Posts tagged with "Smart Cities":

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Step into Rio de Janeiro’s smart city nerve center at Storefront’s latest exhibition

As an architect or urban designer, how do you represent "smart city" technology? Something that deals with environmental conditions, government bureaucracies, and endless data streams as well as public space, human movement, and architecture? Governments and businesses are rushing to develop and implement these technologies, making this a pressing challenge for any designer seeking to represent contemporary cities. Control Syntax Rio at the Storefront for Art and Architecture offers its own evocative approach by avoiding the all-too-familiar format of wall-mounted photos, diagrams, and timelines. Instead, Control Syntax Rio uses an enormous streetscape model whose detailed tableaus—animated by sound effects, film, and vibrations—immerse visitors in a complex and unique piece of smart city command-and-control infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro. Control Syntax Rio was designed and curated by two Columbia GSAPP faculty members: Farzin Lotfi-Jam, principal at multidisciplinary studio farzinfarzin, and Mark Wasiuta, co-director of the GSAPP's CCCP program. The pair were tasked with creating an exhibition on Rio de Janerio's Centro de Operações Rio (The Center of Operations Rio, abbreviated to "COR") by the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. The institute had been organizing a series of exhibits and events around the theme of the Olympics and the COR was developed to prepare Rio de Janeiro for hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic games. As Wasiuta told The Architect's Newspaper (AN), the city's "topography, infrastructure, population distribution, disparities between the formalized and informalized parts" make it difficult to manage. "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wanted Rio to develop something like the center of operations, in order to demonstrate... that they were capable of managing the metabolism of the city." At the heart of the COR are a series of "if, then" statements—an algorithm that originated from IBM—that govern how the city responds to escalating levels of crises. The system first detects and categorizes a disruption (which range from quotidian "incident" and "event" to "emergency" and "crisis") then coordinates a response. Along this spectrum falls everything from traffic jams and peaceful gatherings to police actions, earthquakes, and landslides. Complicating Farzin and Wasiuta's task was that this system isn't hidden from the public eye: in addition to serving as a management device, the COR is a public relations tool aimed at Rio's residents and the IOC. The COR is how this smart city "sees itself, how it portrays that image of ongoing information extraction and control, how it portrays that image back to its residents and an international audience.... A representation producing device and mechanism for the city," said Wasiuta. Farzin and Wasiuta grappled with how to represent the COR in its dual functions. To tackle both challenges, Farzin said they created two intertwined "paths" to follow in the exhibition's model. One is physical: a single street leads the visitor through a series of events, emergencies, etc., that are frozen in time. Placed at eye-level (some may have to go on their tippy-toes), the model immerses you in each scene. Opposite the model is twenty monitors that depict the second "path," the algorithm itself. Half the monitors show a live feed streamed by small surveillance cameras trained on the model. The other ten monitors display a pre-recorded film of the model that moves from tableau to tableau. The film is supplemented by a monotone computer voice that narrates the COR algorithm at work: which sensors detected the event, current environmental conditions, the nature of the event, the coordinated response, etc. "We forced ourselves to put these multiple fragments and inputs into a singular whole... a continuous narrative" that depicts this "emerging computational urbanism," said Farzin. You feel almost as though you're the algorithm itself: hearing your own thought processes as your cameras—not penetrating beyond facades and hardtop—scan the streetscape. Meanwhile, it also feels like a performance: faced with scenes of perpetual crises, the COR is always there to respond. "We don't really want it to read like a model," Farzin added. "It's not such much a model as it is a movement path, a decision path through the city, and it's a film set. We wanted it to read that way more than an object." The end result is a fascinating depiction of the COR and how the COR depicts itself, all rolled into one. Thankfully, the exhibition is not a fetishistic enterprise of documenting the actual COR in all its high-tech, "situation room" glory. Instead, it takes us inside how the COR thinks and evokes how it would like to be seen—methodical, calm, and efficient in reacting to disruption. (It did make me wonder, however: What happens when technology enables cities to be proactive, even aggressive, in preventing disaster? When algorithms and controls shape how we use the cities, subtly or otherwise, to either prevent disasters or increase efficiencies?) Ultimately, the definition and practice of "smart cities" are still up in the air. Farzin and Wasiuta are currently looking at a project in South Korea that's built from the ground-up with smart city tech; it's a very different exercise as compared to retrofitting an old city like Rio de Janeiro. But faced with this specific urban condition in Rio de Janeiro, one where narrative and self-representation are critical, the pair eschewed a standard exhibition format. "We made a conscious decision not to be didactic or documentary in the sense that one might be," said Wasiuta. "Which isn't to say those projects can be amazing. But it was a conscious experiment to position the research within that space of representation and ask, 'What's still legible within that?'" Control Syntax Rio runs from March 28th to May 20th, 2017 at the Storefront for Art and Architecture (97 Kenmare St, New York, NY). It was originally commissioned by the Rotterdam-based organization Het Nieuwe Instituut, where it was on view from June 2016 to January 2017.  
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Brooklyn Navy Yard to host four-day smart cities conference

