What is smart technology and what implications does / will it have on how we design our cities?

Forward-thinking Technologies - Happening right now…

  • Houston, Texas (USA): Embedded sensors and intelligent pumps have been implemented to regulate water flow, successfully improving water quality, irrigation, storm water runoff, flooding and the management of household water.
  • New York City, New York (USA): Buildings are managing energy via sensors, smart meters and big data analytics, and is projected to save 38 percent of the building's energy and $4.4 million annually.
  • Columbus, Ohio (USA): Electric self-driving shuttles are being developed in collaboration with a new rapid transit centre, which will enable improved data exchange between vehicles, traffic signals and other elements within the transportation infrastructure.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark: More than half its street lamps have been replaced with energy efficient LED lamps outfitted with sensors, allowing them to automatically dim according to the time of day, or light up in the presence of a walker or biker.
  • Beijing, China + 14 European nations: A network of "citizen observatories" has been established which monitor air quality via wearable sensors.

Source: 5 Cities Moving Toward a Jetsons-Like Future, Inc

Around the world, there are old cities being retrofitted and brand new cities being fully planned and orientated to become smart cities. The smart technology powering these smart cities are being developed to find solutions surrounding water management, clean and renewable energies, smart grids, intelligent traffic control, electronic government, urban mobility, wireless internet accessibility and waste management. Smart technology is enabling cities to design more compact systems or defer infrastructure upgrades. For example, the concept of smart transit and automated vehicles has already sparked conversations about rethinking the way we allocate space within our cities. Virtual reality and open source data is also changing the way governments engage with citizens in addressing urban challenges.  

Smart technology is a game changer. It has the potential to change the rules and standards by which we design our cities.  With a  future of smart cities,we may not  need carparks, or we could  design narrower roads, which allow us more space to build houses or preserve more green space in our cities. It may mean that we don’t need entire floors within our buildings dedicated to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); or it may mean resources are shared within a community area so that we can reduce the water, sewer, and electricity infrastructure that we currently build to service precincts. The possibilities are endless!

We need to start designing and constructing our cities so that they are adaptable and ready for this potential future.  

What I seek to understand on my travels is what smart technologies are being thought about, developed, and currently being  designed, and what they mean for the way we think about and design our cities.  

I’m very excited to find out what’s out there and imagine what life could be like for the next generations!