Around the world, cities quest to be smarter

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Around the world, “smart cities” are changing the nature of work. Rapid urbanization and developments in data and digital technology is leading governments across the world to quest to make cities “smarter.”


  • Dan Pardi, CEO of HumanOS, a “personal health mastery” platform – interview September 6 16:30 BST/8:30 PST

    • Expertise: urban planning, personal health, light

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  • James Bridle, author, New Dark Age
    • Expertise: data’s impact on the environment, carbon footprint of big data
  • Peter van de Crommert, project manager, the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security
    • Expertise: The Netherlands’ smart city projects, including in Stratumseind in Eindhoven
  • Saswat Bandyopadhyay, a professor at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) in New Delhi – email interview done

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Smart cities surge

Japan is also thought of as a smart city pioneer, known for its capsule hotels (CNN), efficient transport and technological innovation.

Amsterdam has been undergoing a smart city initiative and various experiments to make the city more innovative, efficient and technology focused. Its smart lighting scheme has allowed councils to decide when to light streets based on pedestrian prevalence.

In Barcelona, a “hive flat” company developed a series of 15 flat set out across 100 square meters to house tenants with economic difficulties for long stays (El Pais). However, the city council there opposes the niche housing initiative because it fails to comply with the minimum measures for legal housing in Spain.

Greek agricultural area Trikala is the country’s first smart city. Innovations have improved life there despite Greece’s financial crisis (The Guardian).

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Other projects include Songdo in South Korea, Rio de Janeiro’s IMB control center and a Google smart neighborhood in Toronto.

Bill Gates also plans to build his own smart city in Arizona (CNN).

A photo of Amsterdam's Rijksmonument at night
Street lamps in Amsterdam, considered a smart city, have been upgraded to allow municipal councils to dim the lights based on pedestrian usage. Photo by: Massimo Catarinella via Wikimedia Commons

India’s 100 smart city revolution

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The boom of smart cities has even prompted courses on the subject and the Indian government has committed to building 100 smart cities in a five-year ₹98,000 crore ($14 billion) program funded by central and state governments. Locations include New Delhi, the capital, and Lavasa, a completely new city being built near Pune, the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

Smart cities can make workers more efficient, improve ease of living and increase quality of environment, said Saswat Bandyopadhyay, a professor at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) in New Delhi who teaches a course on smart cities.

“Efficient public transport and smarter mobility, smart health care and innovative education via e-learning or mobile learning are some of the important initiatives in global smart cities,” he said.

But the growing number of individual initiatives to improve the wellbeing of workers – like apps and recharging facilities – fall short of improving the entire landscape of work, Bandyopadhyay told WikiTribune.

“Although these are welcome initiatives, [the] majority of them are are either curative or mitigative. We need to focus more on preventive and more sustainable approaches through better quality of life and sustainable practices,” he said.

Technological application alone does not make a city smart, says Bandyopadhyay.

While India’s smart cities are still in early stages of development, cities like Singapore, Barcelona, Bristol, Amsterdam are the “poster boys” for important initiatives, Bandyopadhyay added.

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