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Smarter Cities

Smart Cities International: Dubai Robocops, Montreal Snow, Valencia Water

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

In Montreal, Canada
In Montreal, Canada
Emily Liedel

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For cities around the world, the question of how to manage utilities is complex and often controversial. Should water, electricity and gas be publicly owned? If they are privatized, how can we ensure that everyone is served, when the companies overseeing services aim to turn profits? Utilities are the invisible infrastructure that make modern living possible, yet they are often overlooked precisely because they seem to be such a basic part of the modern city.

Most smart city programs — like the one that we’ll look at this week in Spain — focus on reducing the amount of water or electricity that the city consumes. As cities continue to grow, however, some resources, especially but not exclusively in the developing world, struggle to keep up with skyrocketing demand. This week we’ll also look at how the capital of Gabon is doing its best to meet its residents' water needs as the city gets bigger and bigger.

— Emily Liedel


Vienna’s Smart Citizens lab, which opened last weekend, is giving citizens a physical place to learn more about the city’s smart initiatives, Futurezone reports (German). The goal is to highlight community projects, repair cafés and communal living arrangements. The organizers also have a specifically non-commercial goal: to increase participation and social interaction — not just the use of new technologies.


“We’ve discovered that most of Bogota’s problems could be solved through better coordination between the different actors in the city, such as the municipal and national authorities and the municipalities surrounding the city,” Luis Guillermo Plata said in an interview with El Espectador(Spanish). Plata is the director of ProBogotá, an initiative started by 30 companies in the Colombian capital to encourage the city to get better in terms of mobility, security, employment, education and urban development.


In an effort to improve police services without hiring more people, law enforcement in Dubai will be integrating “highly intelligent robots” into the police force, Dinero en Imagen reports (Spanish). The robots will be able to speak six languages, and will interact with residents and tourists through an intelligent screen and a microphone that is connected to the police service telephone line. And if this isn’t futuristic enough, in a few more years the police hope to offer robots capable of answering questions without any human assistance.


Students from a Vienna university are in Manila to conduct a manual survey of street lights in one of the city’s slums. They are building a database that registers which lights work and which don’t, to serve as the basis for a larger project to improve the lighting and electricity in the slum, Der Standard reports (German). The advisor who spearheads the program considers the work a model for bringing intelligent planning to developing countries.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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