Trump To Continue U.S. Help To India For Smart Cities

The Trump Administration apparently does not understand that Smart Cities are at the core of Technocracy’s (and the U.N’s) global strategy. In any case, why should the U.S. be sending money and technology to any nation capable of doing it themselves?  TN Editor

The new administration under President-elect Donald Trump will continue to engage with India on development of smart cities, a US government official told ET.

India and the United States, during President Barack Obama’s term, signed memorandums of understanding to develop three smart cities in Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam. The US agreed to assist the cities in project planning, infrastructure development, feasibility studies and capacity building.

“We had initial discussions with the transition team (under new Presidency). It is still early stages but we have shared our plans and they have been included,” said Vinay Vijay Singh, deputy assistant secretary in the US Department of Commerce.

Singh said there are some challenges from the Indian side which can be addressed.

“Indian cities should be enabled to have more autonomy,” he said. The mechanics between the Centre and states in India need to be worked out, Singh said.

“I know they are working hard at it. We had this (smart cities) competition and the money has gone to the states, then we go to the states and some states say we don’t have the money because these things haven’t been done,” he said.

Some companies which are already involved in India’s smart cities project also echoed these concerns. Ashley O’Connor, vice president, Region Business Line leader, AECOM, said that some clarity would be welcome.

“In Vizag (Visakhapatnam), in particular, there were talks of a new airport. It would need significant investment, so clarity around these, what is in works and how are they working forward would be helpful for the business side,” she said.

Singh said that US participation in development of smart cities in India is not a political initiative and the agenda is driven by the US private sector, which sees this as a growth area.

Read full story here…

city planning

New Urban Agenda Is Clearly About Human Control

The first paragraph gives it away: “1 billion urban dwellers live in settlements that have emerged outside of the state’s control”.  This core of New Urban Agenda is to bring everyone under state control; in other words, as so many other UN documents say, “leave no one behind”.  TN Editor

Informal settlements house around a quarter of the world’s urban population. This means roughly 1 billion urban dwellers live in settlements that have emerged outside of the state’s control.

The Habitat III conference in Quito in October recognized informal settlements as a critical issue for sustainable urban development. But how did informal settlements come to make up such a large part of the world’s cities?

Rates of urbanization can fluctuate rapidly and be hard to predict. This makes planning for urban growth a challenge, especially in developing countries, where more than 90 percent of urban growth is occurring. When data or government capacity is limited, housing shortages often result.

With formal housing too expensive or unavailable, urban migrants must improvise. Many resort to informal housing.

Informal settlements are generally undocumented or hidden on official maps. This is because the state usually sees them as temporary or illegal. Over the past 50 years, governments have tried to deal with these areas in a number of ways. Strategies have included denial, tolerance, formalization, demolition and displacement.

While efforts to improve settlements and anticipate future ones are becoming more common, the desire for eradication persists in many cities. Forced evictions in various parts of the world are putting the rights of informal settlement dwellers at risk.

Over time, however, it has been recognized that poverty and inequality cannot be simply eradicated through demolition or eviction. In the developing world, one third of the urban population now lives in slums. In Africa, the proportion is 62 percent.

Many cities are looking for alternatives that formalize these areas through incremental, on-site upgrading. In addition to offering effective protection against forced evictions, it is critical to provide access to basic services, public facilities and inclusive public spaces.

We need to adopt integrated approaches that cut across urban scales and disciplines. These need to involve stakeholders from government, citizens and other organizations. Design thinking is essential in this process to meet the challenges of urbanization.

The role of the New Urban Agenda

While the quality of life for some informal settlement dwellers has improved over recent decades, growing inequality pushes more people into informal housing. As a result, the growth rate of informal settlements often outstrips upgrading processes.

The Habitat III conference adopted a New Urban Agenda for the United Nations. This document presents a roadmap for sustainable urban development until Habitat IV in 2036.

One of the key agencies involved in Habitat III was the U. N.Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). Since Habitat II, UN-Habitat has worked extensively on housing and slum upgrading. The New Urban Agenda incorporates lessons from this process.

An example is the need for innovative small investment models for informal housing and their inhabitants’ transport needs. The agenda also acknowledges the informal settlements located in hazard-prone areas. Their inhabitants often need more help with reducing the risks and building resilience.

