The View from 35,000 Feet

By Douglas Weinstein
Published on: January 31, 2020

Smart Cities. Smart Homes. Smart Phones. Smart Everything.

As we enter a new decade and the AIA’s 2030 Commitment is now in plain sight, let’s take a look at the big picture. I spent considerable time in the Smart City Pavilion at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and came away with three key feature sets that were the driving focus of how modern cities are being planned and how that will impact design strategies at the local level. Where sustainability, net-zero, connectivity and other buzzwords move from the macro to the micro.

Cities are facing a vast array of challenges. As you can well imagine, cities are comprised of competing political and social groups. Social issues are high on the agenda for the leaders and the planners that manage our cities. Establishing the right conditions for a prosperous economy, one that creates jobs and promotes social equality in an era of life-altering digital transformation is of vital importance. Cities are responsible for providing functional infrastructure that concurrently have to be affordable and maintainable. And manageable.

Of vital importance is a working mobility/transportation system; but factors such as urban safety and disaster management, adequate education and healthcare options, and affordable housing all come into play. At the end of the day, it’s really all about what it takes to make a city somewhere people actually want to live their lives.

As our Technology Designer Magazine has discussed regarding residential and light commercial build-out, our cities also are compelled to ensure the cheapest possible supply of power, heating/cooling from renewable energy sources, as well as recycling and waste-management services, clean air and purified water, and the right conditions to kickstart innovative new businesses and cutting-edge scientific discovery. And, to a great degree, how our aging population can live in place community-wise as well as on an individual basis.

So let me just hit a few high-level touchpoints and give you an inkling on where TD is paying attention at the macro level, and where our magazine will continue to focus our aspirations to educate and entertain. These three areas of concern that city planners are consumed with have a direct correlation with, and impact on, how neighborhoods will be designed in the future. And how our residential and light commercial technology will interface with large-scale software platforms that will drive our cities into the future.

Energy Solutions

It should be obvious to anyone paying attention that the production, storage and consumption of renewable energy is top of mind. How will renewable energy flow between power grids, heat networks, buildings, communities? What economic incentives will be created to make buildings and residences both energy consumers and producers? How will individual, single-family micro-grid residences connect into these larger-scale grids and how will they ‘talk’ to each other?

Transport Systems

If the goal is to depend on renewable energy, then our conventional public transportation systems have to change. Moving to an all-electric, self-driven vehicle plan entails charging technologies, booking and routing of traffic, and increased public mobility. Information systems that detail city-wide usage, incorporate ride-sharing methodologies and other aspects of maximum usage strategies means the inevitable obsolescence of private cars for city travel.

Software Platforms

Bringing all of the disparate technologies and policies together so combined data can be analyzed and processed will require new software platforms that will have the ability to look downstream into our homes to analyze at the micro level how we are generating, storing and using renewable energy. What software platforms at the residential level will interface with these macro platforms? How will the design of the modern performance home have to change to meet these new challenges? Will we get ahead of the curve and propose our own unique solutions or will we be regulated to conform to a new set of standards?

These are just a few of the questions that are going to impact city planning and neighborhoods that comprise greater urban areas. We’ll be keeping an eye on the macro and over the coming decade reporting on how smart cities will be impacting your design strategies.

Final Thoughts

Smart cities offer the possibility of cleaner air and water, and more efficient mobility which reduces traffic and increases the quality of life in an urban environment. With better economic opportunities and a truly connected infrastructure, the future looks bright. Let’s make sure we play our role in designing and building sustainable and accountable residential, MDU and light commercial properties.

Douglas Weinstein

Douglas Weinstein

Doug is the Editor and co-founder of the Technology Insider Group and Technology Designer Magazine. Previously, he was the Executive Director and co-founder of the Elf Foundation, a non-profit organization that created Room of Magic entertainment theaters in children's hospitals across North America.

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