Urban Innovations Making Cities Smarter than Ever
Cities—they’re just like us. As they grow, develop, and become more diverse, they also get smarter. We’ve rounded up cool apps and advances in urban innovations that are changing our cities for the better—from wearable air quality trackers to upcycled phone booths. There’s never been a better time to be a city-dweller.
Urban Energy Upgrades
When your city is chock-a-block full of outmoded, worn-out technology (phone booths, in this case) how do you upcycle en masse? In New York, the answer is the ingenious LinkNYC, which debuted earlier this year. Designed in partnership with Sidewalk Labs, LinkNYC has seen 7,500 pay phones transform into ergonomic kiosks that proffer free Wi-Fi, phone calls, device charging, and maps to passersby.
Cities are also taking a smart approach to other areas of urban infrastructure—like street lights. In fact, more than 50 different cities in the U.S. have made the switch to Telensa’s energy-efficient, smart LED street lighting to power their grids. Meanwhile, the UK is pioneering the idea of smart virtual power stations which will allow urban businesses and homes control over their electricity use.
But cities can’t make big changes alone. Take the new Tzoa for example: a wearable device that tells city-dwellers where the highest concentration of air pollution is around them. On top of providing locations for you to enjoy the cleanest air for outdoor fun, it also compiles crowdsourced data that can help influence future public policy—and make our cities greener from the ground up.
Urban innovations are also here to make commuting a breeze. Within the last decade, smart cities have been implementing clever fixes to improve the daily to-and-fro for millions of travelers. Bike sharing (and, ahem, car sharing) for starters, shows just how transformative the whole sharing economy can be.
Also working to make your trip smoother? The following apps, which are designed to help no matter what your preferred form of transit is.
For the drivers: If you’re not lucky enough to have reliable parking access, don’t waste valuable moments circling the block. SpotHero connects parking lots, garages, and valets with users, letting you reserve a spot before you even hit the road.
For those who favor public transit: Moovit is used by over 45 million riders in 1,200 cities around the world to give live directions, real time status of services, and maps, and guide users to nearby stations. The crowdsourced app relies on user data and feedback to perfect its guidance…and it’s even teamed up with Rock The Vote to get voters to polling stations this Election Day.
Come to think of it, the best urban technology invites users to the table through the use of crowdsourcing. Apps like Boston’s Street Bump—which encourages locals to report potholes, congested areas, and other problems they spot while on the go—is one of the most efficient and effective ways to keep the city running smoothly.
And that’s just today. In the future, our cities are going to get even smarter about commuting. Evidence? Austin is now considering a proposal for Wire One, an eight-mile, 19-stop sky-cable transit system, which could potentially lift 6,000 people per hour. If new urban innovations mean eco-friendly commuting via the sky—helping to phase out gridlock—we’re all about it.
The latest apps and innovations have the potential to streamline and improve every aspect of urban life—and we mean every aspect.
Whether it’s finding a clean restroom while you’re on the go (Charmin’s ingenious SitOrSquat app compiles a nationwide database of clean public bathrooms) or a great place to hold that midday meeting (Spacious opens up off-hour restaurants and conference rooms to freelancers and other roving workers), our cities have never looked so smart.
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