In recent decades, the world has experienced unprecedented urban growth. In 2008, for the first time, the world's population was evenly split between urban and rural areas. By 2050, it is expected that 70 percent of the world population will be urban.

With this population insurgence into urban cores, it is critical that cities manage vital energy and water resources for future generations. As cities work to manage these resources and ensure the vitality and sustainability of their communities, city leaders are rethinking how they use technology to create greater opportunity for their citizens, as well as drive efficiencies to promote sustainability and provide economic development. They are also considering ways to leverage citywide technology to help bridge the gap between low-income and high-income households – but how is that accomplished?

Enter the Active Network. Serving as a foundation for cities and utilities to better manage and use energy and water, the Active Network is a platform for many city applications. As utilities deploy smart grid communication infrastructure, cities are also able to leverage that infrastructure for additional purposes.

The Active Network is where the smart grid meets the Internet of Things, continuously analyzing data at the edge of the network to produce a more efficient and effective system for resource management. With the Active Network, intelligent devices communicate and collaborate directly with each other and make decisions in real time. It is both open and secure, resilient and interoperable. The network is capable of connecting everything from utility smart meters, distribution sensors and control devices to urban infrastructure, such as streetlight controls, traffic sensors, EV charging stations and solar installations. The Active Network utilizes cameras and sensors, such as gunshot detectors, to provide for safer neighborhoods. Sensors on an Active Network can enable accessible healthcare for the elderly and low-income households through remote patient monitoring and gathering of data, such as blood pressure, physical activity and medication intake. Most importantly, the Active Network connects people to their surroundings in an effort to better manage energy and water, reduce wasted resources and support sustainable lifestyles.

By utilizing the Active Network, cities and utilities can access the information that allows them to interpret consumption patterns, quickly identify problems and solutions, and more efficiently allocate resources. In this capacity, smart cities can reach a whole new level of productivity and efficiency, and will be able to better meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

A smart city, through collaboration and innovation, provides reliable access to energy and water, engages citizens in new ways and enables communities to thrive. This is the city of the future. And it is achievable with the right elements—such as the Active Network—in place.

Russ Vanos is vice president sales & marketing, Itron Global Software, Services and Smart Cities.