A couple of months ago I found myself in Linz, Austria, with Mercedes-Benz. The company was demonstrating its F015 autonomous super-luxury car. The event at which Mercedes was displaying its futuristic concept was an unusual one for a car company to attend.

Part of a bigger series of events during last year, it was a kind of rolling think tank on how the cities of the future should be designed and how the city resident of the future should be living. In Linz, many of the exhibits were concerned with the kind of back-to-basics living that became popular in the 1970s.

A few weeks later I was with Audi in Barcelona, and part of that trip was to another big exhibition concerning the cities of the future. This event, though, was far more about the potential of connectivity and new technology, where everything in the city can communicate with everything else: car parks talking to cars, waste bins talking to the local council.

Interestingly, the UK government had taken a large stand to showcase some of the UK’s big data companies and what they could do.

The possibilities already being investigated are amazing. Ordnance Survey was showing a database that could predict the outcome of severe weather, such as flooding, and which residents of a town would need to be evacuated first. I took it to be some kind of merge of a flooding database with an NHS database.