Source: Justin H.S. Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory

As urban populations increase, so too does the complexity involved in maintaining basic services like clean water and emergency services.  But one of the biggest barriers to making cities “smarter”—for example, comprehensively monitoring sources of waterway pollutants in real time—is quick and easy access to data.

Future scenarios like these depend on technology not yet widely available.  Future “smart” cities would have to feature hundreds, maybe thousands, of strategically placed sensors. These devices would record everything from air pressure and temperature to microbial content, and the data would be relayed instantly to the laptops of people who can make decisions based on what they are seeing.