This May 3 to May 5, multiple venues across the Brooklyn Navy Yard will host the inaugural Smart Cities NYC conference and expo. The conference is ambitious in its scope: it features a global selection of speakers with backgrounds ranging from government to technology, academia, real estate/development, and design. Key topics of interest to architects, designers, and developers will be transportation (from biking/walking to driverless cars), public health, innovations in construction risk and public/private partnerships (with panels on the LaGuardia Airport redevelopment and Penn Station), resiliency, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart Cities NYC Founder Jerry MacArthur Hultin told The Architect's Newspaper that the conference:
...represents what we're trying to do more broadly as a strategy: Build a capacity to use technology in cities to get people a better life. We're looking at any of the levers that make that happen so that young people start inventing more things, governments pick up on these ideas and do them, companies finance them and make them happen, citizens help design them. The more there's an ecosystem of activity, the better.
Notable participants include a team from Columbus, Ohio handling the city's $50 million "Smart City" grant, Matthew Claudel of MIT's Design X (who will be on the panel "Anticipatory Urban Design for the Age of Autonomous Vehicles"), New Lab, Ger Baron, the Chief Technology Office of Amsterdam, James Ramsey, co-founder and creator of the Lowline (who will be on the panel "The Repositioning and Revitalizing of Cities"), and Daniel Zarrilli, senior director, climate policy & programs chief resilience officer, New York Office of the Mayor—and that's just to name a few. See a full list here. The conference will feature lectures, workshops, and social gatherings spread across the Navy Yard venues, which include the 35,000-square-foot Duggal Greenhouse, 30,000-square-foot Agger Warehouse, and the 5,737-square-foot Building 92. The former two are large, open event spaces while the latter features a cafe, terrace, and multipurpose room. There will also be tours outside the Navy Yard (details TBD). "Architects have been beginning to see that this new technology is really going to influence urban design, building design," said Hultin. "Seeing the new technology, debating, imagining what you can do with it, it's really essential." For more on Smart Cities NYC '17, see their page here. Tickets range from approximately $420 to $1,250.
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New initiative seeks to map Chicago’s underground infrastructure

