The Mayor has created a ‘Smart London’ board to put technology at the heart of the capital’s future. The group of academics, businesses and entrepreneurs will look at how technology and data can make the city an even better place to live and work. City Hall talks up the Oyster card system, real-time bus arrivals and the London Datastore as evidence of how we can be smarter, but this is small fry compared to what’s going on in the wider world.
Get used to hearing about the “smart city”; it’s overtaken ‘sustainable’ as the phrase du jour. Engineering company Arup generated a lot of buzz recently with a report predicting the building of 2050, containing modules for growing food, intelligent facades that change according to the weather and convert CO2, has integrated public transport and green pedestrian bridges and uses algae to provide power. This last isn’t so crazy: a prototype house powered by algae goes on show this month.
In Songdo, South Korea, all homes have video calling as standard and escalators only move when someone’s on them. Masdar in the United Arab Emirates is testing out driverless pod cars, like the system at Heathrow Terminal Five, which could spell the end for multistories as cars would take themselves off to where they’re needed. The Dutch are developing concrete that heals itself. And here in London Intel, Imperial and UCL are already trying to analyse real-time infrastructure data, like traffic flows and water supplies, to deliver better information to us citizens.
IBM also has a Smarter Cities initiative (see video) aiming at linking all the different ways cities run (health, transport, building, services etc) to make everything more efficient. This sounds more like where Smart London will be focusing its energies, but why stop there? We saw one vision of how London could look in 2050 during the Developing City exhibition last summer, by John Robertson Architects; these are more ideas and paths for how we could get there.
Disclaimer: the author is in the employ of Arup.