Agenda 21

Democrats Driving Agenda 21/Smart Growth Legislation

The Complete Streets Act being promoted in the Senate and House is straight out of the UN’s playbook for implementing Sustainable Development. Complete Streets is an initiative of Smart Grown America

Note: The UN Agenda 21 has been heavily promoted by both Democrats and Republicans since 1992. Note Nancy Pelosi’s 1993 speech on the House floor.

. ⁃ TN Editor

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-MA, and Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, introduced the Complete Streets Act Wednesday in Congress, a federal law to promote safer street design. The bill would require states to set aside 5% of federal highway funding for a grant program that would fund Complete Streets projects.

The legislation would allow eligible local and regional entities to apply for technical assistance and capital funding to build projects, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks and bus stops. It has already received statements of support from ride-hailing companies Lyft, Uber and Via, as well as the National Complete Streets Coalition (NCSC), a Smart Growth America program that advocates for Complete Streets.

To push for Congress’ approval, NCSC separately released an addendum to its “Dangerous by Design 2019” report, which ranks states and cities on the dangers faced by pedestrians. The addendum segments pedestrian fatalities by Congressional district in both absolute numbers and by rate per 100,000 people. Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, represented by Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, topped that ranking. Gallego is a co-sponsor of the bill in the House.

This bicameral legislation comes at a critical time for street safety, with pedestrian deaths and vehicle crashes ticking upwards. According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) earlier this year, the number of pedestrian fatalities in 2018 is projected to be the highest since 1990: at 6,227, a 4% increase over 2017. GHSA has blamed that uptick on a series of factors, including increased smartphone use and alcohol impairment of drivers and pedestrians.

The Complete Streets movement has gathered steam over the years as city and state governments look to improve safety, but plenty of work remains. In May, NCSC recognized 10 communities that drafted and implemented the best Complete Streets policies of 2018, with Cleveland Heights, OH at the top. But the push has been largely at the local level, with cities and states left to their own devices by the federal government, so this bill might be an effective way to give those efforts more clout.

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baltimore

Baltimore Is On Fast-Track For ‘Smart City’ Makeover

The Smart-City carrot is always the same: “deliver sustainable solutions to economic growth and improve the lives of citizens,” but the outcomes are opposite: Cost of living goes up along with the poverty level. ⁃ TN Editor

Smart city technologies empower cities to operate more efficiently by leveraging technology and “internet of things” (IoT) sensors that deliver sustainable solutions to economic growth and improve the lives of citizens. Consider this a call-to-action to fast-track Charm City into “Smart City” fully connected for the digital world.

One need look no further than our rust-belt neighbor to the west, Pittsburgh, to find an American city that successfully made such a transition. Pittsburgh, once in dire economic straits after the decline of American steel, found a way to reinvent itself into Fast Company’s 2019 “Smart City of Future” through outstanding technology investments that transformed the city into an ecosystem of innovation.

By leveraging real-time traffic flow data to determine when traffic lights should turn red or green, thanks to smart traffic light technologies, intersection wait times in Pittsburgh have fallen by up to 40%, travel times by as much as 25% and auto emissions by up to 20%.

Pittsburgh’s also a testing ground for autonomous vehicles after Uber picked the city to introduce driverless cars into its fleet. Driverless car-sharing reduces the number of vehicles in operation, and thus the amount of infrastructure expansion that’s needed within a city. Plus, it allows for the cancellation of nonprofitable city transportation services, so cities can deploy driverless shuttle services at much reduced costs.

Last year, Carnegie Mellon University partnered with Pittsburgh International Airport “to make it the smartest airport on the planet,” with sensors, apps and other smart technologies helping travelers navigate the airport hassle-free — from finding a parking space to obtaining the optimal time to arrive at airport security via your cell phone.

Our call-to-action to fast track Baltimore smart city investments comes with a sense of urgency regarding transportation. Traffic congestion alone costs Baltimoreans more than $1,300 a year, according to a recent evaluation of urban traffic patterns. Last year the city was listed as No. 8 on the 10 worst cities in America for longest commute times, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and it was the lowest performing of all mid-sized cities. Incredibly, a typical Baltimore resident can only get to 11% of jobs in the region within one hour if they use public transportation, with an average commute time of 55 minutes.

