infrastructure developments.


Operational requirements


A DSTL spokesperson said the report is vital for its Ministry of Defence customers to understand the future of cities and how it will impact on their operational requirements and emerging doctrine.


This work seeks to build on the endorsed future vision of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre’s (DCDC) Future Operating Environment (2035) and Global Strategic Trends 2050, both of which highlight urbanisation as one of the principal challenges facing defence in the future.


In the area of smart cities, the report predicts: "Routine online usage will no longer be confined to computers and phones. Other devices will increasingly be interconnected to one another through the Internet of Things." It also looks at environmental factors, such as a rise in pollution levels and rising water inequality, leading to greater sources of conflict.


The report attempts to bridge the gap between future predictions and current doctrine which is based on the present understanding of cities.


DSTL said that expanding cities may make it impossible to isolate or even by-pass urban areas and it looks at smart cities in the context of the new frontline and its impact on troops.


The report states: "Increasing verticality and the ’urban canyon’ (as well as subterranean) will impose severe constraints on UK intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR), fire and manoeuvre capabilities. Verticality also concentrates the population making them more accessible to both the UK and adversaries posing both opportunities and challenges."


Other shifts in cities


It also says that changes to how people view authority are also shifting in cities throughout the world, stating: "The different forms of governance that the UK will have to interact with could be extensive, with national, international, city, district, neighbourhood, street and even sections of buildings having their own ‘legitimate’ leaders with varying authorities and, potentially, conflicting roles."


As well as studying the future landscape, DSTL said it is also leading on several projects looking at innovative technology to answer some of the challenges of urban warfare.


Working in partnership with industry and with US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand colleagues, prototypes including remote sensing, exoskeletons for soldiers, and mini drones are being tested.


The Future Cities report is helping to shape this experiment so the technologies are being tested against these future challenges.


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