Smart Cities and Sustainable Technologies

What’s a Smart City?  Academic literature, industry publications, white papers, and even the popular media has busloads of examples that define a smart city, but in the end one thing is clear: nobody knows what makes a city “smart.”  Despite ambiguity, this is a direction worthy of research and engaged pursuit for the drivers behind this movement are wicked problems such as climate change and they are in desperate need of solving.

Urban planners are being forced to create and reinvent their environments as adaption and mitigation measures to such changes yet most solutions propose “hardening” of urban infrastructure as their solution.  This is of course critical as we clearly better ways to respond to events such as natural disasters but city planning need to also put effort into deducing the source of “intelligence” within a city and often neglect the power of the community and social aspects to make change.

Many of the roadmaps that exist today and lead to a smart city are tool sets that assuredly will increase capacity within a city but disappointingly the designs start and end with a heavy focus on the deployment of technologies that have to do only with the infrastructure, not the people that reside in the cities and are the customers who use the infrastructure.  The modern world is under a spell, captivated with technology solutions, and so with high hopes I propose an alternative methodology.

Let’s put an effort into increasing our awareness of the intelligence within a city by learning first from the most intelligent, innovative, and forward looking cities in the world.  If we try and reverse engineer the urban planning efforts driven by community involvement, understand people’s value systems in the smartest cities, deduce the meaning of place to the people, and then analyze the “things” that exist in these places that support the people, then I suspect we’ll find the magical recipe.  Therein lies the techniques we need to make global scale impact and with a little luck we can increase the intelligence and capacity of not just cities but regions, states, countries, and maybe even the whole of our world.