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Smarter Cities

Smart Cities International: Hornet Traffic, Smart Deliveries, Tracking Trash

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

La Paz's aerial cable cars
La Paz's aerial cable cars
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Hello City Folk!

Those of us who don’t own brick-and-mortar businesses often overlook an essential part of urban economic life: deliveries. Human beings move in any number of ways: on public transit, bicycles, cars, their own two feet. It’s no big deal for most shop customers to walk an extra 100 feet if there's not a parking spot in front of their destination. But getting hundreds of pounds of merchandise to their destinations can add precious time and expense for the people responsible for delivering it.

There are better ways to accomplish deliveries. This week, in addition to other smart city news, we’ll look at how two German companies are collaborating to make delivery vehicles smarter and greener.

— Emily Liedel
Researchers at the University of Malaga are studying the movements of hornets and bird flocks — both of which navigate in large groups without slowing down or colliding with each other — in order to develop better traffic systems that will reduce congestion and accidents, Cadena SER reports (Spanish). The hornet-based system combines smart software that will optimize streetlights as well as a mobile app that gives drivers a personalized route to get them to their destination as quickly as possible, taking current traffic conditions into account. The project’s director says the system will reduce traffic jams and the cut the average trip down by 15%, all without requiring major modifications to the city itself. The system should be ready for implementation by the end of the year. In addition to Malaga, the city of Prague has already signed a contract to implement the hornet-inspired traffic control.
“We need to be more sensitive to the way that communities want to live together. Favelas and other slums are often seen as motors of economic growth, as they are in Nairobi or Mumbai. It is a matter of showing respect to people and recognizing that self-organization can have very positive results,” Sir David King, the British Special Representative for Climate Change and head of Future Cities Catapult, said in an interview with the BBC Brazil (Portuguese). King argues that slums and medieval cities have a lot to teach modern designers, because they are designed from the bottom up, not top-down, and residents can walk everywhere.
The winners of the most recent “Smart City Hackathon” in Kazan, Russia, already have a marketable idea that is attracting attention from municipal authorities in Russia and beyond. The team’s smart garbage bins and GPS system allows garbage collectors to track which bins are full, and gives dispatchers the ability to send trucks out only to the bins that need to be collected, Kazan First reports (Russian). The system can also tell which bins tend to fill up — or overflow — allowing the city to add more bins as necessary. The smart bins would both keep the city cleaner and would make garbage collection more efficient and profitable for the companies who collect the trash.
Already considered a model of Smart City technology in Europe, Santander, Spain is expanding its “Smart Water” pilot project. The expanding system is made up of network of intelligent sensors that monitor the purification system, water pressure and water quality, El Diario Montañés reports. Users can access all of that information in real time, as well as visualize their own water consumption. Santander is hoping that the Smart Water expansion will both encourage more residents to reduce their water consumption and give the city more data about how water is used according to different types of buildings.

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How China's Mass Protest Took The World By Surprise — And Where It Will End

China is facing its biggest political protests in decades as frustration grows with its harsh Zero-COVID strategy. However, the real reasons for the protests run much deeper. Could it be the starting point for a new civic movement?

Photo of police during protests in China against covid-19 restrictions

Security measures during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions

Changren Zheng

In just one weekend, protests spread across China. A fire in an apartment block in Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang region killed 10, with many blaming lockdown rules for the deaths. Anti-lockdown demonstrations spread to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other cities. University students from more than half of China's provinces organized various protests against COVID restrictions.

Why and how did the movement spread so rapidly?

At the core, protesters are unhappy with President Xi Jinping's three-year-long Zero-COVID strategy that has meant mass testing, harsh lockdowns, and digital tracking. Yet, the general belief about the Chinese people was that they lacked the awareness and experience for mass political action. Even though discontent had been growing about the Zero-COVID strategy, no one expected these protests.

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