As the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives forever this year, it also changed the way we relate to our cities.
As usually bustling high streets and business areas of some of the most densely populated areas in the world emptied, innovators took the opportunity to re-examine the way in which we live and work in our cities.
The movement towards building smart, sustainable and convenience-focused cities began prior to the pandemic, however. From driverless trams to an all-electric avenue, take a look at seven of the most exciting smart city innovations we spotted this year.
1. A CONCEPT CITY DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND PANDEMICS
Barcelona-based Guallart Architects has designed a concept city that could help people to weather the next viral outbreak. Their Self-Sufficient City design recently won a competition run by the local government of Xiong’an New Area, in Hebei province, China, to design new urban concept. The winning entry would be able to produce its own energy and food.
The Guallart team that developed the design were all working from home during Spain’s coronavirus lockdown, and they included aspects they thought would make our lives better in the situation. This includes greenhouses on many of the buildings for growing food and small-scale “co-working digital factories” that would use 3D-printing and rapid prototyping to supply replacements for missing or broken items in the event of supply chain disruption.
2. ELECTRIC, DRIVERLESS TRAM CONCEPT MINIMISES CONTACT FOR SAFER PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Hong Kong’s Ponti Design Studio has created an autonomous, electric-powered tram, named the Island. Designed specifically to encourage the use of public transport while maintaining safe social distancing, the tram is a double-decker vehicle. Island-shaped seats run down the middle of each level, encouraging riders to face away from each other. The majority of the sides and ceiling are glass, ensuring maximum natural light inside.
Interactive signage at the accompanying stops (also designed by the Ponti Studio team) directs passengers on and off and through the contactless payment system. The removal of a driver’s section, combined with the removal of in-tram payment points, maximises interior space in order to support the continued need for people to remain as far apart from each other as possible while in public.
3. UK’S FIRST ALL-ELECTRIC AVENUE CHARGES VEHICLES THROUGH STREET LAMPS
Recently christened “Electric Avenue”, a street in the City of Westminster, London, is the first UK street to place EV charging points within street lamps. Siemens and Ubitricity installed the technology in existing streetlamp columns, using already-available infrastructure to prevent the digging up of roads and laying of new cables.
A SmartCable connects the streetlamp to battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The number of kilowatt-hours used is then registered by an in-cable meter box and at the end, the customer is billed accordingly, allowing drivers without garages to top up their electric vehicles overnight.
4. SMART FRAMES FOR GROWING PLANTS IN THE CITY
The French company, Urban Canopee, has a vision for making cities greener. The company has developed lightweight, adaptable and flexible frames, which serve as support for climbing plants — both in isolation or in groups — and to create a verdant canopy. The company hopes the easy-to-use frames will be used to grow plants on the roofs of buildings and other public spaces.
The canopies are more than just flexible pots. The frames contain sensors that measure the hydration levels of the plants and the temperature under the canopy, and they can be monitored remotely using an app. The system also includes a solar kit and a connected irrigation system, which provides water to the plants autonomously. The pots currently hold 200 litres of water, and the company is also exploring ways to collect rainwater.
5. PLANS FOR A HYDROGEN-POWERED CITY OF THE FUTURE
At the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota revealed plans to build a prototype hydrogen-powered city of the future, on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji. Named the “Woven City,” it will be a fully-connected ecosystem filled with high-tech treats.
Residents and researchers will be able to test and develop technologies, such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence, in a real-world environment.
The Woven City will form a grid of different street types that aim to separate traffic into three distinct paths for faster vehicles, lower-speed mobility devices, and pedestrians. Only fully-autonomous, zero-emission vehicles will be allowed to transport residents within the city. Little robots will operate underground and hop into lifts that take them directly into each home to drop off the packages, and residences will also be stocked with human support technologies that will take care of basic needs and help daily life run more smoothly.
6. A SUSTAINABLE AND SMART STREET LIGHTING PROJECT
A leader in intelligent utility management systems, FLASHNET, is using IoT communication technology, LoRaWAN, to launch the first large scale project with Zhaga type controllers, a new controller standard that uses DALI2, in Brescia, Italy.
Flashnet’s smart street lighting control solution inteliLIGHT will ensure that the right amount of light is provided where and when needed, enabling better resources management and greater sustainability.
Built to be flexible and future-proof, there are several layers of integrability that come with inteliLIGHT: communication, smart city integration and the availability of APIs. There will be 10.000 inteliLIGHT® ZHAGA controllers and 637 FRCM ignition point controllers installed in Brescia. The entire installation will bring to the city of Brescia up to 80 per cent direct energy saving, together with LED lights.
7. INTUITIVE LIGHTING DESIGN GUIDES COMMUTERS IN NEW MOSCOW METRO STATION
Moscow is well-known for its metro stations. Built during the Stalin era, they were designed to showcase Russian exceptionalism, and many were adorned with marble columns and floors, chandeliers, ornate mosaics and statues. However, Moscow is still growing, and as the metro expands, new stations are constantly being built. One new station, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), aims to impress, not with marble, but with an intuitive layout and navigation aids.
The new station, Klenoviy Boulevard Station 2, ZHA will act as an interchange between the orbital Bolshaya Koltsevaya Line and the future Biryulevskaya Line, which connects Kuryanovo and Biryulyovo districts directly with the city centre. It will include a series of columns that are shaped to “express instances of the same form being marginally distorted as it moves through space.” The slight variations in form of each column act as arrows that alert users of the distance from the centre of the platform.
Written By: Holly Hamilton
8th December 2020