4 ways cities are using innovative technology to build resilience

4 ways cities are using innovative technology to build resilience

Resilient cities
From smartphones to termite mounds, cities are using all kinds of resources in new ways to make them stronger and life in them more enjoyable.

This article first appeared at 100 Resilient Cities.

It takes a thoughtful approach for cities to leverage new technologies that help build their resilience. Here are four exciting ways cities are getting it done.

1. Aggregating and analyzing data they already have.

Cities already have access to a lot of data and over the past few years have been implementing new strategies to use it better. So they don’t need to invest more in finding new data, but rather in aggregating multiple streams of data in one place to do a multi-dimensional review that looks at how all those streams overlap and connect, in order to draw conclusions that pull from all of them.

For example, Palantir is helping New Orleans use existing crime data to identify trends in gun movement, people and criminal activity in order to focus their resources on things such as upgrading street lights and other infrastructure in the community,  improving protection around hot spots and deploying police more effectively. By acting more intentionally and precisely, the city has reduced its cost and increased its resource efficiency.

2. They focus on leveraging tech to improve operational efficiency

Barcelona is using the Internet of Things to integrate buses and bus stops, parking lot sensors that communicate with cars, and sensors in street lights. All these things are connected to a dynamic management system that improves city efficiency and makes life in the city better. Other cities are investigating installing sensors in bridges and other infrastructure to monitor their health.

This has benefits such as shortening response times for quicker waste pick-up, better bus allocation to where the need is, lower carbon emissions, more useful emergency services and happier, less stressful day-to-day life.

3. They use innovative materials and designs

Building and infrastructure design and the materials we use to bring those designs to life are central to a city’s ability to reduce waste, increase efficiency and build more resilient structures. Cities have started to implement designs and materials based on biomimicry — copying material and building design ideas and tech from nature — to increase durability, reduce energy waste and achieve a host of other aims. For example, Eastgate Center, a massive shopping and office center in Harare, Zimbabwe, only uses 10 percent as much energy as a conventional cooling system. Its design is based on big termite mounds in Africa that remain cool, even in the heat of summer, because of air pockets that drive natural ventilation.

4. They use tech to increase citizen engagement

Smartphones are among the most empowering tools cities are leveraging to get citizens engaged. They let cities do so many things that increase resilience, such as empowering inhabitants to report problems more easily, making cities safer and more responsive, increasing the speed of communication between cities and citizens during major events such as disasters, and fueling people-powered local politics in neighborhoods.

Making it easier for people to voice their own needs and suggest solutions they can use to mobilize support speeds up city processes and increases access to essential information that also strengthens a city's social fabric.

Cities are looking for ways to leverage existing resources to get better inexpensively. Innovative applications of new and existing tech such as these make cities stronger, improving resources allocation, strengthening communication and social cohesion and generally making life easier for everyone living there.