The Role of AI in Achieving a Circular Economy in Smart Cities

The concept of the circular economy is designed to replace the end-of-life economic system with restoration, use of renewable energy, and the elimination of waste through the better design of materials, products, systems and business models. Most leading organizations worldwide have begun identifying feasible opportunities in adopting sustainable business practices, embracing circular business models and leveraging disruptive technologies.

For city planners, businesses and policymakers, a smart city transformation from the current economic model, knows as linear economy, to a circular economy encompasses high complexity. They need to consider material and energy, product design, business models, manufacturing, service and distribution processes and data management and more.

However, embracing artificial intelligence in a circular economy can expedite the efforts of a smart city project needs, creating ways to accomplish sustainable development goals. There is no doubt that the evolution of AI has a wider impact on almost every industry and area. It has the ability to affect global productivity, equality and inclusion, environmental outcomes, and several other areas, both in the short and long term.

Artificial Intelligence and the Circular Economy

The current economic model has massive challenges and adverse impacts on today’s world. And it has led to explore new approaches and solutions for a superior model. New and emerging technologies here can be helpful for the complex task of redesigning key aspects of the economy. AI can play a pivotal role in enabling this systemic shift, enhancing and enabling circular economy innovation in three major ways.

First, it can design circular products, components, and materials as well as enhance and stimulate the development of new products, components, and materials fit for a circular economy. This is performed through iterative machine learning-enabled design processes that allow for rapid prototyping and testing.

Second, AI can augment the competitive strength of circular economy business models, including product-as-a-service and leasing. By integrating real-time and historical data from products and users, the technology can assist in improving product circulation and asset utilization through pricing and demand prediction, predictive maintenance, and smart inventory management.

And in the last, by improving the processes to categorize and disassemble products, remanufacture components, and recycle materials, AI can help build and improve the reverse logistics infrastructure required to close the loop on products and materials.

Achieving a Circular Economy in Smart Cities With AI

The shift to a circular economy will see the production which regenerates rather than harms the natural resources on which it relies. According to a report released ahead of the 2020 World Future Energy Summit, AI will be a key enabling technology in accomplishing renewable energy and sustainability targets.

Smart cities that make use of new-age technologies like AI can transform industry verticals and resident experiences. They can also advance cyber resilience for critical national infrastructure. The technology, for water use, can contribute to better infrastructure, addresses water wastage at source, and assists in lowering end consumption.

AI can also help in energy to manage supply and demand more efficiently, and align energy production, distribution and utilization more effectively through smart grid technology. And for waste management, it could amplify the industry’s ability to isolate different materials for recycling, which is a vital step towards achieving a circular economy.