Ensuring sustainable, safer cities and inclusive communities
Tech solutions for safer cities
Urban safety, security and resilience can be improved by tackling social and economic factors such as exclusion, poverty, and inequality, as well as improving responsive urban planning and risk management procedures. Potential hazards can also be tackled by the use of technology – much of which is reliant on minerals and metals.
Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based radio navigation service, delivering location and time information to terrestrial receivers. Geographic Information System (GIS) is the software that enables the access and use of the information collected by the GPS satellites. GPS and GIS technologies have a wide range of applications, enabling search and rescue teams to create maps of disaster areas for rescue and aid operations, as well as to assess damage. GPS is also used to enhance scientists’ capability for flood prediction and monitoring of seismic events. Due to its lightweight properties, aluminium is widely used in the structure of satellites, usually alloyed with other metals for strength, like beryllium. Carbon fibre, titanium, and nickel-cadmium alloy can also be used. Nickel, manganese, lithium, indium, and others are used in the solar panels that power the satellite and in the storage battery. Silicon is essential in the electronics used by the satellite to receive and send back signals from Earth.
GPS is also being used to empower individuals in emergency planning for natural disasters utilising the technology in their mobile phones. For example, GPS technology is being used creatively in disaster risk reduction in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A collaborative initiative by UNICEF and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) encourages the use of GPS-enabled smartphones to map local risks and vulnerabilities. The project trained over 100 young people from five low-income communities to perform hazard mapping using smartphones attached to kites to gather aerial images. The pictures help to identify the presence or absence of drainage systems, the availability of sanitation facilities, impediments to evacuation, and other issues. A mapping platform that enables real-time data collection was then developed to increase risk prediction against floods and landslides. This is just one example of the many innovative applications of smartphones, which contain several metals including copper, gold, silver, and lithium.
Breath alcohol testers are used by the traffic police to determine the level of alcohol in the system of a suspected drink-driver. The most commonly-used test type is fuel cell, which functions by chemical reactions, with any alcohol present producing energy in the fuel cell. Fuel cell tests usually comprise a cell, pump, mouthpiece, printed circuit board, and LCD display. The case that contains the components is usually made of polystyrene plastic. The LCD display contains indium, silicon, tin, among others The fuel cell is composed of two platinum coated electrodes and a permeable electrolyte material, which are usually made of copper, titanium, brass, silver, and platinum. The printed circuit board controls the unit and the microprocessor contains the coding to carry the functions. These may contain gold, silver, copper, aluminium, tin, zinc, and many more.