Read full story here…

Model Smart City Called Pena Station Being Built In Denver

Technocrats at work: Denver chooses to be a Global City, and has partnered with Panasonic to create the most advanced model of a Smart City in the world!  TN Editor

This week, brains were installed in 53 city street lights that live near the solitary Peña Station rail stop just south of Denver International Airport. The first autonomous shuttle is expected to move in next month. By March, a device that measures air quality will join the community, high-density Wi-Fi will be turned on and the first series of apartments will break ground in hopes of attracting new life.

Denver’s futuristic smart city, Peña Station Next, is becoming a reality.

“A lot of cities, a lot of communities are doing pieces of this,” said George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, the smart-city arm of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co. “Nobody is doing all of this.”

Humans don’t live here yet. And there’s still not much to see on the 400 acres bounded by Peña Boulevard and Tower Road, except for the shiny new — and a bit lonely looking — headquarters of Panasonic, which opened in September. An airport-owned parking lot to the west is covered in solar panels, though it’s not quite ready for cars.

But the undeveloped property close to transit and the airport was a prime reason Panasonic picked Denver. The Japanese technology giant wanted a place to experiment with solar power and renewable energy, autonomous vehicles and other technologies. And it needed a public partner and community support. It found that in Denver, DIA, Xcel Energy, developer LC Fulenwider and many others.

“This is the city’s living lab,” Karayannis said. “They can bring new technology in and try it out at Peña Station, make sure the technology works and the vendors make sense and then create the business model for when and where we scale it in the city. Very few cities have this opportunity to try things before they have to make significant capital decisions. And it’s not so much the capital, but if a city decides to implement the technology, they’re making a 10- to 20-year commitment. You’re locked in. To have this living lab for the city is a phenomenal opportunity.”

Panasonic picked Denver out of 22 finalists for its new headquarters. But beyond the economic impact — a potential $82 million a year, according to government officials — the partnership to build the smartest city in the nation became the prime attraction, said Evan Dreyer, Mayor Michael Hancock’s deputy chief of staff.

“Perhaps the most exciting opportunity for us is to utilize the technology and innovation to address problems with next-generation solutions. That’s where the lab concept comes in,” Dreyer said. “It’s such an amazing opportunity to have a company like Panasonic. Their mission is how do you bring technology to the table and help people’s lives improve.”

Even simple things, such as street lights, are proving to be better when enhanced by technology.

Read full story here…

Trudi Elliott

Habitat III: How The World Can Be Transformed Through Cities

Technocrats envision a new world where the city-state replaces the nation-state, and cities are multicultural melting pots of humanity. Thus, planning, monitoring and directing is everything.  TN Editor

“I don’t really like things being about me,” protests Trudi Elliott. It’s just as well then that the RTPI chief executive and I have met to talk about October’s Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, which she attended with the RTPI’s president Phil Williams and international officer Marion Frederiksen.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that she’s just reached the end of her fifth year in the job. Moreover, with positive noises about planning coming from the new regime at the Department for Communities and Local Government, there is no lack of RTPI business to chat about, too.

We start with Habitat III, however. As trailed in The Planner in September, this was the third iteration of the United Nations’ conference on housing and sustainable urban development.

The event takes place every 20 years only, and each time reconfigures the international approach to tackling the challenges – and opportunities – presented by human settlements around the world.

At its heart this time is the New Urban Agenda (NUA), a blueprint for sustainable development over the next 20 years agreed by states worldwide. Unlike the Paris climate agreement, however, the NUA is not legally binding, leading to suggestions that Habitat III was little more than a talking shop.

If so, with 35,000 attendees from politics, academia, business, the professions, civil society and the media, it was a significant talking shop.

“It was amazing in terms of the scale,” says Elliott. “For someone who’s interested in planning, urbanism and global challenges there were so many things you could go to. What do you pick?”

The biggest “take home”, she says, was the sheer variety of people who attended the conference and took part in myriad side events looking at the issues around urbanisation and sustainable development.

“You would be sitting at something and you might have someone representing slum-dwellers on one side and a tech expert on the other,”
she continues.

Notably, she says, there was significant business presence – a sign that commerce is taking conference themes seriously.

“This was about us collectively looking at global challenges, comparing and contrasting and coming to a shared agenda about what needs to be addressed.”