Despite the challenges, there’s reason for optimism. Incremental investments are working. Dozens of Baltimore intersections are now equipped with Transit Signal Prioritization (TSP) to improve travel times by prioritizing city buses in traffic, extending green lights to shorten commute times and speed up public transit. This single change has already resulted in a 20% improvement in travel speeds during the peak morning rush hour. MDOT is now looking to expand the program along Route 1 between the heavily-traveled Baltimore to Washington, D.C., corridor.

The Baltimore Vision for a smart city program proposes leveraging smart city technologies to better connect low-income communities, struggling with limited access to internet and smartphones, to economic opportunities through smart transportation options like shareable electric vehicles, bikes and ridesharing programs. Data from users’ mobile devices and smart infrastructure sensors will be integrated to support access to real-time travel information, passenger trip planning, performance monitoring and decision-making. The plan includes smart grid infrastructure and next-generation city logistics.

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Alphabet Says It Won’t Sell Personal Data It Collects In Smart City

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs is taking heat on its Quayside Smart City development in Toronto, but there is no reason to trust their CEO’s pledge to not sell private data collected on every citizen: The whole project is predicated on collecting and selling data. ⁃ TN Editor

Alphabet’s smart city unit Sidewalk Labs released its 1,500-plus page master plan to develop 153-acres of Toronto’s eastern waterfront district.

The proposal is designed to provide affordable housing, alleviate traffic, and fight climate change and inequality.

Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff pledged not to sell people’s personal data collected by the various services operating in the “smart city.”

The proposal says Sidewalk Toronto will add C$14.2 billion annually to Canada’s GDP, C$4.3 billion in tax revenue, and create 44,000 permanent jobs by 2040.

A high-tech smart city project proposed along Toronto’s waterfront by Alphabet unit Sidewalk Labs has pledged not to sell advertisers the personal data collected to serve residents and visitors, as part of a 1,500-page master plan released on Monday.

The proposal in Canada’s biggest city is designed to provide affordable housing, alleviate traffic and fight climate change and inequality. But privacy advocates have expressed concerns.

The C$3.9 billion development proposes features such as a thermal grid to lower power use, traffic signals that use data to prioritize pedestrians who need more time to cross roads and a self-financing light rail transit that connects the Greater Toronto Area to the waterfront, among other features.

Privacy activists have insisted that Sidewalk Labs must guarantee that personal data used to run the project remains anonymous.

CEO Dan Doctoroff said at a press conference on Monday that Sidewalk Labs will not disclose personal information to third parties without explicit consent and will not sell personal information.

Sidewalk’s proposed development encompasses 12 acres of land called the Quayside, and the River District, a 153-acre area that Sidewalk Labs plans tor develop.

The smart city project sparked controversy with concerns over sensors, which critics say will lead to excessive surveillance and unethical data collection.

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In China’s Smart Cities, Everyone Is Being Watched

There is no escape from digital slavery: China now reveals that “most citizens are required to download apps on their phones that let the authorities monitor what they look at and track their movements.” ⁃ TN Editor

Earlier this year, a U.S. congressional committee commissioned a report on China’s development of “smart cities,” with a particular focus on whether they were smarter than their American counterparts.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC) request for submissions was revealing because it showed that, despite the hype, not much is known about the fruits of China’s efforts to build such cities. Smart cities are highly digitally connected and use the latest technology to manage services.

About 500 of the roughly 1,000 smart cities being built worldwide are in China, according to Chinese state media, government figures and estimates from Deloitte. Under a five-year plan to the end of 2020, the Chinese government expects $74 billion of public and private investment in these cities.

Yet while scattered futuristic pilot examples can be found — from intelligent lighting and power grids to smart traffic management — there is little evidence that this grand vision is dramatically improving the lives of the masses.

Instead, it appears that the bulk of the resources poured into smart city development has gone into improving surveillance of Chinese citizens by the pervasive domestic security services. For nearly a decade, China has spent more on internal security than on its defense budget. Put another way: The Communist Party spends more on monitoring its own people than on guarding against foreign threats.

