By Mary Meehan, Panoramix Global
Demographic shifts, globalization, and migration are already massively altering the very building blocks of global culture. Urban centers are poised to be the center of radical growth and change over the next 100 years as billions of people take up residence. Will this transformation evolve into a planetary threat or become a call for innovation and renewal? The hard choices made now by citizens, private sector and policy makers will tell the tale.
The growth period ahead for urban areas will be staggering, adding more stress to an already sagging infrastructure. Only those cities that value technology, and recognize that each metropolis is a living, interconnected system will survive and thrive.
The creation of “smart cities” is an exploding field. The goal of smart cities is to transform and improve communities through technology that connects all the elements of a city system and allow for more efficient design, development, and operation. This strategy links government, hospitals, schools, transportation and monitors basic utlities like water and energy to quickly and efficiently distribute resources. Living PlanIT, Cisco’s Smart and Connected Communities, and IBM’s Smarter Cities and Smarter Planet programs are currently testing groundbreaking tech strategies around the world to pave the way for future transformation. Could the Twin Cities become a "Smart City?"
As outside residents make the city center home the result is fewer commuters from the rural or suburban areas, yet transit and parking will remain central to livable cities. The need for cars, trains, and buses to function in tandem is paramount to avoid a gridlock ripple that effects both business and quality of life.
The concept MIT City Car is one such solution. Framed as mobility-on-demand or urban-personal-mobility this prototype is a hybrid of the Smart Car meets Zip Car for the city of the future. The City Car utilizes lightweight batteries, houses the motors in the wheels, folds up when not in use and slides in to a parking/return station outfitted with induction charging–all by the swipe of a rental card. This sort of “intelligent mobility” is poised to change the concept of car ownership in the years to come.
The mountains of data generated via public and private digital devices are being utilized in building smart cities. A networked, technical infrastructure, wireless sensors, and advanced analytics are what power smart networks to make cities more productive, efficient, affordable and livable. Smart grids monitor and save electrical use. Smart buses notify passengers on transit timeline and delays.
One smart sensor-enabled system is tackling the issue of finding a parking spot. The hunt for a space not only is a loss of precious time but generates pollutive carbon emissions while drivers circle around and around and around. Streetline’s solution makes use of a smart sensor network to manage parking and congestion for individuals and municipalities. The network of sensors communicates live data to handheld devices pointing drivers to available street parking spots or private lots with availabilty and assists city operations to manage traffic flow and congestion.
While the notion of “smart” may seem antithetical to cities as we know them, increasingly complex cities will rely on tech/grid/sensor-enabled infrastructure that will make the future of urban transformation possible. Marketers and municipalities will need the help of smart functions to meet consumer demands, deliver products that mesh with new urbanized needs and create connected urban communities.
Mary Meehan is co-founder founder of Minneapolis-based Panoramix Global.