Jay Zaveri of Social Capital characterizes cities as a human experiment successful enough to harness the lion’s share of global economic output. But just as they represent human ingenuity in its greatest form, cities also reflect a darker side of human nature littered with poverty, pollution and poor social planning. How to move forward? Social Capital is drawing on the “legacy knowledge” of expert urban planners and designers to build consensus from geospatial data, scenario modeling and analytical intelligence, a medley of new tech Zaveri calls “the ground truth.”
Quayside, as the project is known, will be laden with sensors and cameras tracking everyone who lives, works or merely passes through the area. In what Sidewalk Labs calls a marriage of technology and urbanism, the resulting mass of data will be used to further shape and refine the new city.
But extending the surveillance powers of one of the world’s largest tech companies from the virtual world to the real one raises privacy concerns for many residents. Others caution that, when it comes to cities, data-driven decision making can be misguided and undemocratic.
City leaders have developed a greater focus on sustainability and integrating technology and data into their operations, a shift that’s reflected in a number of smart city-focused conferences aimed at expanding the industry. Partnerships aren’t only forming between public and private entities; municipalities increasingly are partnering with each other to take on big projects.
Across the nation, communities are building smarter energy infrastructure that leverages the power of data to solve problems. These projects will spur economic development, improve sustainability, enhance public safety and drive efficiencies — ultimately creating a better quality of life for citizens. For more of these projects to become reality, key stakeholders in the community, private industry and government must understand how best to work together.
Planners need to view cities, suburbs and exurbs not as discrete units but as regions, with one integrated environmental and technological system.
Millennial suburbanites want a new kind of landscape. They want breathing room but disdain the energy wastefulness, visual monotony and social conformity of postwar manufactured neighborhoods. If new suburbs can hit the sweet spot that accommodates the priorities of that generation, millennial habitats will redefine everyday life for all suburbanites, which is 70 percent of Americans.
Digital transformation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution holds the potential to redefine the very basis of our materials-reliant industrial economy. Enabled by the internet of things, a new model of growth gaining independence from finite resource extraction is emerging. Can pervasive connectivity become the new infrastructure enabling effective material flows, keeping products and materials at their highest value at all times, thus enabling the coming of age of the circular economy?
The circular economy is a concept by which materials and products are kept at their highest possible value at all times. The rapid and pervasive development of digital technologies, along with an understanding of circular economy principles, will drastically change life for the average urban citizen much sooner than we think.
Consider the smart shareable home. On walking out the door of your home, smart thermostats will trigger the heating in the apartment to turn down to a minimum, saving energy (and lowering bills). Citizens could make even better use of their assets by converting an extra room into a secure office, rentable on a city-wide sharing platform. Should someone want to rent it on a given day, the heating will quickly power up in time for the temporary resident to feel comfortable and welcome. Demand is likely to be strong — the connected city will have more remote workers and contractors who would appreciate the quiet space.
In 2008, when the smart city movement began, Robert G. Hollands asked for “the real smart city to stand up.” Since then, there has been an intense and ongoing debate around this subject, as well as a number of projects self proclaiming their “smartness.” Great steps have been taken in some leading cities to explore how we turn digital innovation into public service improvements. But how do we get citizens involved as active agents of this digital urban revolution?