“It’s very clear that surveillance is a significant element in China’s conception of smart cities,” says Rogier Creemers, an expert in Chinese law and technology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “This involves across-the-board surveillance that is partly political and partly about mechanizing ordinary street-level policing.”

The security apparatus uses a vast network of cameras, facial and even gait recognition along with artificial intelligence and cloud computing to identify and track many of China’s 1.34 billion people.

Domestic companies such as camera maker Hikvision, e-commerce group Alibaba and telecoms equipment maker Huawei have become big suppliers to China’s security services. In the process, they take business from Western companies such as IBM and Cisco that previously provided much of the equipment.

Nowhere is this vision of a technologically enabled police state more advanced than in the restive western region of Xinjiang, where every facet of the predominantly Muslim minority society is watched and tightly controlled.

Apart from the ubiquitous cameras, most citizens are required to download apps on their phones that let the authorities monitor what they look at and track their movements. Viewing content that the Communist Party deems inappropriate can land someone in one of the gulags that have sprung up in recent years, which now hold as many as 2 million Muslims, according to estimates from the U.S. State Department.

With some of the most sophisticated surveillance and control technology in the world, Chinese suppliers are increasingly exporting it — not only to authoritarian states but also even to some advanced democracies, particularly in Europe.

Domestically, at least outside of Xinjiang, the picture is confused because some of the surveillance technology deployed can also be used in more benign ways that help improve people’s lives. For example, the cameras that capture license plates and drivers’ faces on all Chinese highways can now be networked to provide real-time data on traffic conditions, allowing authorities to better manage congestion.

Huawei claims that a surveillance system it built in the eastern city of Nanjing is used not only by the police but also to deploy electrical workers and doctors when their services are required.

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smart city

What’s Hidden In Your New ‘Smart City’ Street Lights?

The vast majority of Americans have no idea of Big Tech’s massive drive to make digital slaves out of every urban dweller. Smart street lights will often be at the heart of data collection and coordination. ⁃ TN Editor
 

Such a benign and banal part of the urban landscape that city-dwellers may not even notice them, street lights are useful for brightening up a road and not much else – or so you might think. People these days are used to the idea of CCTV cameras, even hidden ones, but street lights tend to blend in to the background. Perhaps that is why they are finding new functions in the modern world, with its zealotry for surveillance. These seemingly innocuous devices can host anything from microphones and cameras to facial recognition and de facto compulsory 5Gwifi transmission.

LED lampposts are being installed in cities and public places across the world, only partly because of their economical, energy-saving properties. With the new installations comes a wide range of sensors designed to capture data on public activity. As Chuck Campagna, CEO of lighting company Amerlux, told The New York Times, “We are opening up an entirely new area in lighting applications and services, including video-based security and public safety, parking management, predictive maintenance and more.”

“We see outdoor lighting as the perfect infrastructure to build a brand new network,” added Hugh Martin, chief executive of the company Sensity, which installed smart lighting at Newark airport. “We felt what you’d want to use this network for is to gather information about people and the planet.”

Lighting in a Smart City

In April 2018, Singapore announced that it would run a “Lamppost-as-a-Platform” pilot program, in which a variety of sensors, including cameras linked to facial-recognition technology, would be attached to street lighting. GovTech, the department in charge of the project, told Reuters that the technology would be used to perform “crowd analytics” and help in terrorism investigations. According to the city-state’s former top civil servant Peter Ong, the goal is to link every lamppost to a network of sensors. In October, it was announced that Singapore Technologies Engineering (STENGG) had won the bid to provide the technology, and a similar smart lamppost program would commence in Hong Kong, where 50 of the lights are set to be installed by June. The Hong Kong lamppost design certainly contains surveillance cameras, but it is unclear whether they also will be linked to facial-recognition programs.

