People continue to be drawn to cities due to the available economic and social opportunities. In fact, the UN predicts that by 2050 the world’s urban population will be as big as the world’s total population in 2002. This urbanization has also brought with it some major challenges namely, industrialization, population growth, demographic shifts, congestion, increased resource consumption and poverty which has further led to increased global threats such as climate change, water and food security and resource shortages and even the world’s fastest growing economies find it difficult to adjust to these problems.
“Urbanovation”, a linguistic blend of the words “Urban” and “Innovation” has become a key driving force in the urban lifestyle and development.
Urban innovation or Urbanovation is therefore a step in the right direction with an aim to provide significant improvements in the way the cities operate thereby reducing global threats to the environment and the society.
Innovation simply denotes “novelty in doing something” and in urban scenarios can mean coming up with inventive and collaborative solutions which can include new technologies, new services, new processes, new policies, new economic models, new approaches etc. in every domain: energy, transport, water and waste management, air quality, technologies and digital services, but also economic models.
Emergence of the digital revolution in the late 1970s has led to many modern ways of dealing with complex urban problems. But to truly unleash this technological vision of urban innovation, government leaders, firms and individuals must work in cohesion to find creative yet effective advanced urban technology solutions.The goal is to build a smart city by improving the quality of life and efficiency of services, reduce costs, optimize resource consumption, drive economic growth and conserving the biodiversity with the help of urban informatics and technolo.
Anything from intelligent street lamps to environmental sensors that measure air quality or simply a parking sensor recording available parking spots can help achieve the ultimate goal of Urbanovation and many cities have been successfully deploying innovative urban technology solutions using advanced analytical models, Information and communications technology and IoT.
Some of such successful urban innovations include:
- Footfall Harvesting: Innovation of the UK firm, Pavegen, has been deployed at London’s Heathrow airport, elevated pedestrian walkway in West Ham and many other international locations wherein the flooring is adorned with smart tiles that capture kinetic energy from the pedestrian footsteps and convert it into electricity.
- Data access map: Launched in Manassas in October, 2014, an online map where residents (approximately 42,000 ) can enter their address details to receive a wide range of information concerning the time slots for neighboring activities such as trash pick-up, road cleaning etc.
- Water Generating Billboard: One can find many useless wallpapers and billboards on highways and around the city. An innovative and creative way to add more value to these billboards rather than just advertising was introduced by researchers at Lima University of Engineering and Technology who have introduced a technology where billboards are fitted with condensers and filters that trap humidity in the air and extract water vapor to product approximately 96 litres of drinking water in a day.
- Smart Dustbins: Having a total capacity of 150-gallon, the smart bins are equipped with a motor that is powered by solar panels fitted in the lid and presses down the garbage as and when it reaches the top . Another smart bin called the Bigbelly, is equipped with a wireless monitoring system that sends notifications to the rubbish collectors when the bin is full. If that wasn’t enough, the newest smart bins also feature digital screens that broadcast breaking headline news and other traffic informations and are also bomb proof.
- Smart Grid Network: It uses sensors and meters to monitor and control power delivery by integrating network provided electricity and solar-panel generated electricity to discharge additional power back to the grid. It has been successfully deployed in Amsterdam’s New West District.
- Madrid, Spain introduced a technique to cut carbon emissions by harvesting underground energy and excess heat from wastewater systems.
- Sensor deployment: Many urban cities have deployed different sensors that can measure air quality, road and bridge safety, identify available parking spots etc.
- Electronic building plans: These can be used in times of hazards and can also help firefighters access building plans electronically.
- Waternet: Smart sensors have been fitted in water pipes that help in reducing water wastage and help manage floods. Experts believe a technology that’ll also be able to detect outbreaks of infectious diseases is not far off.
- Auditory alerts for blind: Warsaw, Poland was able to come up with an excellent way to help its visually impaired population by providing high-tech auditory alerts while navigating the city.
- Intelligent street poles: Apart from using LED lights, the next generation street poles will also be able to monitor crime.
- LED farming: To avoid spoilage of vegetables before reaching the city, experts have come up with Urban farming that used LED lighting to grow foods in cargo containers thereby giving farmers more yield.
- Co-co-co: co-generating, co-heating, co-cooling: Using wasted heat from power plants for co-generation as well as heating and cooling of buildings.
Irrespective of whether a city is big or small, each of them is looking at an era of Urbanovation and focusing their energies to come up with innovative solutions to effectively manage their problems.