How AI can help cities become more sustainable

In the Neolithic period, humans began to cultivate the land and breed animals. In this way, they began to have something like a steady diet, and sedentary human groups began to emerge, which led to the formation of the first fixed settlements. This was around 3,000 BC.

As time went by, the first cities in history began to emerge in very specific geographical areas with specific natural conditions. People who lived there were able to develop great agricultural and manufacturing activities with innovations in sowing and production (plough, lathe, wheel, a network of canalс etc.). Little by little, people began to specialise in order to achieve improvements in production and communications, which favoured trade, while the invention of writing allowed a better accounting of economic transactions.

Soon, the somewhat primitive and unsafe villages began to develop into real urban centres with stone buildings, avenues, etc. The appearance of these urban centres brought changes in the social and economic life of the people. In the same way, economic activities were also changing, commerce and industry began to develop… But apart from all these economic activities, the structuring of knowledge and technology has been fundamental in responding to the challenges of the urban transformation processes in which cities find themselves and which are known as Smart Cities.

It is in the 21st century, and especially in its second decade when the main transformations are taking place, at great speed, due to the exponential development of technologies, which are changing economic and social models.

In the face of these transformations, one of the objectives that we must define, and address is the preservation and improvement of the quality of life of living beings on the planet. Focusing on the case of people, the majority of us live in cities; cities that must expand with ethical and environmental criteria, respecting the commitments of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Both public and private agents must ensure the sustainability and resilience of cities in order to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants.

To this end, it will be essential to take advantage of renewable energy sources, to commit to sustainable electromobility, to the almost total elimination of emissions from energy generation, industry, transport… In this regard, there are several reports that are committed to Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an enabling technology to achieve this goal.

AI, and in particular machine learning, time series forecasting, data analytics, etc., have a crucial role to play in redesigning and rethinking cities so that people living there have a better quality of life.

For example, learning combined with neural networks can help us understand how buildings consume energy and recommend adjustments based on the behaviour of their occupants. In addition, it can help us to automatically control the management of the water cycle, achieving its optimisation and efficiency.

At GAIA, we have defined how it is possible to make the incorporation of AI into the different value chains of organisations a reality. Below, we present its outline:

However, cities need revolutionary methodologies and tools to optimise massive amounts of data from different sources (e.g. streetlights, traffic systems, sensors, etc.) and need to centralise data storage in complex global and often fragmented supply chains. This is where Big Data analytics and AI, in general, come into play, which is why DTAM sees the need to develop training content that trains students in these skills.

In conclusion, we can say that it will be crucial to have data and carry out in-depth analyses of it, but we will have to be able to learn from it because only then, we will be able to make the right decisions. With this, and with the appropriate use of AI, we will achieve a sustainable future with better living conditions for citizens and the planet. An end that unites us all.


[1] National Geographic (2012) The first cities, the urban revolution in Mesopotamia

[2] Wikipedia (2021) Smart City

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