STENGG’s smart lampposts are designed merely to be a thread in a wider Internet of Things web, in which virtually every object is connected to a shared network. As part of such a system, lampposts are so much more than just street illuminators; they are multi-purpose devices used to monitor the cityscape. The design incorporates environmental sensors, a wifi hotspot, an infotainment display, radar for vehicle monitoring, and, of course, equipment for “public safety and traffic surveillance.” Naturally, this aspect of the network is downplayed; a promotional video for the company’s WISX Internet of Things system doesn’t mention population surveillance at all, and neither does a Hong Kong government brochure.

Singapore is a successful country but one well known for highly controlled social discipline. Would Western countries allow such potentially invasive technology to be planted on every street?

In STENGG’s 2018 sustainability performance review, CEO Vincent Chong says the company has been hired to enable smart street lighting in cities in Canada, the United States, Britain, New Zealand, and Israel, as well for as other infrastructure projects across the globe.

Urban Surveillance

It isn’t necessary to create an entire smart grid in order to install surveillance technology into street lights. As early as 2007, the idea of securing cameras to street lights was being discussed in the United Kingdom; in 2010, a system of microphones was deployed on street lights in several British cities. The high-powered microphones were designed to pick up on angry or distressed voices and suspicious sounds, automatically triggering a linked camera to zoom in on the source of the noise.

Similar technology has been used in several U.S. cities, most notably New York, which fixed microphones to street lamps in high-crime neighborhoods. The ShotSpotter sensors are said to pick up only loud, suspicious noises, such as gunshots or shouting, and then send an alert to the police department. Although the data appear to have been less than dependable, it has not stopped police from attempting to use it as evidence in criminal trials.

“There’s a few things that are problematic,” said Monroe County Assistant Public Defender Katie Higgins, working on behalf of Silvon Simmons, a man on trial for allegedly shooting at a police officer in 2016, based on ShotSpotter recordings. “One is that it was designed to be an investigative tool for the police, to alert them to possible gunfire and allow them to respond to see if there are civilian witnesses or other evidence of gunfire. But it was not designed to be used as actual primary evidence (in a trial).” The judge in the case apparently agreed, having ruled the recordings too “unreliable” for use as the key piece of evidence to convict a man.

In 2017, San Diego became perhaps the U.S. city most invested in surveillance street lighting, teaming up with General Electric to install cameras, microphones, and sensors in more than 3,000 lampposts. Other locales, as well as federal agencies, have ordered recording equipment for installation in street lamps. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have purchased such devices, Quartz reports, based on government procurement documents.

Christie Crawford, owner of Cowboy Streetlight Concealments, from which the DEA purchases equipment, said:

“We do street light concealments and camera enclosures. Basically, there’s businesses out there that will build concealments for the government and that’s what we do. They specify what’s best for them, and we make it. And that’s about all I can probably say .… I can tell you this—things are always being watched. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the street or visiting a friend, if government or law enforcement has a reason to set up surveillance, there’s great technology out there to do it.”

Urban Solution or Tool of Tyranny?

Finally, 5G wireless internet is well and truly being rolled out in 2019. While previous wifi connections, such as 4G, have been optional in one’s home – a resident could either choose to purchase wifi or not – street lights are one of the vehicles to carry 5G transmitters. Due to the high-frequency, short-range nature of 5G’s millimeter waves, it’s necessary to situate transmitters at regular intervals in order to keep a signal going. You will no longer have any choice over whether you want a constant wifi signal in your residence; it will be effectively mandatory for all urban dwellers because the electromagnetic signals will be blasted into homes from the street. Given the untested nature of 5G technology, some people may want a little more control over their exposure than that.

Are smart lampposts the next great solution for urban planning and city management, or a convenient mechanism for public surveillance? It seems almost ridiculous to suggest that street lamps could be the next most useful tool of tyranny, but their very banality and regular placement on streets makes them the perfect vehicle to monitor – and, therefore, control – wide swathes of the world’s population.

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smart city

Dump It: Toronto’s Smart City Project Is ‘Surveillance Capitalism’

Google tricked Toronto into creating the model smart city, Quayside. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee states: “It is a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society.” And yet, Smart City tech is a tsunami to the U.S. ⁃ TN Editor

A “smart city” project in Canada has hit yet another snag, as mounting delays and privacy concerns threaten the controversial development along the Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

The 12-acre Quayside project, a partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto, has come under increasing scrutiny amid concerns over privacy and data harvesting.