Collectively, that is, except for a significant missing group – UK politicians. Although the UK was well represented by civil society, academia, professional bodies and private business – including a delegation of civil servants from the

Department for International Development – there were no ministers or city mayors that Elliott was aware of. This brings the sole downbeat note from Elliott.

Attendance would have been an excellent chance for senior politicians to promote the UK’s international development and built environment expertise post-Brexit.

Tactfully, she suggests this may be because the event came too soon for the fledgling May government. She also notes a change in attitudes towards planning at the Department of Communities and Local Government under the new regime.

“It’s always interesting to see what other people are doing. It’s reassuring to note that some of the issues we are grappling with, it’s not just us. We found comparing and contrasting with sister institutions really quite helpful.

“In every session we felt we had something to offer and something to learn. It’s a shame there wasn’t more political engagement,” she says, adding: “We cannot adopt the ‘not invented here’ approach.”

Cities for all

So what issues struck Elliott most forcefully? In a world with an expanding population and the greater proportion of people moving to towns and cities, the availability of land in the right places for good quality and affordable development is critical.

“In some places it’s the sheer quantum [of housing required], in some it’s the location. There’s formal settlement versus informal settlement, the community implications of massive redevelopment.”

Then there is the “link between housing and infrastructure, housing and jobs” and the related issues of land and tenure, and what patterns of land ownership mean for land price and assembly. “The land question came up in lots of different ways. In some places the land tenure and land valuation issues were as a big a challenge as planning.”

It’s a worldwide challenge that, Elliott stresses, links to viability and the economic and fiscal models that are used to unlock development. Are they fair? Do they privilege one set of people over another? Who benefits the most from development?

We grapple with these challenges in the UK but, says Elliott, “they manifest themselves in different ways all over the world”. Inspiration comes from seeing how different states try to resolve the conundrum. She was particularly impressed with a scheme on Mexico’s stand.

“They’re doing a really interesting piece of work involving unions, developers, housing associations and the government to provide homes. The fact that unions were involved was interesting – and they’d thought about how you make the financial model stack up for the individual and for the lending organisation.”

The threat of climate change was ever-present. “It’s inextricably linked now to the quality of life issue and resilience. It’s fundamental to how you make places where people want to live.

“It’s also about how to prepare for and rebuild communities after disaster, which is why we launched the UK Built Environment Advisory Group with RIBA and the Institution of Structural Engineers at Habitat III, to give built environment support to the humanitarian sector.”

The RTPI also successfully argued for the inclusion of statements about the linked issue of air quality in the final NUA, Elliott points out, adding: “There were things I wasn’t expecting, too. I didn’t expect the gender issue to keep coming up – the issue about how safe women feel in cities.”

Indeed, she suggests, the conference could almost be distilled into the single question: “How do you create a city that works for everybody?”. To answer this means tackling a deep structural issue that afflicts countries around the world, says Elliott. We are trying to resolve 21st century problems with 20th century – even 19th century –governance frameworks.

Above all, the administrative architecture of our societies, including planning systems, needs to be updated to work in tune with the modern world. How do we manage such a transition smoothly and to the benefit of the planet and the widest number of people?

Read full story here…

smart cities

Trends and Developments Driving Smart City Innovation

Hear first-hand what the expert smart city planners are actually planning. Technocrats are driven to micro-manage everything with their scientific method and ‘data-validated’ regulations.  TN Editor

The technological components of a “smart city,” including everything from smart grids and driverless cars to automated buildings and advanced sensors, can be complicated. But the core question behind the purpose of a smart city is quite simple: does it make human lives better?

That’s the key theme explored in the webcast “The Connected City: Trends and Developments Driving Smart City Innovation,” produced by MIT Technology Review and IEEE Collabratec. Three influential subject matter experts with different backgrounds in developing smart cities delve into how these cities influence their human populations. Other discussion topics include government’s role in advancing smart cities and key trends affecting the smart-cities landscape. The speakers also examine the required factors for creating intelligent urban environments including a vision, efficient use of technology, an environment that attracts a talented workforce, and an enabling infrastructure.

