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Smart Cities International: French Mini City, New York Data, Siberian Comfort

Here is a preview of our exclusive newsletter to keep up-to-date and stay inspired by Smart City innovations from around the world.

Champs-sur-Marne's Sense City project
Champs-sur-Marne's Sense City project
Emily Liedel
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April 2, 2015

Hello City Folk!

Cities around the world struggle with the question of how to keep housing accessible for city residents while still encouraging economic development. In places like New York City, San Francisco or London, astronomically high housing prices can turn even the humblest abode into a luxury few can afford. Yet it would be a mistake to think this is a “First World problem.” In fact, the situation is often most acute in places that are urbanizing rapidly, like India and China.

This week, we’re taking a peek at some ways that China has attempted to keep housing accessible to all — and the criticism those efforts have received. We’ll also take a look at a mini city in France used to test smart city technology and a novel way that Kenya is bringing traffic offenders to justice.

— Emily Liedel

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Two cameras — one standard and one infrared — take a photo of midtown Manhattan every 10 seconds. Those two cameras are the basis for New York University’s Urban Observatory, which started gathering data about how New Yorkers use their city in October 2014, Radio-Canada reports (French). The project has allowed researchers to discover, for example, that most New Yorkers go to sleep between 11 p.m. and midnight. They have also discovered pollution plumes and been able to see how much heat is escaping from buildings. The project’s most recent goal has been to collect data on how people use the city’s parks.


Bike sharing systems have popped up around the world — but what about people who don’t like to pedal? That won’t be a problem for residents of Santa Cruz of Tenerife, the largest city on Spain’s Canary Islands. The city has announced a project to install an electric bike-sharing system by the end of this year, La Opinion reports (Spanish). Authorities in Santa Cruz are moving towards making their city smarter and are focusing on mobility first. In addition to the electric bikes program, the city is modernizing and expanding its bus system.


Sense-City, located in Champs-sur-Marne outside of Paris, might be the city of the future — but good luck getting a flat there. In fact the "city" totals only 250 square meters, a space to conduct smart-city related experiments, and is equipped with sensors to detect everything from temperature and humidity to vehicles and pollution,Les Echosreports (French). Some of the sensors are nano-sized and embedded into the "city’s" concrete, to allow for very specific data collection.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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