The Smart City: How Tech Giants are Investing and Building Energy Efficient Homes
The smart home is not just in homes in anymore! Smart technology is developing in across large cities as tech companies and elected officials work together to create modern, eco-friendly infrastructure for all citizens. From providing bike shares and bus lines to building energy efficient homes for residents, these initiatives have the power to change urban life on a massive scale and significantly improve conditions across every socioeconomic bracket.
When Tech Companies Plan Urban Development
Some of the clearest examples of large-scale urban smart tech can be found near the headquarters of the companies that are developing it. Take Google for instance, which recently received approval to recently undertaken plans for a massive urban redevelopment project in Mountain View, California.
In addition to 3.6 million square feet of brand new office space for the company itself, Google plans to add nearly 10,000 homes and apartments to an area that is currently struggling with a housing shortage. Better yet, a fifth of these houses will be priced at less than the current market rate. There will also be new public parks, retail developments, and other amenities that employees and other residents alike can enjoy—such as widespread and efficient public transit. Community leaders in Mountain View hope that this initiative will set an example for future Bay Area housing developments.
Some urban development schemes focus on specific neighbourhoods. “Sidewalk Toronto” is one such example: a plan to create a brand new district in Canada’s largest city that focuses on “environmental sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.” The project is being spearheaded by Sidewalk Labs, a Google-affiliated urban innovation business. The CEO of Sidewalk Labs is former New York City Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who has spoken at length about how various smart-tech initiatives could be used to enhance quality of life in cities of every kind.
Doctoroff lists several features that could easily be implemented in current cities to make them more convenient and sustainable. These include widespread high-speed internet access, embedded sensors designed to measure energy usage, and self-driving cars. A few of the less-ambitious measures on this list are already in place for certain cities. Vancouver and several other large Canadian cities have widespread public WiFi, courtesy of national telecom giant Shaw.
Smart Technology from Coast to Coast
Metropolises such as Toronto and New York aren’t the only cities where we can expect to see large-scale smart-development projects, either. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credits available in the United States have allowed various tech companies to finance the creation of nearly two-and-a-half million affordable rental properties across the USA. They range from areas as far-removed as the 84-unit Melbourne Apartments in Des Moines, Iowa to the proposed 56-acre village that Facebook plans to build from scratch in Menlo, California.
The goals of each smart development vary as well. While some companies focus on affordability, others are more concerned with protecting the environment. Y Combinator, a startup accelerator founded in Cambridge, MA recently disclosed early plans to design the blueprint for a generic smart city that could be tailored to the needs of all people in a given environment. Their plan approaches urban development from a business perspective: identifying effective KPIs for the region in question, promoting a diverse culture, and reducing unnecessary consumption of resources.
The Impact of Smart Cities
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when envisioning smart cities will be their impact: on the people who live in them, and on society as a whole. On an individual level, smart cities improve the quality of life for their residents in numerous areas. Vehicle sharing apps, efficient public transportation, and self-driving cars will save time for commuters, while smart houses and apartments will save space, power, and effort for their inhabitants. Even everyday errands will be made easier via drone delivery and automated kiosks. However, the real value of smart cities may lie in their larger-scale effects.
Successful technology companies are first and foremost problem solvers. As they pour money into urban redevelopment projects, they may help solve some of the most pressing issues facing industrial society along the way. Take Cisco for instance, which has recently struck an agreement with the Southend-on-Sea-Borough Council to implement sophisticated air quality monitoring for the entire region. This project will provide the local government with actionable data they can use to decrease pollution and improve the health of residents. If such projects became commonplace, they could represent a viable strategy for many nations to reach their climate goals.
You Don’t Have to Wait for Google to Build You a New House
In the meantime, homeowners who can’t wait for their cities to be redesigned can make adjustments to their own homes. Smart home technology is still in its infancy, but there are already many helpful appliances and apps that can help you embrace the future in your own backyard—not to mention your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and garage. From smart lights and locks to voice-activated virtual assistants and smartphone apps that can measure your energy use, it’s easy to make your house a more relaxed and energy-efficient place no matter where you live.
Smart technology is poised to move beyond the boundaries of individual properties, and unite whole communities in sustainable harmony. Join the movement now and work to make your home more practical and efficient, so that you can be up to speed when changes occur on a larger scale in your neighbourhood.