Dr. Massoud Amin, a professor at the University of Minnesota and IEEE fellow, focuses his research on the energy that powers smart cities, such as the important global transition dynamics needed to enhance these intelligent systems and the technology influencing them. Dr. Ryan Chin, CEO of OptimusRide, concentrates on urban mobility systems, with intriguing work on a network of self-driving, shared-use, and electric vehicles called Autonomous Mobility-on-Demand (MoD) Systems. Finally, Nigel Jacob comes from the world of civic innovation, working specifically on making urban life better via cutting-edge, people-oriented applications of technology and design.

“Everything we do is geared towards improving human condition and advancing the civilization that we often take for granted,” Amin says. “As engineers, we enable better quality of life for people.”

The bigger-picture discussion continuously points to the idea of promoting a “people-first” approach to developing smart cities. For example, one topic of concern is how involved residents are in transforming their communities into “smart cities.”

“For the past several years, we have been experimenting with several online platforms that are designed to make civic engagement as easy as possible,” Jacob says. “We have always seen this as an opportunity to explore the interface between the public and the private sectors.” By incorporating public input into the decision-making process, communities can feel confident that the systems are doing what’s needed and requested.

“The whole idea of a smart city is not just about power or buildings. It’s about the whole ecosystem–how you educate people, how you empower people, the economic growth it can bring and what opportunities it can bring,” Amin says.

Read full article here…


Software Giant Oracle Launches ‘Smart City In A Box’

The computer titans of the world are rushing to get their share of the multi-trillion dollar market for automation of Smart Cities. This is the essence of Scientific Dictatorship because the UN’s New Urban Agenda calls for complete geo-spatial monitoring of everything within a city.  TN Editor

State governments have been working to get their Smart City projects off the ground for sometime. While technology will be the enabler for services, states have to spend on creating infrastructure initially. While some cities are still creating Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), others have moved ahead to bring out request for proposal (RFP) to implement the projects. Maharastra which has 10 cities government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Oracle. Niraj Prakash, director, solution consulting, Oracle India spoke to Anup Jayaram on the Smart City initiave.

Q: What does the MoU that you signed with Maharashtra on Smart Cities entail?

A: The MoU that we signed with Maharashtra in the US is a way forward on a partnership that we want to create with government. We will create a centre of excellence (CoE), which can help generate solutions around modern government. The CoE which will be located in a government of Maharashtra premises or real estate is where we can test and develop newer solutions which can help in Smart Cities. It will leverage cloud solutions and entrepreneurs can come and test newer solutions there. The internet of things (IoT) is a new technology and there are numerous use cases. You need to connect the new technology with the use case to see what works best and has maximum impact on citizens.

Q: Oracle has partnered with many cities globally. What learnings can you bring here?

A: Oracle has hundreds of cities globally as strong customers. We worked in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and the Middle East. Across the world we have done a lot of IT transformation. That gives us an enormous understanding of what cities are, what kind of transformation can happen and what do they impact. Today we are looking at how to embed an IoT component, mobile, social and big data components in the offering.

Q: What is the status of Smart Cities now?

A: Once a city is identified, it has to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV), followed by an organization structure and a CEO. Then it needs to identify a managed service partner (MSP) who will look at the city and see what greenfield and brownfield areas are there and what it wants to prioritise. Then they will float RFPs to identify system integrators (SIs) to implement that. Many cities are busy doing that. Pune, Raipur and Nagpur have come out with RFPs. While these cities have moved faster, others are getting their SPVs in place.

Q: While technology is key, isn’t infrastructure a bigger issue in Smart Cities?

A: Yes, that’s true. Public safety, transportation, parking and solid waste management are among the seven common priorities across cities. In waste management some cities want bins, but in others there are plans to remove garbage bins totally; they will collect it from the source. Parking is an issue across cities. Smart parking involves an IT component, but space has to be created. Then you need sensors at each parking slot. That data has to be moved to a central command centre. There is civil and IT infrastructure involved. Then comes the IT backbone on top of which it is going to ride. A large part of the cost would be incurred in the civil construction cost for the parking.

Q: What are the challenges?

A: Smart cities requires a balance between distributed architecture, distributed IT systems and a convergence of IT systems. It’s a combination of distribution and converged systems. This distribution is not simple: every bus, mobile and sensor has to have it. Managing this immense distribution is important. The solution vendors are small parties and will come with their own technology piece which is proprietary to them. We recommend a common IoT backbone. While all along the command centre has been owned by say the police, or by the municipality, that’s not the way to do it. You will need a common command centre with different domains.

