Track 6: Post-smart communities and the new frontiers

Zaheer Allam, Mauritius

Cities are witnessing an increasing rate of densification and expansion, coupled with a flow of transient movement. Indeed, globalisation has brought an increasing dependency on transportation, whether through cars, buses, light rail, or aeroplanes, rendering our cities as a platform for hosting business, commerce, and other activities. Such a busy environment brought its fair share of challenges in regards to traffic, energy, water, waste, and the other components that contribute to the functioning of the city.

With the advent of internet connectivity and with the increasing knowledge of the causes of climate change, various communities adopted various ‘smart’ and innovative solutions to tackle such issues to better achieve a sustainable and resilient urban fabric.

However, with the increasing technological progress, and the effect of Moore’s law on pricing, new models are emerging to better tackle finance, governance, movement flows, business, commerce and others. The city witnesses a change in policies as it re-invents the way it functions. Various components, invisible decades ago, come into play in the form of big data, new technologies and techniques and cross-disciplinary measures through science and urban planning.

This emerging novel way, and cross disciplinary approach, to view cities gives rise to new ways to view;

  • Technology and big data
  • Planning and governance
  • People and society
  • Future urban economics
  • Cities of the future.

This track dwells into the transition of cities in adopting new techniques for management, design and planning, and showcases emerging trends and share findings to better channel resources to address contextual challenges.

  1. Technology and big data

As we enter a connected world; we embrace big data. Through those connections, we find at our disposal extremely large data sets that may reveal patterns and trends. With new information at the disposal of planners, how can those be used to better plan for the community? Furthermore, as we are witnessing the global adoption of mobile phones, data from mobile phones can depict an accurate understanding of transient flows and crowd representation. We also witness the inclusion of smart energy mapping tools and its influence on design and planning. We further understand the relationship between mobile devices, planning, utilities, urban space and local democracy.

  1. Planning and governance

We witnessed an increasing flow of migratory flux to cities over the past decades, stressing on existing resources, wealth and jobs distribution and influencing its societal, environmental, economic and political fabric. Against this backdrop, how can we turn challenged neighbourhoods into smart neighbourhoods? How is urbanisation affecting rural areas? What are the regulations to take into account while planning eco-cities? Dwelling further, design decisions and implementation phases can be challenging from a professional, societal, and legal standpoint. What kind of planning tools are at our disposal and what kind of platform could be proposed to address those challenges for planning professionals? How can data influence design planning and urban space management? 

  1. People and society

As various cities around the world brand themselves as ‘Smart’ by adopting easy and ‘plug and play’ scenarios, the question arises; what is really a smart city, and what conceptual promises do they hold in regards to contemporary cities? Engaging with new technologies and easy data manipulation and the holistic planning perspectives can help researchers, planners and other professionals view the city in an entirely new way. New tools, forums, and platforms emerges that can better showcase planning from a multidisciplinary perspective. Emerging concepts, frameworks, policies and planning ideas include green and cultural elements in masterplanning. The case of the Green loop in Portland ponders on the subject matter. Moreover, new technologies also highlights the need for constant learning and adaptation, as resistance to change in a fast paced world can often lead to a heavy societal cost. In this regards, as we rush towards adopting new technologies and automation, are we running towards unemployment?

  1. Future urban economics

Since the advent of ‘Au Bon Marche’, the first shopping centre in France, efforts in design has shown exponential growth to influencing design decisions for the shopfront, façade, interiors and even more. We also acknowledge the increasing use of vehicular transportation and its impact on both economy and environment. An increasing trend of automated vehicles is seen on the rise and questions are raised about its negative impacts. As we further this discussion and dwell into the new technologies that are at our disposal and those that are yet to come, we asks ourselves; How will the future of retail expand to affect our urban morphology, and how can we mitigate the negative impacts of automated vehicles? 

  1. Cities of the future

The sharing economy, e-commerce and autonomous vehicles are influencing urban planning decisions, and movement flows within the urban fabric. As new technologies influence the way we move in and across cities, they ultimately reflect on the external picture of city management, revenue and politics. What are the existing frameworks that may respond to those emerging technologies while catering to the societal needs for liveable cities? Moreover, with the advent of urbanisation and its stress on the urban fringe, how do we preserve the rural identity?


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