Tag: cities

Of watches and cities

Monday, 9 March, 2015 0 Comments

Apple is holding one of its famous product-presentation events in San Francisco today. The focus will be on the company’s Watch, which is a big bet for Apple as  this is its first major product launch since the iPad, five years ago, and the first one under CEO Tim Cook’s leadership. If we’re so good at making things like watches and phones, how come we’re getting worse at making beautiful cities? That’s the question posed by the London-based Swiss thinker Alain de Botton in “How to Make an Attractive City,” a new video from the School of Life.

The best cities are a mix of wide and narrow streets, says de Botton. A city should be easy to navigate for both humans and vehicles, with avenues for orientation and alleys that allow us to wander and experience a sense of mystery.


Big Data powers Urban Engines

Wednesday, 21 May, 2014 0 Comments

Fact: By 2050, the global population will have reached nine billion.
Fact: For the first time in human history, the majority of people now live in cities.

Put the two facts together and one gets a future in which urban transport systems are going to be strained to breaking point. Unless city planners can manage the demand for services, there will be chaos. Enter Balaji Prabhakar and Shiva Shivakumar with their Urban Engines, which is offering solutions based on Big Data and behavioural economics. The San Francisco-based company is working with the World Bank to implement its approach for the bus system in Sao Paulo; in Singapore, it’s helping the city to ease train commuters from peak hours to off-peak hours; it’s carried out pilots projects in Bangalore, and it’s being deployed on the train system in Washington, D.C.

How does it work? Urban Engines takes data from commuter transit cards and uses its algorithms to infer how commuters and their trains and buses are behaving. No cameras or sensors needed. No major technology spend required.


The urban battleground

Thursday, 10 October, 2013 0 Comments

This just in via the BBC: “Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been seized by armed men from a hotel in the capital, Tripoli.” Attacks such as this and like that on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi underline what we’ve already seen in other cities: urban environments with their hotels, shopping centres and restaurants will be the battlegrounds of the future. And the siege, with its commando-style tactics and penetration of the city’s systems, is increasingly the tactic of choice for the enemies of civilization.

In his new book, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, counterinsurgency strategist Dr. David Kilcullen examines conflicts in Benghazi, Kingston, Mumbai and other cities to explain the changing face of warfare. Given the major trends of the 21st century — population growth, coastal urbanization and increasing digital connectivity — he predicts a future of savage cities, and increasing intersections between crime and conflict in the real and virtual urban environments. Kilcullen argues that dealing with these challenges will require insight and expertise outside the military realm — from urban planning to systems engineering to alternative energy technology.

How countries can diffuse urban conflict was the theme of a discussion with Dr. Kilcullen hosted last month by The New America Foundation. It’s excellent. By the way, we end our urban-themed week here tomorrow with a look at Big Data and the City.


Global cities of the future

Thursday, 26 January, 2012

Over the next 15 years, 600 cities will account for more than 60 percent of global GDP growth. Which of them will contribute the largest number of children or elderly to the world’s population? Which will see the fastest expansion of new entrants to the consuming middle classes? How will regional patterns of growth differ? Those are some of the questions posed and answered in “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities” by the McKinsey Global Institute. The interactive inforgraphics turn the mapping and the exploring into a rewarding journey through our urban future.

Note: “Half of global GDP in 2007 came from 380 cities in developed-regions, with more than 20 percent of global GDP coming from 190 North American cities alone. The 220 largest cities in developing-regions contributed another 10 percent. But by 2025, one-third of these developed-market cities will no longer make the top 600; and one out of every 20 cities in emerging-markets is likely to see its rank drop out of the top 600. By 2025, 136 new cities are expected to enter the top 600, all of them from the developing world and overwhelmingly — 100 new cities —from China.”

600 cities