This week, the US venture capitalist Roger McNamee warned that technology companies such as Google cannot be trusted to safely manage the data they collect on residents.

“The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism”, he wrote to the city council, suggesting Google will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in ways to “favor its business”.

McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google, is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners, one of the world’s largest technology investors.

But in recent years, he has soured on many of the technology giants and their handling of data and privacy concerns.

“No matter what Google is offering, the value to Toronto cannot possibly approach the value your city is giving up,” he wrote, pleading with officials to abandon the project. “It is a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society.”

The letter follows news that the project’s advisory panel, Waterfront Toronto, plans to delay a planned vote on the Quayside development to ensure it can undertake an “accountable, transparent, and extensive” evaluation of Sidewalk Labs’ plans, which are expected to be submitted in the coming weeks.

“We have adjusted our expected timelines accordingly to ensure that the evaluation process has the time required to meet the expectations of Waterfront Toronto, and the public as a whole,” spokesman Andrew Tumilty said in a statement.

McNamee’s criticisms are the latest in a growing chorus of opposition to the project by high-profile technology investors and executives.

Late last year, Jim Balsille, the co-founder of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, called the project “a colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism attempting to bulldoze important urban, civic and political issues”.

In 2017, Sidewalk Labs won a proposal to develop a 12-acre section of Toronto’s eastern waterfront. The proposal also left the possibility of developing as many as 800 acres of the city’s Port Lands area in the coming years.

Originally seen as a tool for addressing affordability and transportation issues in the city, Quayside was meant to be one of the world’s first “smart cities”, drawing on environmentally conscious design and emerging technologies to “accelerate urban innovation and serve as a beacon for cities around the world”. Sidewalk Labs intends to build 2,500 housing units, nearly half of them under market value.

Despite initial public support for the project, Quayside has been dogged by fears of data harvesting, privacy concerns and an overall lack of transparency.

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UN-Habitat

Technocracy At Work: UN-Habitat’s Strategic Urban Plan for 2020-2025

The United Nations met in Nairobi to give teeth to the New Urban Agenda adopted in December 2016. The new strategy lends full ideological support to the global Green New Deal movement. Every city on the planet will be inundated with the new propaganda. ⁃ TN Editor

Sustainable urbanization is central to the realization of the global development goals as set out in the suite of global agreements signed in 2015-16, including, most importantly, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on Climate Agenda, and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Strategic Plan 2020-2025 focuses on the Agency’s commitment and contribution to the implementation of these global development agendas. Through its normative and operational work, the Agency’s objective is to: advance sustainable urbanization as a driver of development and peace to improve living conditions for all”.

UN-Habitat’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan creates a strong narrative of change, clearly articulating the relationship of sustainable urbanization with the overall notion of sustainable development. It is only with a clear transformative strategy, partnerships, and a fresh and innovative vision of development that it is possible to respond to persistent and new development problems, including extreme poverty, socioeconomic inequalities, slums, social exclusion and marginalization, gender-based discrimination, humanitarian crises, conflicts, climate change, and high unemployment, which are increasingly concentrated in urban areas. A holistic approach towards an urbanizing world, connecting cities and other human settlements, can help advance sustainable solutions for the benefit of all.

The Strategic Plan lays out a recalibrated vision and mission, and a sharpened focus. UN-Habitat proposes to serve Member States, sub-national and local governments, and other key urban actors in the pursuit of four mutually reinforcing and integrated domains of change or goals:

1. Reduced poverty and spatial inequality in urban and rural communities;

2. Enhanced shared prosperity of cities and regions;

3. Strengthened climate action and improved urban environment; and

4. Effective urban crisis prevention and response

The realization of these outcomes is supported by a certain number of specific ‘drivers of change’ and ‘organizational enablers.’ Transformative change can only take place through a paradigm shift. UN-Habitat is cognizant of this, and proposes a clear framework that takes into account global trends and focuses on (i) customized solutions taking into account countries in different situations, aligning all efforts focused on the change we want to see; (ii) leveraging partnerships with sister United Nations entities, the private sector, and other development actors and stakeholders; and (iii) significantly enhancing integrated delivery through more effective collaboration across its country offices, regional offices, liaison offices, and the headquarters.

