Earlier this year, the Toyota Motor Company broke ground on the Woven City, a futuristic urban center situated on 175 acres near Mount Fuji. The name refers to the interweaving of cars, robots, data, and computers to design a city that, the builders state, is efficient, free of pollution, and sustainable.

The city will be carbon-neutral, Toyota states. Autonomous cars will operate on nonpolluting green hydrogen while solar and wind supply other energy requirements. Sensors embedded through the Woven City will assemble a range of metrics and process them with artificial intelligence to aid the city in becoming cleaner and operate more smoothly.

Woven City is one of a growing number of “smart cities” recently constructed or are being planned or built. Neom is a $500 billion expansive futuristic city for a million individuals being built in Saudi Arabia. Egypt is constructing a new smart capital near Cairo that planners state could provide a home to 6.5 million people. Telosa, proposed by a onetime Walmart exec, would be a community of 50,000 in the Western United States “in a place yet to be determined.” Many smart cities are underway in China.

History, culture, and the spiritual aspects of life are among those aspects that critics cite as missing from—or diminished in—smart cities.

A smart city is filled with sensors that monitor many aspects of everyday life, from traffic to pollution to energy and water usage. In the Woven City, “smart homes” will offer sensors that monitor resident health. All monitors in these cities will connect to the basis of these prototype communities, the Internet of Things, which translates to the interconnection of small computers positioned in everyday objects. The huge collection data will be interpreted via artificial intelligence to make cities greener and more livable.

Some smart cities faced severe obstacles to the realization of their utopian dreams. Masdar City in Abu Dhabi discontinued its smart city master plan due to financial issues that commenced in 2008 and continued due to the expense of some characteristics of the city exceeded their forecast. Songdo is a smart city with a populace of 170,000 in South Korea that has not been able to find occupants for its buildings. It’s described as a ghost town or as cold, not personal, homogenous, and predictable.

One recent paper reports that smart cites struggle with ways these places can bring serendipity into everyday life to fight their monotonous nature.

There are many good things that can arise from smart city concepts, particularly the environmental applications, said Shannon Mattern, professor of anthropology at the New School for Social Research and author of A City Is Not a Computer. But it limits your means of intervention to the kinds of things that can be understood through quantitative measurement, she said.

And in some instances, critics say that smart cities are alien to the landscape on which they are built.

In spite of the fact that trillions are being spent to devise these amazing, Oz-like, all-encompassing communities of tomorrow, some analysts support a differing concept of smarter cities.

Boyd Cohen, a pioneer of the smart city concept, climate strategist, and a professor at EADA Business School in Barcelona, says that up and coming Smart Cities must come complete with a populace and culture.

It might be ‘smart’er to incorporate smart technologies into standing cities, Cohen said. Singapore, London, and Barcelona count among cities that guide the globe in adopting smart technologies to better manage and ‘green’ their infrastructure. In London, light pole sensors monitor air pollution and highlight especially polluted spots to be avoided. Gathering trash is the most costly part of the waste disposal process, Barcelona adopted “smart bins” that indicate when they are full and prepared for pick up.

Cohen believes cities should get smarter to battle climate change.

Urban planning, states Cohen, may be the most valid tool to reduce fossil fuel pollution and consumption. Good urban design—density, walkability, mixed use so folks don’t have to drive long distances, and efficient, clean electric or hydrogen public transportation—is the basis—then you add a little tech for good measure.

Smart grids are a key component of smart cities–power grids optimise the delivery of electricity by getting info from users over the IoT. This data supplies experts with info about how, where, and when energy is utilised. In certain models, it comprehends that data via artificial intelligence. But as energy sources grow more diverse—solar and wind from sources of various sizes, even individual houses, and conventional sources—it makes it more challenging for electrical systems to sense where power is required and to allocate it. Because it can better manage power, a smart grid avoids waste and optimise renewables.

The concept of smart parking has been enacted in Santander, Spain, a smart city equipped with 20,000 parking sensors connected to the IoT. Sensors beneath parking spaces can indicate when they are empty and send that data to antennas that beam it to a control center. Signs guide drivers to the vacant spots, limiting time spent seeking a space and lessening fuel use, carbon dioxide and automobile pollution, and traffic congestion.

In Utrecht in the Netherlands, people ride “sniffer bikes” gauging three kinds of particulate air pollution, and record their location, speed, battery voltage, temperature and humidity, road conditions, and organic gases—the info for which is transmitted to a central data hub. People can select the cleanest route and are themselves de facto sensors supplying info to city managers.

Water use can be monitored now by a smartphone app that detects leaks—in Barcelona, a smart water irrigation system includes water and humidity sensors, coupled with data from weather stations and rain gauges. The city says it saves 25 percent on its water bill—more than 400,000 euros annually.

As the vision of a smart city is further refined, smarter devices are evolving—for the good of a greater whole.


Source: slate.com

Image source: istockphoto.com