Q: How is Oracle changing this?

A: We are offering a one stop shop—Smart City in a Box. What we are trying to do is partner with some of niche solution providers in transportation, parking and waste management and get their application on to this particular box. This is an opex box, which means there is no capex but you pay as you use. We will put in partner applications and our applications like billing, real estate management, citizen services in this box and pay as you use. It is a recommended solution that we have created. We are discussing with many state governments.

Kansas City

Cool Cities Rely on Technology; Smart Ones Rely On Data And Partnerships

The theme of this article. based on Smart Cities, wreaks of Technocracy: “Technology makes it cool, but data is what makes it smart.” Citizens of the cities are dehumanized and made into mere objects of being cool and smart.  TN Editor

Much has been made about the future of cities and what the 21st-century city will look like. Government officials are quick to reference their ideals for smart technology creating more efficient governance and more livable conditions, but how do we tell the difference between cities that do it for press releases and news coverage against those using the tools in a constructive, cost-efficient way?

The difference, according to Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City, Mo., is the use of data.

“Data is what makes it smart,” said Bennett. “Technology makes it cool, but data is what makes it smart.”

Smart cities are the ones, according to Bennett, who “strategically collect data, analyze it and use it to make decisions.”

Kansas City has gone on to serve as both a cool and a smart city. With popular projects like its Internet-enabled kiosks or the Uber-inspired on-demand public transit program, the city has mirrored these tangible projects through data analytics and understanding what specific needs the city has.

 Public officials believe wholeheartedly that collaboration with private actors through the city’s open data portal in improving government services is the recipe for success. The portal launched in 2013 but was revamped in 2014 due to Mayor Sly James’ open data policy — and has inspired third-party actors to take advantage of the available data and add their contributions to the city.

Dominique Davison took that challenge to heart.

Through Davison’s PlanIT Impact online tool, cities can compare municipal data with hundreds of federal data sets to make the best decisions on city planning and design. In order for continued growth of the city’s smart initiatives, infrastructure will need to be planned sustainably and responsibly.

PlanIT Impact creates geo-specific solutions for city planners, designers and architects. The tool ultimately aids “smart modeling for smart cities,” said Davison. The tool helps localize data about potential infrastructure being built with regard to energy, water use, stormwater drainage, greenhouse gas emissions, proximity to public transportation and more.

Read full story here…

Future Utopia

Tech Crunch: Are Smart Cities Just A Utopian Fantasy?

This article opines, “A common complaint about greenfield smart city deployments is that they’re antiseptic — they lack character”, and they are correct. Technocrats who promote Smart Cities are antiseptic by nature, pushing only efficiency and design; people are merely objects, and sometimes inconveniences, in the design process.  TN Editor

Songdo, South Korea began its life as tidal marshland. Now it’s leading the charge into the future of smart cities. Once home to small-scale fishing operations, Songdo comprises massive, LEED-certified buildings, an efficient garbage collection system and even an island for rabbits.

The project began in 2000, when 500 tons of sand were poured into the marshland, laying the foundation for architectural achievements like the Northeast Asian Trade Tower, a 68-story building that is now the tallest in South Korea.

While Songdo is nearing completion and the flashy, meticulously designed buildings certainly suggest an eye on the future, much of what makes Songdo impressive lies under the surface. For example, the entire city is connected by an underground network of pipes that serve to funnel garbage directly from residents’ apartments into the highly automated waste collection plant. The garbage is automatically sorted and then recycled, buried or burned for fuel. This might be Songdo’s most avant-garde integration, and only seven employees are needed to handle the entire city’s garbage.

Songdo has the benefit of being a greenfield deployment, meaning that the city’s infrastructure could be designed beforehand, based on the predicted needs of the architecture and residents, instead of being integrated reactively, as is the case with most smart city deployments. Integrating Songdo’s garbage collection system with cities like San Francisco or New York would take years of legislation and astronomical amounts of money.

