How blockchain can power the growth of cities

Lily Zhang

Huobi Group CFO

According to the World Bank, nearly 7 in 10 people in the world will be living in cities by 2050 – up from 56% of the global population today. In a little over two decades, the world’s urban population will rise 1. 5 times from the current 4.4 billion to 6 billion, putting pressure on urban infrastructure in areas such as basic services, transport and housing.

To meet this demand, city governments need to plan for growth by raising productivity and adopting innovative solutions to provide a high quality of living. In a world where talent is increasingly mobile, cities that offer a highly liveable, sustainable and inclusive environment can also better draw and retain skilled professionals.

To meet these challenges, many cities have started to position themselves as “Smart Cities” by leveraging technology such as IoT (or the Internet of Things) to improve their infrastructure and services. Now, there’s another promising technology they can turn to: Blockchain.

Making cities more efficient

While blockchain technology is commonly associated with cryptocurrencies, its use cases go far beyond digital assets. As a decentralized digital ledger that provides a permanent and immutable record of transactions, blockchain can make municipal services more efficient and secure, as well as improve governance.

Take public transport as an example. To improve the reliability of services and help commuters better plan their journeys, buses, trams and trains can input data on departure and arrival times on a blockchain for real-time tracking. Blockchain can also give bike- or car-sharing a boost by making the renting, return and payment a seamless process, without relying on third party vendors.

In the utilities sector, cities can improve energy efficiency by analyzing data recorded on a blockchain to design power networks. Waste management can be optimized with a blockchain-based solution that tracks sensor-equipped trash bins and prioritizes the deployment of garbage trucks to places where the bins are fuller – instead of following pre-assigned routes.

When it comes to city governance, blockchain can add a layer of security and accountability for important functions such as elections. Voting records stored on a blockchain can safeguard electoral integrity, as the information can be verified and not be subject to tampering. The blockchain can also be deleted once the elections are over, similar to how ballot papers are destroyed in similar situations. 

Making cities more inclusive

With COVID-19 exacerbating inequalities in many countries worldwide, blockchain technology can contribute to a more inclusive society. In New York City, a start-up called Blockchain for Change distributed free smartphones preloaded with a blockchain-powered app to around 3,000 homeless people. The app creates a digital identity for each user on a blockchain, increasing access to financial and government services which require users to authenticate themselves.

This allows users to access shelters and food pantries, as well as financial services such as opening a bank account, receiving funds and making payments. By providing a one-stop solution for a digital ID, payments and services, the app not only helps service providers to link up with the homeless more efficiently, but also reduces transaction and administration costs.

Nurturing blockchain industry growth in Busan

In South Korea, Huobi has signed an MoU with the Busan Metropolitan City government to develop the city’s blockchain industry, supporting its vision to become a global digital assets hub. Under the agreement, we will foster the development of local blockchain businesses with applications in tourism, finance, logistics and public safety. We will also work with Busan to attract global blockchain talent, and provide research, technical, and financial support for the Busan Digital Asset Exchange.

As a world-leading exchange with over nine years of operating history, Huobi is excited to partner with Busan to drive its innovation and growth in the digital assets space. By leveraging our strong experience and track record of delivering premium services to users in the region, Huobi will help accelerate South Korea’s blockchain industry development.

As we continue to foster the growth of the region’s blockchain industry, we look forward to making Busan a powerful showcase of how blockchain technologies can transform and benefit traditional industries. With the increase in the world’s urban population, this will show the way to how cities can remain liveable and competitive without putting excessive pressure on resources.

Photo by Patrick on Unsplash

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