When we talk about making our cities safer, more ecological or more educated, technology isn’t always the first place we look for a solution, yet with Microsoft’s CityNext project, this is exactly what cities the world over are doing. Seven in every ten people will be living in urban areas by 2050. Demand on city services is only going to grow. We’ve rounded up nine of the most innovative and exciting examples of how companies and governments are using technology to build better cities. The e-city The Buenos Aires city council manages some 70,000 incidents generated by its 3-million+ residents per day. With another three million joining the city as visitors, the Argentine capital has a lot of people and data to deal with. Working with Microsoft and partners Hexacta and Kwan, Buenos Aires is using a City Dashboard to consolidate data from multiple systems into one place. The city’s decision makers can then use this use to track projects and identify the population’s needs. It also puts information in the hands of its residents and visitors through the city phone application, allowing citizens to get information like traffic updates accurately and easily. What’s your emergency? Emergency services need to run like clockwork to serve the residents they’re protecting, and thanks to some clever technology from Motorola and Microsoft, The Orleans Parish Communication District (OPCD), is doing just that. Implementing a computer aided despatch (CAD) solution, the OPCD has managed to improve response time, as well as safety, benefitting from real-time information. This system means that while victims are still on the 911 call, calls have already gone out to nearby emergency service units with all the necessary details as they come in. Better buses Helsinki, Finland, has already made some huge steps in the public transport sector with the help of Microsoft. It is now looking to take this even further, with plans to make their transport system so strong in the coming ten years that it will eradicate the need for cars altogether. It plans to do this by allowing citizens to use their internet enabled devices to find and pay for a range of transport (including carpooling) through its online ‘route planner’. This planner will provide real-time, relevant information to users at the tap of a screen. Healthy solutions South Jersey Healthcare has used Windows Embedded Standard, the Microsoft SQL Server and the Microsoft .NET Framework to cut medication distribution time from two hours to just 18 minutes; cutting inventory costs by $155,000. South Jersey Healthcare’s solutions are benefiting both the clinic and its patients. Technology is being used to automate its medication dispensing system and the data in the server is being shared across practitioner’s devices, meaning staff have everything they need to help their patients literally at their fingertips Social safety Signal is a social media monitoring analytics and notification solution that the New Zealand police force is using to fight crime across the country, with real-time intelligence in the previously unimagined format of Facebook statuses and tweets. The New Zealand police are using social media monitoring to gain greater insight into events on the ground and higher situational awareness in the force. Smart buildings With a growing population, Seattle needed extra power to keep the city going, but was reluctant to invest in more power generation plants, so instead partnered up with Accenture to implement the smart building. Seattle’s smart buildings use Microsoft software and cloud services to collect and analyse energy usage, providing feedback on energy efficiency and how this can be improved. Seattle should see energy savings of up to 25 percent as a result. E-learning for all As Groucho Marx once said 'A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.' The youth of today is increasingly tech savvy with the average six-year old now being more digitally literate than a 45-year-old. Along with this has come an increasing presence of solutions like tablet computers in schools, but what about the schools that don’t have that kind of funding? Researcher Johnny Lee presented some pretty cool uses for the Wii remote (or Wiimote) at the annual TED conference back in 2008, which included how to create an interactive white board using an infrared pen and a Wiimote, giving teachers around 80% of the functionality of an interactive white board, at one percent of the cost. Big data security The Department of Special Investigation in Thailand has to deal with a variety of big data to solve crimes. Using Microsoft SQL Sever 2012 and Apache Hadoop software, it has have improved both accuracy and speed when investigating criminal cases, with some incredible results. Using big data solutions, the department has cut a two-year process down to just 15 days, which in real terms means more crimes are being solved, more quickly, keeping the citizens of Thailand safe. Electricity, roads, weather, energy and more, all in one. If your idea of the future is heavily influenced by ‘Tron’, Solar Roadways are going to be right up your street. These futuristic road panels pretty much tick all the boxes for making cities smarter. Built-in LED lights make roads responsive, reducing potential accidents. Harnessed solar energy from the panels can be used to power the cars as well as the city, or even country. The smart panels can detect and melt snow. The glass topping is recycled waste material. Sounds great right? Despite the brilliance of the idea, sadly the reality could present some teething problems, but it’s an amazing look into what technology could hold for the future, isn’t it? A smart future With people at the centre of all of these technologies, what makes these solutions so exciting is their capability to grow alongside humankind. People and technology have both come such a long way, who knows what potential our future cities could hold. The world is changing fast. Can your office keep up? Join some of the world's most influential leadership experts at Microsoft's Future Decoded event - http://aka.ms/Hynfx4 Hear visions of the future of business, economy & more!