However, implementation of the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 equally requires organizational changes and a new model for financial sustainability to ensure that UN-Habitat resources are commensurate with its mandates and roles.

Once translated into action, this Strategic Plan will reinforce UN-Habitat’s place as the global centre of excellence on sustainable urban development, offering solutions that help seize the opportunities presented by urbanization, while bringing about transformational change for the benefit of millions of people, ensuring that no one and no place is left behind.

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Location Technology Is Key To Smart City Surveillance

This story’s sponsor, Here, asks “Can data make cities more human?” Yet, it’s all about them, not citizens: “It’s really a utopia or oblivion moment – it depends on us architects where we want to go.” In reality, citizens don’t care where Technocrats want to go. ⁃ TN Editor

Around the world a quiet revolution is transforming the way cities deliver services to their residents.

Although cities have long used isolated Internet of Things (IoT) technologies like smart streetlights or meters, the information they collect has typically been siloed within departments, which has created inefficiencies and made services tough to coordinate.

But today’s technology is changing the picture dramatically. Cities are now using location data and services as building blocks for applications that share information internally and interact with residents, nonprofits, and business partners. A dynamic new ecosystem has sprung up, improving everything from emergency response times to budgeting, traffic management, public health, and the environment.

“Location technology is bringing cities a digital canvas of reality, helping them to make better sense of operations, identify gaps in services, and create new solutions,” says Edzard Overbeek, CEO of HERE Technologies, a leader in mapping and location technology.

“In the past, urban design was top down — architects, engineers, and planners implemented their solutions,” he says. “In the 21st century, we need a new approach. A city should evolve in a natural way, by a system of trial and error, letting citizens decide which projects they want.”

Here are some of the ways location technology is transforming city services.

1. Emergency response.

In the past, emergency operators determined callers’ location by looking up the address where the phone was registered, then relaying the information to responders. Addresses were often out of date or irrelevant to the incident location. Location and sensor data have changed everything.

Now cities get GPS information from cell phones. Many have city vehicle tracking, cameras on streetlights and utility poles, and microphones that detect the location and intensity of gunshots.

Some first responders use indoor venue maps from HERE that guide them on the fastest route to someone in need and the locations of fire extinguishers, defibrillators, and medical kits. Police officers wear holster sensors that tell the department when they have drawn a gun, which can speed backup response.

Cities are also using IoT sensors to coordinate services after hurricanes or floods. Some use machine learning to predict when and where the next disaster might occur.

In the future, connected cars may automatically generate accident reports to responders when they collide. Ambulances may control traffic lights to get to the scene faster or send out robots to defuse bombs or gather more information.

2. Utilities.

With smart meters and geolocation, cities can “see” and analyze in real time how people use energy and water consumption levels and make better decisions about managing resources. Sensors can detect a water leak and send a technician to fix it before the customer is hit with a sky-high bill.

In developing countries, clean water is especially precious, and leaky pipes are the largest source of water waste. With sensors and analytics, cities can cut those losses by up to 25%, saving up to 80 liters of water per person each day, a McKinsey report found. It’s just one way technology can improve the lives of the underserved.

“In the future, social justice and equity will be a central focus of urban planning,” says Julian Agyeman, a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University.

“The thing that really excites me now is seeing synergies. And the best example I know is the transformation of Medellin, Colombia, where the public utility and private companies have worked together with a philosophy of empowering people, especially in lower-income neighborhoods.”

Medellin’s mobile data portal lets citizens view and communicate information about utilities, traffic, public transit, and more, bringing in data and feedback from socioeconomic groups often ignored.

3. Environment.

Cities are using location data in a wide range of applications to improve the environment. Some are placing sensors on trash cans to make garbage collection more efficient, while Cambridge, Massachusetts is collaborating with Senseable City Lab to do much more.