Not all of Songdo’s future-focused initiatives are out of reach for established cities, though. Songdo has sensors everywhere — to monitor temperature, energy use, traffic flow and the salt water canal that runs through the city. Sensor prices have dropped drastically over the past few years, allowing an unprecedented degree of connection even to established cities. Still, most cities have been reluctant to roll out full-fledged initiatives for smart city deployments. There’s great optimism surrounding the smart city discussion, but that optimism seems to wilt whenever someone asks “Who’s going to fund this?”

The city certainly isn’t going to, at least in the case of San Francisco. While SF does have an outrageous $9.6 billion budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, most of that will be funneled toward the mismanagement of the city’s disastrous infrastructure. It’s a fair question to ask why they can’t dedicate a portion of that budget to smart city initiatives, but maybe they were relying on the $50 million Smart City Challenge award from the federal government, for which they were a contender. If they had won the award, private contributions would have been added to the federal award, bringing the total for the initiative to $200 million.

The federal government has dedicated $80 million in new investments toward its smart city program, but that money will be spread out over 70+ cities, bringing the average to a whopping $1.1 million per city. That might sound like a lot of money (it is), but when you compare it to, for example, the average price of repaving one mile of a four-lane road ($1.25 million), it isn’t exactly breathtaking. And even if you think the SF municipal government could do great things with more money, keep in mind that it’s the same government that allows somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 people to sleep on the streets, while dedicating $224 millionto keeping them off of them.

Current funding for smart city initiatives is only good enough for proof-of-concept trials, which would lead, at best, to a piecemeal approach to smart city construction. The reluctance is understandable — Songdo cost roughly $35 billion to build from scratch — but without genuine investment in changing the infrastructure of a city to fit smart city needs, widespread deployment will be riddled with integration and adoption issues. Maybe the biggest obstacle to its full deployment is one question: Are smart cities profitable?

Read full story here…

Singapore Is Racing To Become The World’s First ‘Smart City’

“Sensors, sensors everywhere…The Smart Nation initiative looks to turn the island into a “living laboratory” — a kind of playground for testing smart solutions to urban issues.”  TN Editor

There are few places better positioned to become a “smart city” than Singapore.
That’s an easy statement to justify. Singapore is an island city-state just 30 miles across that has been governed by the same party for decades. Putting the implied democratic flaws to one side, the geography and political stability of Singapore have aided the city in preparing for the future.

Two years ago, those preparations got a name: “Smart Nation,” an ambitious program to push the city, its residents and its government into the digital age. Or perhaps, even further. A fiber network already stretches the length and breadth of the island, bringing high-speed internet access to every home and office; there are already three mobile devices for every two of its citizens. This is about the next step.

The Smart Nation initiative looks to turn the island into a “living laboratory” — a kind of playground for testing smart solutions to urban issues. Part of that plan is a network of sensors placed across the island that officials hope can solve the fundamental issues of Singapore’s high-density living.

Speaking with Engadget, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, the country’s minister for foreign affairs and minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, spelled out how he believes the program will transform Singapore.

“There is much political angst about inequality and middle-class stagnation in developed economies,” he said. “This has been accompanied by loud, populist and ultimately futile arguments about yesterday’s ideology and politics. … In Singapore, we know that new technology trumps politics as usual.”

What Dr. Balakrishnan is alluding to is that, rather than being about talk, Smart Nation is about action. It’s pushing forward with trials across many sectors, focusing on “areas with high impact on residents and citizens.” For now, that means housing, health and transport.

At home

When you think of public housing, your mind probably goes to the low-income tower blocks in generally deprived areas around North America and Europe. In Singapore, the scope of public housing is far more broad. More than 80 percent of residents (3.2 million people) live in affordable apartments maintained by the country’s Housing and Development Board(HDB). This huge pool of public housing provides an unparalleled testing ground for some of Smart Nation’s ideas.

In the Yuhua estate, one of the first neighborhoods to “go smart,” thousands of sensors have been installed to keep tabs on individual apartments. In partnership with private companies, authorities are able to measure energy draw, waste production and water usage in real time. The latter is a real issue for an island that, although making strides toward water independence, still imports tens of billions of gallons of water from neighboring Malaysia each year. As part of the pilot, Yuhua has also “gone green,” with a new vacuum waste-management system, solar panels and water-reclamation efforts.

