Last December, the Chinese city of Wuhan signed an agreement with the communications giant Huawei to install infrastructure to enhance its security and information services and convert it into a ‘smart city’. The agreement also incorporates mechanisms for swift emergency responses, which could, in principle, help in containing the city’s epidemic of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 (see go.nature.com/2uczxpm). Other cities might consider adopting similar measures for the timely prevention and control of infectious-disease outbreaks.
Smart cities’ powerful big-data ecosystems alert the authorities to abnormal changes — for example, in population mobility and vehicle flows — in real time. Data on public emergencies can also be shared with adjacent cities or countries. Models for managing crises associated with disease transmission, air pollution, flooding or sewage discharge, for example, could be embedded in the city ecosystems in advance so that they can be controlled more effectively.
Nature 578, 515 (2020)