Chicago-based consortium City Digital is working on a project to map the subterranean infrastructure of the Windy City. Their underground infrastructure mapping (UIM) platform will “generate, organize, visualize, and store 3D underground infrastructure data,” such as the location and depth of gas lines, water pipes, and fiber optic, and is expected to save the city “millions of dollars in construction and planning processes,” according to a press release by UI Labs, a partner in the project. Though still in its testing phase, the platform will work alongside existing construction and development as engineers and city workers open holes in streets and sidewalks. They simply take a snapshot of the pipes and wires that are revealed underneath the pavement surface, which is then scanned into the mapping platform to extract information such as depth, height, and width of the pipes or cables. Afterward, the data will be layered onto a map of Chicago’s streets, and with continued use, the platform will be able to extrapolate the layout of other untapped areas with increasing accuracy, according to CityLab City Digital's project isn't the only smart city initiative underway in Chicago. The Array of Things is seeking to install approximately 500 sensing devices across the city that will collect data on temperature, light, ambient noise, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, among other factors, and will eventually be able to provide insights around urban flooding, precipitation, and pollutants. The project explicitly states their interest in “monitoring the city’s environment and activity, not individuals,” arguing that the “privacy protection is built into the design of the sensors and into the operating policies.” Array of Things is spearheaded by the Urban Center for Computation and Data, a research initiative of the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. In implementing these new projects, Chicago seeks to join the ranks of the world’s leading smart cities, such as Barcelona, Singapore, and London, which have made significant increases in efficiency by embracing new technologies. Still, the developments have raised concern about privacy, and whether the projects will serve to make real improvements in urban life, or to simply make big tech vendors even richer, according to The Chicago Tribune.
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The City of New York says no to free porn (at LinkNYC kiosks)

You can't watch porn on the street.

That's what New York City is telling its citizens who use LinkNYC, the free wifi kiosks that the city installed in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens last February.

Designed to replace 7,500 anachronistic pay phones, the 400 kiosks let people check maps, the weather, recharge portable devices, and stand around for hours streaming pornography, sometimes while enjoying a beer or other substances.

To combat misuse, the kiosk operator, LinkNYC network, is suspending internet browsing at all stations (the wifi will still be available for personal devices, and users can still make phone calls). The city and LinkNYC network are working out a plan that hopefully will provide free internet to the public but restrict access to the more lurid corners of the internet.

“These kiosks are often monopolized by individuals creating personal spaces for themselves, engaging in activities that include playing loud explicit music, consuming drugs and alcohol, and the viewing of pornography,” said City Council member Corey Johnson in a letter last month to city and LinkNYC officials.

“I don’t think anybody should be able to sit there and watch movies all day long,” borough president Gale Brewer said. “People are pulling up sofas or chairs or what have you.”

A spokesperson for LinkNYC called the kiosk design "iterative" and noted that the speakers, which some users blast music on, are now turned down at night. The company's experimented with adding filters to block objectionable content, the New York Times reported.

This is why we can't have nice things.

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Washington, D.C.’s new digital kiosks and sensor network will harvest a wealth of urban data

At seven feet tall and featuring 55-inch screens, the 30 kiosks coming to downtown D.C. will be much more than glorified digital ad machines. Designed by New York–based Smart City Media, the kiosks will feature timely information relating to nearby restaurants, retail, events, and public transportation. This pilot program is led by private nonprofit DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), which is supported by the property owners within its 138-block area northeast of the White House and Constitution Avenue.

The kiosks will monitor noise levels, temperature, air quality, humidity, and barometric pressure. This data will be supplemented by an array of sensors placed on the BID’s buildings that will also monitor the surroundings. Unlike the kiosks, these sensors won’t have a conventional data connection; they’ll use a technology specially developed for “Internet of Things” applications: Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN). LPWAN devices send small bursts of encrypted data over radio to a base station. While the data bursts can’t be large—you couldn’t transmit a song or movie—the sensors gain range and long battery life (up to 10 years, depending on usage). Companies like Portsmouth, New Hampshire–based Senet—which is building a new LPWAN network in D.C. for this project—arebetting that LPWAN is the future backbone of smart-city technology. Conventionally connected sensors elsewhere within the BID’s buildings will monitor energy and water usage, along with waste production and data related to occupancy. Combined with public data—such as bike share usage—a formidable data set emerges for the entire D.C. BID.

Much like New York’s LinkNYC program, these D.C. kiosks will offer free wi-fi and pay for themselves with new digital ad revenue. However, the BID’s efforts will tap into deep technological infrastructure already in place in the nation’s capital. Soon, researchers will be able to map loads of information onto D.C.’s urban landscape.

