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Smart cities!


Technology is playing an ever bigger role in our daily lives and transforming urban centres into technologically advanced, efficient, 'smart' cities is an ideal shared by many.

From networks of sensors that offer information on how traffic is flowing or where water pipes are leaking, to the use of renewable energy in place of fossil fuels and better connectivity for our smart devices, it’s hoped such innovations will help to make city life run more smoothly.

Want to visit the ‘city of the future’? Well, take a look at these five cities where a commitment to research & development and sustainability see them leading the way – giving us a glimpse at the world of tomorrow today!

1 San Francisco (Silicon Valley), USA

The southern Bay Area has been the gold standard of technological advancement for quite a few years now. The region is far better known as Silicon Valley and is home to many iconic technological powerhouses including Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Intel. Fittingly, the public transport systems are kitted out for a hi-tech commute: the light rail service uses 4G to provide Wi-Fi and “connected bus” services offer free Wi-Fi and touch-screen maps. In tandem with technological advancements, the city is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. In a bold effort to move away from internal combustion technology there are over 90 charging stations for electric vehicles installed. Plus renewable energy accounts for 41% of the power grid and around 80% of the city’s waste is recycled. A trip here would be a revelation; it’s our future, today!

2 Singapore

This incredibly clean city-state’s government is determined to make the former British colony one of the most innovative, sustainable and tech-savvy cities on the planet. This is evident in everything they do from the cheap and highly reliable modes of public transport to the stunning 'supertrees' at the Gardens by the Bay. However, these huge structures aren’t merely aesthetic – they function as temperature moderators, absorbing and dispersing heat, collect rainwater, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the conservatories below. Guess the cost of wireless broadband in the city? Absolutely nothing! Ok, Wireless@SG is not superfast yet (currently running at a similar speed to the UK 3G networks) but it now has 1,686 hotspots island-wide in cafés, restaurants, shopping malls, libraries and other public places. It comes as no surprise that multinational companies like HP, Fuji, IBM and Microsoft have set up a presence in this techie-fantasy island. Visit Singapore to experience how the other half live, in a clean, technologically-inspired environment.

3 Stockholm, Sweden

This beautiful northern European city has significantly reduced its carbon footprint through solutions such as large-scale solar power, large refurbishment programs of industrial areas and using two wastewater treatment plants for public buses. On the technology front Stockholm is no slouch either; the country boasts the fastest broadband speeds in Europe and third fastest in the world, beaten only by Korea and Japan. It’s also currently testing ways to blanket the city in a WiMAX grid, similar to Wi-Fi providing wireless Internet but with higher bandwidth and larger range. The city is home to nearly 700 high-tech companies located in the Kista neighbourhood (Sweden's "Wireless Valley") and having already produced streaming music giant Spotify, online audio distribution platform SoundCloud (although they are now based in Berlin) and Mojang (Swedish for gadget), the creator of the indie game smash Minecraft, the world can expect more from the ‘Venice of the North’. Surprised? You won’t be when you visit this beautiful city!

4 Songdo City, South Korea

The first name that comes to mind when we think of a high-tech city and South Korea is Seoul, its largest city and headquarters of major industry leaders such as Samsung and LG Group. But situated just 40 miles from Seoul, is a place considered by technology experts as the ultimate digital city of the future. Started in 2005 (due for full completion by 2015), this £22bn project is being built from scratch on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land along Incheon's waterfront. Part of the challenge was to deliver a ‘smarter’ city than Koreans are used to, not easy when you look at their capital. Every inch of the city has been wired up with fibre optic broadband and all homes, offices, hospitals and shopping centres have been kitted out with screens for video calling. Sensors throughout the city monitor temperature, energy use and traffic flow. The waste disposal system is also impressive and there's no need for rubbish trucks as all household waste is transferred from individual kitchens through a vast underground network of tunnels to waste processing centres. You must wonder what their rate bills are like!

5 Tallinn, Estonia

The Baltic city of Tallinn hardly looks modern with its medieval towers and Soviet-era architecture. But despite its appearance, the Estonian capital (birthplace of Skype) has embraced technology in a big way and in 2000 the government declared that internet access is a basic right, like access to water and electricity. Wi-Fi access became commonplace and has been available free in the capital for over a decade, 3G coverage is universal throughout the country, including rural areas, and a third of the country is already covered by 4G. The residents depend heavily on the internet to do most things from mailing a parcel (where a sender requests a code from the electronic post office using their mobile and the code opens a locker to store the package ready for pick-up) to paying for parking via their mobile and even online voting in general elections! Our top tip if you’re visiting – purchase a Tallinn Card, available in units of 24, 48 or 72 hours as they offer free use of the public transport system, free entry to many of the top attractions (plus a free sightseeing tour) and discounts or free gifts from shops or restaurants throughout the city.

Wherever you travel to and whatever technological experience you choose, at Flexicover we are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.





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