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Smart Cities International: Quebec Lights, Bordeaux Energy, Megacity Smog

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

Time-lapse picture of Bordeaux, France.
Time-lapse picture of Bordeaux, France.
Emily Liedel
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April 9, 2015

Hello City Folk!

As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, observers are right to wonder whether all these cool new tools will either ameliorate or exacerbate the already widening gaps in wealth and income. You'd think that if owning a computer that costs hundreds of dollars is the gateway to the economy, then those who can’t afford the initial investment would suffer disproportionately.

Yet there are also interesting ways that lower-income citizens can use technology to make their lives better, as well as more secure. This week, in addition to other smart city news, we’ll look at one such example in Zimbabwe.

— Emily Liedel


Could our streetlights also serve as guides for emergency services? Yes, says the head of the Dimonoff company in Quebec, which has already installed smart lighting systems in Quebec’s airport and in the Ontario city of Mississauga, Radio-Canada reports (French). In addition to using around 50% less electricity than regular lights, the sensors on the lights will allow controllers to know within 15 sections if something is wrong — and often, exactly what is wrong — with the city’s lighting system.


More density does not always mean lower per capita vehicle emissions. Up to 1,250 residents per square kilometer, a higher density has zero effect on per capita emissions, Pacific Standard reports. But after the 1,250 mark, individual emissions do indeed fall as density increases. How dense is that? Famously sprawling Detroit has around 1,985 people per square kilometer.


In Harare, Zimbabwe, sex workers are tired of dealing with clients who refuse to pay, or violently demand their money back after services, not to mention the police officers who shake them down for cash. The solution: cash-less transactions, facilitated by mobile payments systems that have become increasingly popular in the country, New Zimbabwe reports. Most sex workers report carrying two cell phones, each one set up with a different mobile payment service, to make sure they can accept transactions from their customers.


According to James Huntley, a participant at the upcoming Smart City Event in Amsterdam, "The energy challenge facing our planet will be lost or won in the cities. By 2050, 70% of the world’s populations will be based in cities — compared to 50% today. This increased urbanization will give cities increased problems in terms of infrastructure, their ability to meet existing environmental targets and also on their ability to attract new residents and companies, which bring wealth and prosperity to a city It’s a challenge not only for the new economies but also for mature economies. We know that the majority of the growth will be in the new economies but for the mature economies they need to invest in their existing infrastructure to make their city smart."

Read more here: Smart City Event 2015, Amsterdam


As Bogota is now discovering, transitioning to a new public transit system is never easy, especially when it involves bringing hundreds of informal bus drivers into a more regimented system. The Colombian capital is hoping to completely phase out old buses by this summer, but still faces opposition from bus owners, who prefer to keep their own buses and get paid in cash daily rather than become salaried city drivers — as will happen once the transition ends, El Espectador reports (Spanish). Riders are also unhappy, saying that the disappearing older buses haven’t been replaced by new, higher-tech, cleaner versions, and they have to transfer several times to get to their destinations.

This is an excerpt of our Smart Cities newsletter. To receive the full version each week, go to VIP signup here.

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Photo of ​King Charles III and French President Emmanuel Macron take part in a ceremony of Remembrance and wreath laying at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

King Charles III and French President Emmanuel Macron take part in a ceremony of Remembrance and wreath laying at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Michelle Courtois and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Kwei!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Poland says it will stop supplying Ukraine with weapons, India suspends visas for Canadians as diplomatic row escalates, and Kyrgyz shepherds come to Sicily’s rescue. Meanwhile, Laura Rique Valero of independent Spanish-language media El Toque tells the story of skilled Cuban workers forced by the government to take jobs abroad, and then preventing them from ever coming home.

[*Atikamekw, Quebec, Canada]

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