Statistics and projections from a range of different sources show that we are moving into an increasingly more urbanized world, with more than 5 billion people living in cities, and over 135 new cities by the year 2025, mostly in the developing world. This has led to numerous initiatives around the world to redesign cities and make them gradually or rapidly smarter, as well as to try and plan new cities intelligently, and not make the same mistakes we have before. One such ambitious project is being carried out by Living-PlanIT in Portugal. The city, called PlanIT Valley, will be the first city to incorporate all the technology elements of the Web 2.0 into its planning, infrastructure and functioning.
One of the most interesting aspects of the city is that planners are expecting to install more than 100 million sensors, which is equivalent to nearly 450 sensors per capita. While the idea of sensors can be scary to some, and raise questions of surveillance and trust (or mistrust), the city planners intend to use them to deliver a whole range of services, including smart transit and parking; emergency services dispatching; energy monitoring and management in smart buildings; and monitoring infrastructure condition and performance. Moreover, the city hopes to integrate new technology and knowledge in every aspect of its functioning, and thereby also serve as a hub for innovation, as Boyd Cohen of Fast Company writes:
PlanIT intends to integrate research universities focused on emerging, smart technologies into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The city is also being designed to act as a living laboratory for new technologies, thus providing a great opportunity for local and multinational companies to test out emerging smart innovations. Many big names are already involved in the planning and construction of PlanIT, including Cisco, Microsoft, and Philips.
The Living PlanIT also describes the kind of collaborative community they hope to create in the design of the PlanIT Valley:
In PlanIT Valley, Living PlanIT is making a major step-change by establishing a collaborative community to research develop and demonstrate integrated urban technical, economic and social infrastructure. It seeks to integrate companies, education and government into the urban environment itself which is a major difference from the technology parks and Silicon Valley campuses.
It will be interesting to see how this experiment pans out, especially since urban planning is increasingly becoming one of the most important challenges that we have to face globally.