Through smart applications, the sensors provide residents with feedback on their behavior, helping them to use less water, electricity and so on, driving down household costs. The government, in turn, is able to aggregate this data, using analytics and computer simulation to improve the planning, design and maintenance of public housing estates. And that pattern — programs benefiting both individuals and the country as a whole — repeats itself throughout Smart Nation’s myriad initiatives.

Read full story here…

Habitat III Hailed As The Global Olympics Of Urbanization

As big as COP21 (2015 Paris Climate agreement), Habitat III intends to change city life forever, and yet hardly anyone knows it will occur next month in Quito, Ecuador. The scientifically ignorant will apply their “science of social engineering” to demand how the rest of humanity should live. If you didn’t like Agenda 21, 2030 Agenda, ICLEI, etc., then you will understand why Habitat III is being compared to the Olympics.  TN Editor

The summer Olympics in Rio are fading into memory, but the world’s attention did focus, however fleetingly, on urban conditions in the Brazilian city—the challenges of life in the favelas, the specter of crime both real and imagined, and the future uses of new infrastructure that made the games possible.

Now comes another international event that most people aren’t aware of, also in a South American city, that has an even greater mandate: to set an agenda for the world’s rapidly urbanizing metropolitan areas. There won’t be any medals awarded at Habitat III, the United Nations-led global cities summit set for Quito, Ecuador, in October. But organizers are hoping for a similar zeitgeist: calling attention to the urgent need to better plan the planet’s cities, particularly in the developing world.

This summit only happens every 20 years. Habitat I was held in Vancouver in 1976, followed by Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996. Those meetings established a basic framework for wrestling with the challenges facing the world’s cities, but never quite set an implementable set of policies or goals concerning urbanization. With Habitat III, the United Nations agency charged with guiding sustainable urban policies worldwide—the UN Human Settlements Programme, also known as UN-Habitat—recognizes this may be the last best chance to chart a course for the rest of the 21st century.

It’s hard to get the countries of the world to agree on anything. But organizers, led by UN-Habitat executive director Joan Clos, a former mayor of Barcelona, are hoping for the global urban policy equivalent of the COP-21 consensus on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, forged in Paris last December. The sense of urgency is palpable—that it’s now or never.

Why all the heavy breathing? As readers of CityLab well know, more than half the world’s population, currently some 7 billion souls, now lives in cities. By 2050, two-thirds of the planet’s projected population of nearly 10 billion are expected to inhabit metropolitan areas. The rapid increases now are mostly attributed to rural migrants streaming in, in search of a better life; future generations will be born in the metropolis. The most growth will occur predominantly in the developing world, in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The problem is that on the whole, this extraordinary process of urbanization isn’t going particularly well. The UN estimates that nearly 1 billion people are currently living in informal settlements, or slums, without access to basic services such as sanitation and clean water. Two-thirds of rural migrants in Africa are believed to be moving straight into shantytowns.

Analysis of satellite data from a forthcoming revision of the Atlas of Urban Expansion, a project led by my employer, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, shows an incredible sprawl of slums, expanding outward at the far periphery of the urban core, from Accra to Dhaka. At current rates, this unplanned growth worldwide will eat up land equivalent to the entire country of India. This vast consumption of land comes coupled with a poor quality and character of growth. It’s inefficient, willy-nilly, bad for ecosystems, bad for food security, and above all, bad for billions of poor people. Such inhumane conditions, in many cases exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, will be a tinderbox, increasing instability for the entire world.

What’s been clear is that the cities accommodating this unprecedented population growth have been woefully unprepared. It’s a little like driving a bus with a fraction of the capacity for riders, with no schedule and no route. The conceit of Habitat III is to suggest that there must be a better way. Improving the future growth of the world’s cities entails basic urban planning, inclusive economic growth, and principles of sustainability, both fiscal and environmental. UN-Habitat seeks to help cities grow more sensibly and humanely, and give them the tools and policy frameworks to achieve that mission. Simple enough.

The summit is supposed to conclude with an agreed-upon document of policies, commitments, and principles for 21st century city-building, ambitiously called the New Urban Agenda. This manifesto contains high-level language recognizing the central role of cities in the planet’s future, detailed statements about gender equality, disaster risk reduction, the financing of basic services and infrastructure, and also phrases such as: “Leave no one behind, by ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty.” They’re not kidding around.

Read full story here…