After the sensors collect this data, but before it’s distributed to stakeholders, software from New York City–based maalka will aggregate that information and—in the words of its CEO Rimas Gulbinas—“slice and dice” it for easy sharing. BID members will log into maalka’s software to track the performance of their buildings, and the BID will roll out a private/public access point in the future. (The BID is currently determining what data sets will be public, as some information may be sensitive.) Once released, this information could be used for an endless amount of analyses, including exploring connections between the environment and health, measuring the impact of policy initiatives, tracking sustainability, and optimizing transit. “Once this data becomes available and collaborative cities provide data in the same way, it creates an opportunity for app development that is cross-city which has not existed until now,” said Wilfred Pinfold, CEO of Urban.Systems, a consultancy working with the BID.

As for the data itself, the BID isn’t claiming ownership. “We don’t plan on owning any data,” said DowntownDCBID director of sustainability Scott Pomeroy, “but we will protect data that our stakeholders want to have protected.” He added that transparency and openness are actually the main objective: “There’s a value in that transparency because it can be analyzed and worked with” by app developers, researchers, and policy makers, Pomeroy added. Nearby shops will be able to broadcast ads on nearby kiosks, meaning, “you’re going to get stuff that’s locally relevant as opposed to [the big box businesses] out on the street now,” said Smart City Media CEO Tom Touchet.

Among the many entities behind this kiosk project—including the BID, maalka, Smart City Media, and more—there is a strong consensus that this effort represents a recent convergence of technological know-how and political will-power. For example, the BID also operates an EcoDistrict initiative that’s committed to improving sustainability; the U.S. General Services Administration owns 30 percent of the buildings within the BID and has been a key driver of the initiative. D.C. city government also has its own PA 2040 initiative, a similar “Internet of Things” undertaking that may eventually integrate its data streams with the BID’s. Working at a district-wide scale, according to Gulbinas, there are new opportunities to experiment, engage with citizens, and get feedback: “What we’re creating is this living lab of live data…and if things work, they can be translated to other districts.”

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Chicago debuts first of 500 sensors that aim to transform urban data collection

Starting today, the City of Chicago is piloting a "Fitbit" for its city streets. In collaboration with researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and a few corporations, the city last week installed two of 500 planned sensors for the Array of Things, a project to measure the city's performance on an array of environmental metrics. The 10-pound sensors are mounted to light poles and will gather block-level data on noise levels, air quality, air and surface temperature, barometric pressure, vibrations, and atmospheric gasses. Two cameras per box will surveil pedestrian flows, vehicular traffic, sky color, cloud cover, and standing water. The video below gives an overview of the Array of Things and potential applications for the wealth of data the project will generate: “There are a ton of hit-and-miss experiments being done in cities around the world, but they are not being measured,” Charlie Catlett, lead investigator of the Array of Things, told USA TODAY. “We’re not able to take a success in Chicago and say this is why it succeeds, and this is how you can adapt that to Denver or Los Angeles or New Orleans. I want to see this project help city designers and planners navigate better.” Data will be instantaneously available to residents online beginning in October. The data, city officials say, could aid infrastructure decisions in the pursuit of Vision Zero goals, or pinpoint areas with poor air quality for intervention. It could also help enable strolling residents avoid desolate blocks or help parents determine how much outdoors time their child with asthma should have. In a city that already has a problem with the gross misuse of cameras, officials addressed the potential for mass surveillance with assurances that the images collected by the devices will be deleted in "tens of minutes." The next 48 boxes will be installed by the end of the year, with 450 more coming to the Windy City by 2018. Spurred by a $3.1 million National Science Foundation grant, in the coming years the project will migrate to Seattle, Chattanooga, and Atlanta.
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Columbus wins $50 million “Smart City” competition

