Cities on the blockchain

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Is it possible to run an entire city using blockchain technology?

Dubai seems to think so. The business and airline hub of the Middle East has set itself the challenging task of being the “first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020.”

It might sound outrageous right now, but the concept of ‘smart cities’ running on the blockchain is actually not as outlandish, nor as difficult to achieve as you may think. The question really is; where do we start? There are so many millions of possible uses for blockchain in a city, but there are undoubtedly some bigger areas where it will have the most dramatic effect.

IoT devices

Already a number of cities are using IoT devices to do a number of jobs, like monitoring traffic and air quality. Thos IoT devices can be connected to the blockchain. That also applies to any city system that collects data — it can all go on the blockchain. In fact, by putting it all on the blockchain, it will provide an upgrade to the system, and make the information easier to manage and access. Basically it will get rid of all kinds of inefficiencies where officials, such as the police, have to go through X number of other organisations to get a vital piece of information.

Better public safety

Data sharing can have a positive impact on public safety. The blockchain can provide a secure system for sharing sensitive data. One example is working on preventative measures, such as analyzing crime statistics and planning police patrols around that information. Yes, there are issues to be ironed out regarding citizen’s rights to privacy and how much information a government can track, but people are at least having a conversation about it.

Efficient transport

Public transport is vital in most major cities and they don’t work without it. The blockchain offers a lot of potential here, especially for the way passengers pay for their transport. If commuters have a blockchain wallet on their smartphone, they could pay for any transport pass, loyalty programme, or purchase tickets without a card.

Citizen incentives

If you put the public transport payment system on the blockchain, you can also offer customers some incentives. For example, if a city wants its residents to use transport rather than drive, there is a way to incentivise that. When the smartphone wallet shows a citizen has been using public transport for a specific period of time, it is possible to offer them a ‘free ride’ or a discount on an electricity bill. In a smart city, an incentive should push people toward more ethical and sustainable living choices.

And that is what a smart city should be — sustainable and more habitable with fewer issues and inefficiencies. If Dubai achieves its goal, it will have created a blueprint for others to follow.

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