Sensors mounted on the city’s garbage trucks collect and transmit information about potholes, gas leaks, and air quality along their routes. “With only three garbage trucks you can cover the whole city at least once a week,” Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “It allows city officials to more accurately detect abnormalities in the environment and be more responsive.”

In Baltimore, where asthma rates are among the highest in the US, 250 pollution sensors measure temperature, relative humidity, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide throughout the city. They send real-time information to city officials, who can then address air quality on a hyper-local level.

MIT’s Open Agriculture Initiative studies how to increase food production in urban areas and make its transport more efficient, lowering carbon emissions.

Location data can also be used to spot and prevent environmental degradation on a wide scale. In Colombia, the InfoAmazonia platform uses information from satellites and crowdsourcing to track construction projects that threaten the Amazon’s sensitive ecosystem. It could help the country meet its goal of reducing forest clearing to net zero by 2030.

4. Public health.

Electronic health records and apps may be common in advanced nations, but poorer countries lack these technologies, making it hard to create accurate epidemiological profiles and suitable facility development plans.

That’s where the IoT and location data come in. In Cartagena, Colombia, where many people live far from healthcare providers, authorities are using remote patient monitoring to keep people in touch with doctors and capture more knowledge about local populations, which could lead to better disease prevention and proactive care. Developing cities that use location-based infectious disease surveillance systems can reduce premature deaths and disabilities by 5%, according to the McKinsey report.

5. Civic engagement.

Cities are adopting IT platforms allowing residents to get information and engage with officials without having to attend evening meetings.

Dublin’s CiviQ platform tracks opinions on public issues and planning proposals. A location-based commenting system gives officials and residents alike a sense of how political dynamics operate in different parts of the city.

Analyze Boston, the city’s open-data hub, posts information about city services ranging from how long it takes to fulfill service requests to how many people use city libraries. Residents can also use an app to send information about the location of potholes or other problems directly to the city’s road-repair department.

Cary, North Carolina, placed sensors in its community-center parking lot to tell officials how spaces are being used, which helps them plan smarter parking.

6. Participatory budgeting.

Participatory budgeting allows citizens to decide how certain segments of municipal money are spent. The concept originated in Brazil and has spread to cities across the US and in Canada. Participants work directly with elected officials and city administrators in deciding how to invest resources in their community.

A group in New York voted to spend $30 million on air-conditioning for school classrooms. Oakland, California, residents voted for block grants for homeless services, legal advice for tenants, support for non-native speakers, and youth-apprenticeship programs.

By using technology to bring citizens into the heart of their operations, cities are ditching their reputation as distant and inefficient bureaucracies and becoming responsive engines of change. For many people, including Agyeman, it can’t happen soon enough.

“The city is not produced — it is coproduced,” he says. “The sooner we realize that and enact the right policies, the better off we’ll be.”

Innovation in location technology and services is rapidly creating a new reality for companies and governments around the world. As the world’s leading location platform, HERE Technologies can help you unlock new opportunities to transform your business.




Smart Cities Council

Experts: Why American Cities Need To Be ‘Smarter’

Smart City apologists have a technological solution to every conceivable problem, but few understand the web of control they are creating around all inhabitants. As Charles Dickens might have written, “The future is utopian. The future is dystopian.” ⁃ TN Editor

Over the past decade the digital world has rapidly become connected with the physical and corporeal. Our smart watches can tell us things about our bodies or our surroundings. WiFi-connected doorbells with sensors can determine when visitors are approaching and then alert us wherever we are in the world. Our connected homes—coffee makers, sprinklers and Alexas—now automate convenience.

Though we are all too habituated in this world of IoT—the Internet of Things—it is a technological trend that is still in its early stages within other industries beyond consumer products. Connected devices work by extracting data from the physical world or in the reverse—taking data and applying it to material objects. When this concept is applied to the public realm, it becomes known as a smart city—where streets, buildings and infrastructure are integrated with sensors and the internet-enabled. As cities around the world add a layer of data and connectivity to their infrastructure, are American cities doing enough to make their metropolises smart?

