Digital Cities: The future of urban life

In the modern age, everything is becoming smart. From phones, televisions and even home appliances. But the ‘Smart movement’ is also taking place on a much bigger scale; whole cities are becoming smart.

But what is a smart city? Whilst there is no complete definition as to what a smart city is, they are based around using technology to create solutions to modern life problems. For example, Barcelona has introduced ‘smart traffic lights‘ that provide “Green light corridors” to emergency service vehicles, as well as introducing new bus services that use technology to ‘ensure the system is managed effectively’.

I created this short video to give a basic explanation of smart cities and their aims:

Creating my Digital City Visualizations

Because of the lack of local data available, I had to use mock data & data from other cities to test my app – In this case Bristol.

I made 2 visualizations using PHP – one takes percentages of residents happy with their local green areas and represents it with the number of living and dead flowers in a field, the other takes the number of shopping trolleys found in rivers and represents that as dead fish in a river.

Building the Automated Home


Raspberry Pi checking weather

Next I made a miniature model of a house fitted with a Raspberry pi & Arduino. The Arduino was wired up to a selection of sensors and servo motors, with a small screen on top. I programmed the Raspberry Pi to read in live online data, such as weather, sunset, and temperature. If the weather was bad, the servo motors would spin and the windows would shut, and if the weather was dry and sufficiently warm, the windows would open.

The Raspberry Pi was connected to a Unicorn Hat, which I setup to scroll text across according to the weather data, for example, if it was rainy, it would scroll the word “Rain” in blue.


Rain Sensor allowing for viewer interaction


The house was also wired up with sensors that would override the online data inputs, such as in the case of unexpected rain showers. This also allowed for viewer interaction during exhibition.

Related Links

News Report: Bristol UK’s leading Digital City outside London

Bristol Open Data