Columbus, Ohio has been named the winner of the Department of Transportation’s $50 million “Smart City” grant. Columbus was up against San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Denver for the prize. Each city was asked to demonstrate how new technologies can improve urban transportation. Columbus’s application was based on improving access to jobs for low-income residents with shared cars and autonomous buses. The proposal included multimodal phone apps, electric vehicle charging stations, self-driving buses, and $90 million in pledges from Columbus companies. The city will enact its plans over the next four years, and a non-profit board will oversee the allocation of funds https://youtu.be/mdkTlBtbYpcv Columbus plans to focus much of its prize money on the Linden neighborhood, an underserved part of the city. Linden has the worst access to jobs, medical services, and transit in all of Columbus. By providing new technologies and integrating other existing services, such as Uber and car sharing, the city hopes to increase resident’s access to amenities. The original $40 million DOT grant was increased by $10 million from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Other cities have stated that they intend to continue to move forward with the plans they used to apply the grant. For instance, Kansas City is hoping to continue the public private partnerships developed during the competition. The DOT has also hinted at consolation prizes for the five other cities, but has not release details.
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IBM Watson launches a “Siri for Cities” app as more tech companies clamor for smart cities where “things” can communicate and supply data

The IT industry is pushing relentlessly to institutionalize smart cities by installing internet-connected lampposts, digital signage, building facades, and more. IT research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 2.9 billion connected "things" will be in use in the consumer sector. IBM Watson jas joined the breakneck race with the launch of its “Siri for Cities,” a cognitive computing platform that enables users to ask complex questions about city services. By speaking into their smartphones, laptops or Apple Watches, residents can inquire about fire and police services to parking and waste collection. The app supplies responses by drawing upon a database of FAQs, but IBM has outfitted the technology to interact with the language of more in-depth questions, analyse swaths of data, and respond in a concise, evidence-based manner. The mobile app will be piloted in Surrey, Canada, to create a centralized hub for the city. Purple Forge, a digital agency hired by the local government, is working to integrate these capabilities into the pre-existing “My Surrey” app, which streams hyper-local news, events, job listings, bike routes, parking information, and more in real-time. “IBM Watson’s learning abilities are such that the technology builds its knowledge and improves as citizens use it, much in the same way humans learn,” said Bruce Hayne, chair of Surrey’s Innovation and Investment Committee. “This pilot is expected to enhance customer experience by increasing the accessibility of services while providing the city with insight into opportunities for improvement and reduction to service delivery costs.” Reliant on data and interactivity, IBM’s new gadgetry overlaps noticeably with Google’s recently launched Sidewalk Labs, an independent company that aims to develop and incubate new technology to address urban ills. After acquiring Titan and Control Group, Sidewalk Labs announced its first initiative: resuming the work of Link NYC to convert New York City’s unused phone booths into public WiFi hubs. According to the FCC, 55 million people in the United States lack broadband internet access. The WiFi hubs will be tall, thin pillars with digital tablet interfaces and large ads slapped on the sides to keep them free to use. Through Titan’s ad network, Link NYC could bring $500 million in ad revenue to the city over the next 12 years, the DeBlasio administration has predicted. Meanwhile, City Science researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are building mobility networks for “multi-modal transit.” One initiative is a search and recommendation engine for a variety of energy-saving transit modes, such as car-pooling and bike-sharing, determined by weather, traffic, and past user patterns. Researchers are angling for further energy cutbacks by designing and prototyping electric scooters, driverless cars, and compact bike-lane vehicles.
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Google recruits Carnegie Mellon University to create a “living lab” of smart city technologies

