The Rise of the Smart City

From smart sensors to the internet of things, urban infrastructure technologies are enabling cities to become increasingly connected and intelligent. We look at some of the city designs leading the way when it comes to smart cities

Shenzhen Bay Headquarters

Shenzhen, China

The Chinese city of Shenzhen is already notable for its high-tech infrastructure, but plans currently in development are set to transform the area further. A competition-winning design by Henning Larsen, Shenzhen Cube Architecture and Swooding Architects Limited will see the city’s bay area transformed into a hub of innovation that connects the main urban area with the sea beyond. Central to the development will be the idea of innovating while protecting against the ravages of climate change, particularly when it comes to the presence of cars.

The district sees pedestrians prioritised above ground, with further access to a subterranean “porous urban fabric”, while vehicles will be kept below ground. Heat will also be reduced by the presence of roof gardens, whitewashed streets and 10,000 trees. The smart city efforts, which are set to include the usual range of sensors and interconnected services, forms part of a range of solutions for the district, that also cover nature, art and leisure.

Image courtesy of Henning Larsen

Karle Town Centre

Bangalore, India

Set to be located alongside Manyata Tech Park, Karle Town Centre is intended to be a smart city that places nature at the core. The buildings are designed to reflect heat thanks to a custom-developed cooling white paint known as The Coolest White, while sky gardens and other landscaping are intended to supply wind breaks and shade. On the active technology side, the area will be embedded with a host of sensors that are designed to collect data that can be used to optimise the district and so improve the wellbeing of its residents.

“We have so much data at our finger tips that can be used to analyse behaviour and inform design on an urban scale,” said UNStudio co-founder Ben van Berkel. “We should use this to devise urban solutions that allow us to live in healthy environments that enable social interaction and capitalise on our free time more valuably.”

Image courtesy of UNStudio

Bleutech Park

Las Vegas, USA

Claiming to be “the world’s first digital infrastructure mini-city”, Bleutech Park is being developed by real-estate trust Bleutech Park Properties. Set to be developed with assistance from partners that include Martin-Harris Construction and technology giant Cisco, it will feature the usual combination of housing, offices and retail space, alongside luxury hotel, residential and entertainment facilities. The technology, however, is set to enrich this with a host of autonomous features, with artificial intelligence and the internet of things used to maintain the infrastructure and self-healing concrete set to keep it in good shape.

“With the use of unmanned aerial systems and AI, the construction site will become a living, breathing blueprint,” said the group. “Integration will become seamless with technology, more efficient, effective and safer. The mini-city will showcase energy generation and storage, waste-heat recovery, water purification, on-site waste treatment and localised air cleaning.”

Image courtesy of Bleutech Park Properties

Rublyovo-Arkhangelskoye district

Moscow, Russia

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and Pride Architects, the Rublyovo-Arkhangelskoye district is intended to be located to the west of Moscow, providing a smart city model that puts people at the core. Covering 460 hectares, the district will include residential, business and cultural facilities, with parkland featuring heavily across the area. Smart energy solutions are being prioritised in the development, with EDF Group’s energy simulation platform used to develop innovative solutions to power the district’s technology.

“We developed a people-centric design for a smart interconnected city that brings people together not only through innovative technology but also through organising the public realm,” said Christos Passas, project director at Zaha Hadid Architects.

Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Innovation Park

Nevada, USA

The brainchild of cryptocurrency millionaire Jeffrey Berns, Innovation Park is a planned smart city powered by blockchain technology. Designed to be a “new kind of business and residential community”, it will use the technology to underpin the entire city’s infrastructure – including houses, schools and a high-tech park. This will, according to Berns, afford citizens greater control over personal information – particularly when it comes to privacy – with practices such as banking, voting and data storage given greater security through the technology. Although the plans are not finalized, this early design by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects and Tom Wiscombe Architecture gives some sense of the city’s goal.

“Efficiency, sustainability, transparency and provenance will not be compromised, but guaranteed,” said Berns’ organisation. “Multiple innovative technologies will change the way its residents interact on a daily basis and blockchain technology will be at the centre of it all – keeping systems honest, fair and democratic.”

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Berns