With big advances in science, technology and architecture our cities are changing at a rapid pace.

From sprawling metropolises to small cities, urban centers are embracing new developments and improving their infrastructures to boost the quality of life of their current and future inhabitants.

Rosemary Feenan, Head of Global Research Programmes at JLL, says: “The urban world is packed full of discussion about how to solve the key challenges to the cities of the future. How to make sustainability the norm in cities, how to reduce the congestion on our streets and to create safe places for people to live and work, along with ensuring the security of our food and water supplies are just some of them.

“While some cities already have solutions in place which are paving the ways for tomorrow’s innovations, others have yet to start.”

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Here are four trends which are already having a big impact:

Greener cities

Creating green space in city centers has become a key aspect of city development. In European cities urban orchards are becoming popular. One example is in the German city of Andernach, known as the Edible City for growing its own vegetables. It’s one of the oldest cities in Germany and over the last few years it has converted its public spaces into authentic urban orchards which are tended by its inhabitants. Another example is Madrid, a city which already has more than 30 urban orchards.

Evolving styles of architecture also mean that many buildings are adding green spaces that seamlessly integrate with the environment around them. An increasing number of them now have living walls or green roofs – for example the city of Linz in Austria requires green roofs on all new residential and commercial buildings with rooftops larger than 100 or 500 square meters, respectively, and Toronto in Canada also passed by-laws mandating rooftop vegetation, says JLL’s Franz Jenowein, Sustainability Consulting Director at JLL.

Goodbye congestion, hello improved mobility

Congestion is one of the most urgent challenges in big metropolitan areas where traffic jams cause chaos in rush hour and generate substantial noise and pollution. Some cities have already have car sharing initiatives in place with consultancy Frost & Sullivan predicting that Europe could have 15 million car sharing customers by 2020 – a big rise from the 1 million in 2013. Big name car manufacturers have piled into the marketplace from Fiat in Italy, Audi in San Francisco and General Motors in New York.

Taking things a stage further, electric cars are another alternative to improve noise and pollution levels in cities. The U.S. for example, already has 20 highway legal plug-in cars from 12 car manufacturers available while in October Moscow launched its first electric car charging point.

Other innovations are still far from becoming mainstream. New motoring devices, for example, use sensors to allow cars to control themselves – with the presence of a driver. Other companies are taking the autopilot idea further through driverless cars. Google have already tested this type of technology amid much discussion over safety issues with plans to launch the first car in 2020. Other manufacturers including General Motors, Nissan and Toyota are hot on its heels.

New cloud based technology is also having an impact, connecting vehicles to the internet and giving them access to live information to help shape decisions – for example which roads have less traffic.

Going high rise

Skyscrapers already dominate the skylines of big cities but there’s still room for them to extend their domain. As the cities stop growing outwards they are starting to grow upwards – in some cases up to 1000 meters in height like the Kingdom Tower currently under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

It will take over the title of the world’s tallest building from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai when it is completed in 2018. Meanwhile, the World One tower in Mumbai will be the planet’s highest residential building at 117 floors when it is finished next year.

However, as the concept of ‘good density’ becomes more established and better understood, cities will see pay more attention to considerations of scale than merely that of height.

Everything will be connected

Thanks to internet based technology we’ll be able to control appliances in our homes through our smartphones. Apps enabling us to adjust heating, light levels and home appliances are already available and are only set to become more sophisticated.

Our cities will also be more connected to help them become more liveable. One such example is Santander in Spain which has 15,000 sensors in place to collect data on carbon dioxide, noise, humidity and traffic levels. The data can then be analysed and used to predict situations and plan solutions to problems. Additionally, Santander’s inhabitants can use apps to get a host of different information relevant to their everyday lives – for example the latest real time information on parking, the state of beaches or the nearest taxi ranks.

This article is published in collaboration with JLL Real Views. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Marina Breda is a Digital Marketing Consultant at JLL.

Image: A man looks at buildings in a financial district. REUTERS/Carlos Barria.