Google has awarded an endowment worth half a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to build a “living lab” for the search engine giant’s Open Web of Things (OWT) expedition. OWT envisions a world in which access to networked technology is mediated through internet-connected buildings and everyday objects—beyond the screen of a smartphone or computer device.
“A future where we work seamlessly with connected systems, services, devices, and ‘things’ to support work practices, education and daily interactions.” -in a statement by Google’s Open Web of Things.
Carnegie Mellon’s enviable task is to become a testing ground for the cheap, ubiquitous sensors, integrated apps, and user-developed tools which Google sees as the key to an integrated machine future. If that sounds like mystical marketing copy, a recent project by CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute sheds light on what a sensor-saturated “smart” city is capable of. The team headed by Anind K. Dey has created apps like Snap2It, which lets users connect to printers and other shared resources by taking photos of the device. Another application, Impromptu, offers relevant, temporary shared apps. For instance, if a sensor detects that you are waiting at a bus stop, you’ll likely be referred to a scheduling app. “The goal of our project will be nothing less than to radically enhance human-to-human and human-to-computer interaction through a large-scale deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) that ensures privacy, accommodates new features over time, and enables people to readily design applications for their own use,” said Dey, lead investigator of the expedition and director of HCII. To create the living lab, the expedition will saturate the CMU campus with sensors and infrastructure, and recruit students and other campus members to create and use novel IoT apps. Dey plans on building tools that allow users to easily create their own IoT scripts. “An early milestone will include the development of our IoT app store, where any campus member and the larger research community will be able to develop and share an IoT script, action, multiple-sensor feed, or application easily and widely,” Dey said. “Because many novel IoT applications require a critical mass of sensors, CMU will use inexpensive sensors to add IoT capability to ‘dumb’ appliances and environments across the campus.” Researchers at CMU will work with Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop the project, code-named GIoTTo. The premise is that embedded sensors in buildings and everyday objects can be interwoven to create “smart” environments controlled and experienced through interoperable technologies.  
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Real-life SimCity in New Mexico to become testing ground for new technologies that will power smart cities

A simulation video game can become a powerful innovation lab for new urban technologies, where researchers can test-drive every outlandish “what-if?” in a controlled environment. The Center for Innovation, Technology and Evaluation is launching a full-scale SimCity—a small, fully functioning ghost town equipped with the technology touted by futurists as the next generation of smart cities. Resembling a modest American town with a population of 35,000 spread over 15 miles, the virtual metropolis is sited on a desolate stretch of land in southern New Mexico. Set to be wired with mock-up utilities and telecommunications systems as realistically as possible, the quintessentially mediocre town will even have a gas station, big box store, and a simulated interstate highway alongside its tall office buildings, parks, houses and churches. The town will also be sectioned into urban, rural and suburban zones. From nuclear war to natural disasters to a stock market crash or a triple whammy of all three, the ho-hum hypothetical town will soon play host to driverless cars and packages delivered by drones, alternative energy power generation and never-before-tested public monitoring, security and computer systems. The goal of CITE is to provide the opportunity to test large-scale technology experimentations in real-world conditions “without anyone getting hurt,” said Bob Brumley, managing director of Pegasus Global Holdings, the Washington state-based technology development firm behind the concept. Brumley estimates that support infrastructure, including electric plants and telecommunications, will take 24 months to create, while the city will be fully built between 2018 and 2020. The uninhabited virtual city affords possibilities to test otherwise non-starter ideas hampered by safety and feasibility concerns in the real world, where human beings are the most fickle of variables. “It will be a true laboratory without complication and safety issues associated with residents. Here you can break things and run into things and get used to how they work before taking them out into the market,” Brumley told Wired. One of numerous experiments he envisions involves deploying a fleet of driverless freight trucks controlled by a centralized wireless network. Testing on a real freeway, on the other hand, would be too hazardous. Other ideas range from simple practicalities—having small drones drop off packages on doorsteps—to cataclysm readiness—simulating, a large-scale, real-time attack on energy, telecommunications and traffic systems, or the effect of a “massive electromagnetic pulse attack on all the integrated circuits in our economy.” Brumley estimates an initial investment of $550–600 million in direct investment, with an estimated total cost of $1 billion over the next five years as the city grows in size and complexity. We can only hope that their servers don’t crash.