The city of 2050

Have you ever wondered where you or your children may be living in 2050? Experts predict that by then three-quarters of the world's population will live in cities. For part of its Tomorrow's Cities season the BBC takes a look through the crystal ball to imagine what city life might be like in 40 years' time.


Sensor networks


Experts predict that everything, from street furniture to roads to the homes we live in, will be connected to the network.

All these objects will produce vast amounts of data and some cities may build Nasa-style control centres to make predictions about city life, including where crimes may be committed.

Smart buildings

smart buildings

Buildings will have taken on a life of their own, controlling heating, lighting and security with little human intervention. Architects envisage buildings becoming far more sustainable, producing their own power and reusing rain water.

Buildings may be able to store energy in huge batteries, while homes put excess electricity back into the smart grid.


robo taxi

It is likely cars will be self-driving. The lines between public and private transport will blur and we will all be hailing robo-taxis.

Traffic lights will no longer be necessary.


Hong Kong cityscape with farmscrapers

Forget the skyscrapers that dominate our city skylines. Buildings will be multi-purpose and some even predict huge vertical farms. The eco-towers would provide space for residents, offices, retail and recreation as well as food production.


Robot sales assistants

Going to the shops may be very different in 2050. 3D printing is likely to be available in many shops allowing people to create bespoke items. Robot assistants will help you find what you are looking for as well as performing tasks such as stock-taking.

Boundaries between the virtual and the real will blur. Goods will be shown in huge virtual displays with layers of augmented reality showing you how products will look out of the box.

Urban spaces

An urban swimming pool

Pedestrians and vehicles may share space. Designated areas for business, manufacturing and leisure may merge. Eco-factories that make and sell goods may be the norm while leisure spaces are likely to be greener.

Human network

People wearing Google Glass

Rather than mobile phones in our pockets, the urban citizen is much more likely to be wearing a computer, possibly something similar to Google Glass (pictured).

Delivery drone


There is nothing an urbanite values more than a fast-food delivery so how about a takeaway delivered by drone? One pizza manufacturer has already tested drone delivery and some predict these automated flying machines will fill the skies replacing the motorbike and cycle couriers of today.

Smart networks

Fibre optic cables

Super-fast fibre optics will be standard in the city of 2050 but it won't just be fibre to the home, more a case of fibre to everything. All services, from health, education and government to homes and utilities will be connected into the same network which will become the nerve-centre of the city.

Living street lights

Glowing trees

Imagine instead of a row of street lights, the trees that line our cities could produce their own energy and light up. Cambridge University has already proved the principle of glowing trees and predicts they could be one way of saving energy.

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