Intelligent cities move beyond automating convenience to automate the government’s delivery of services. Cities that have embraced this modernization in the U.S. include the most tech-centric: New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. These are some of the major global hubs that are establishing predictive analytics, monitoring air quality in congested areas, and embedding sensor nodesinto light poles to create “FitBits” for the urban environment. While San Francisco pioneered a smart parking system that led the way for drivers to find parking among the 8,200 parking spots installed with sensors, Chicago’s “Array of Things“, or AoT, can record and respond to floods, traffic or safety incidents.

U.S. cities, like New York, have, indeed, been leaders in terms of using smart city technology, but global urban avant-gardes have included the cities of London, Singapore, Barcelona and Amsterdam. Of 57 mid-sized cities that the U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed last year, only 14 percent had reported smart city projects, while for small cities that number drops to under four percent. America’s second- and third-tier cities—urban areas under one million residents—require investments as well, and what it will take may require a national urban smart plan. The last federal effort to support smart cities was in 2015 during the Obama administration, when $160 million was committed to initiatives. Among mayors, the largest complaint was securing funding for long-term projects

Amsterdam’s aggressive smart city planning was built as a result of ecosystem and platform planning: The Netherlands’ countrywide planning strategy has shifted dozens of medieval-era cities into the digital era. Each of the cities serve as “Living Labs” focused on specific urban issues like health and mobility where ideas can be tested limitedly and the replicated with success across the country. The case studies are then organized by a region’s issues into an online database where city managers can understand how they can implement a solution in their own cities. These urban test beds are effective in that best practices and solutions aren’t exchanged through a conference, whitepaper or academic research, but under the auspices of a government facilitator.

This countrywide, collaborative approach is detached in experimentation but unified in shared discovery. It could help avoid the pitfalls of cities like Boulder, Colorado, where an expensive pilot in 2008 for an energy saving smart grid ballooned in costs and resulted in three times the utility costs—from $15 million to $45.5 million. Scaling solutions for complex implementation within larger cities can be implemented in smaller urban areas where the stakes are lower.

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Smart City Startup Quayside Draws Fire Over Privacy And High Costs

Toronto is learning the hard way about Public-Private Partnerships with the likes of Google-linked  Sidewalk Labs. Smart City construction in its Quayside district is costly compared to traditional urban design, and data privacy is still an open sieve. ⁃ TN Editor

The Google sister company promised to transform a dilapidated stretch of the Toronto waterfront into the world’s most technologically advanced neighborhood.

Quayside would be outfitted with robotic garbage collection, snow-melting sidewalks and self-driving taxibots. Sensors would capture data on park bench usage, air quality and more, aimed at making the neighborhood more livable.

It was handshakes and smiles all around when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and officials from Sidewalk Labs gathered here 18 months ago to announce the data-driven city of tomorrow. But internal discord and public criticism are threatening the project.

“I don’t think they look so happy now,” said Paula Fletcher, a Toronto City Council member. “This big idea isn’t going exactly the way it was planned.”

As in New York, where fierce opposition to Amazon led the online retail giant to cancel plans to build a second headquarters in Long Island City, a local movement here is growing to send Sidewalk Labs packing. Their concerns: money, privacy, and whether Toronto is handing too much power over civic life to a for-profit American tech giant.

The #BlockSidewalk campaign formed in February after the Toronto Star reported on leaked documents indicating that Sidewalk Labs was considering paying for transit and infrastructure on a larger portion of the waterfront. In return, it would seek a cut of the property taxes, development fees and the increased value of the land resulting from the development — an estimated $6 billion over 30 years.

Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said it hadn’t shared the proposal because it was still being debated. But it was a tough look for a company that has come under fire for a lack of transparency around its business model and the question of who would own and govern the data and intellectual property at the heart of its proposal.

“It’s our job to remind everybody that ‘no’ is an option and that consent is important,” said Bianca Wylie, one of the leaders of #BlockSidewalk. “The way this process has been set up was not a question of whether we should do stuff like this, but how.”

Separately, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is suing the city, provincial and federal governments to shut down the project over privacy concerns. Michael Bryant, the head of the group, said Trudeau had been “seduced by the honey pot of Google’s sparkling brand and promises of political and economic glory.”

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