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Smart Cities International: Magnet Elevators, Disaster Prep, Rate-A-Loo

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

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Emily Liedel
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Hello City Folk!

What good is the latest technology if a natural disaster wipes out a city’s entire electric grid? In a time when climate change increasingly produces unpredictable and violent storms, ignoring potential threats from Mother Nature is anything but smart — and many city planners recognize that. In Japan’s prototype smart city Fujisawa, preparation for an emergency is built into the city’s infrastructure: There are benches that can be used as emergency stoves, sewer systems with hidden public toilets, and solar panels meant to provide electricity during a blackout.

This week, in addition to other smart city news, we’re seeing how India, another country threatened by floods and cyclones, is prioritizing disaster preparation in its push to develop more smart cities on its territory. We’ll also check in on some interesting projects related to making our parks, beaches and public restrooms smarter than ever.

— Emily Liedel
RATE-A-LOO
Anyone who has ever used a public restroom has probably noted room for improvement. Now the city of Vienna has an app for that: Toilet Rating gives mobile users not only the ability to see a map of public restrooms and to plan the most direct route to the loo — but thanks to a feature that allows people to rate each restroom, users can also search for the best (and cleanest!) restrooms in town. Open Government Wien (German) unveiled the new app, which launched in February.
VERBATIM
“The city should be a space where great diversity can manifest itself and do something good: innovate and create. That means the most effective way to guarantee security in a city is through integration — not the fortification and militarization of the city,” Saskia Sassen, a Dutch-American researcher who specializes in issues related to cities and social inclusion, said in an interview withEl Espectador(Spanish).
MAGNET ELEVATORS
German elevator company ThyssenKrupp has a new way to travel around — not just up and down — in the big buildings of the future. The new elevators use the same magnet technology that high-speed, Maglev trains use, and instead of resorting to cables to move one or two elevator cabins up a shaft, they work on a loop, with a string of cabins moving up one side and down the other. The end result being that passengers would only wait between 15 to 30 seconds for the next ride, Bloomberg reports. Currently elevator shafts can take up to 40% of a building’s footprint, and elevator delays are a major impediment to taller buildings. Will it truly revolutionize the way we experience our buildings? Not everyone is convinced.
SMART DISASTER PLANNING
When a cyclone hit the South Indian port city of Visakhapatnam last October, tens of thousands of lives were saved because the city had run numerous evacuation exercises beforehand, and most of the residents were able to evacuate safely. According to Actualités News Environnement (French), this kind of disaster planning and climate resiliency is crucial for cities that are hoping to get some of the $1.2 billion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to spend building smart infrastructure.
This means that while smart city infrastructure usually involves projects like solar street lights and high-tech water systems, a city that hasn’t planned for catastrophe cannot be called smart, the director of India’s National Institute for Urban Affairs said.


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Geopolitics

Why The 'Perfect Storm' Of Iran's Protests May Be Unstoppable

The latest round of anti-regime protests in Iran is different than other in the 40 years of the Islamic Republic: for its universality and boldness, the level of public fury and grief, and the role of women and social media. The target is not some policy or the economy, but the regime itself.

A woman holds a lock of her hair during a London rally to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini in London

Roshanak Astaraki

-Analysis-

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Sept. 16, after a possible beating at a police station, has sparked outrage and mass protests in Iran and abroad. There have been demonstrations and a violent attempt to suppress them in more than 100 districts in every province of Iran.

These protests may look like others since 2017, and back even to 1999 — yet we may be facing an unprecedented turning point in Iranians' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Indeed newly installed conservative President Ibrahim Raisi could not have expected such momentum when he set off for a quick trip to New York and back for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

For one of the mistakes of a regime that takes pride in dismissing the national traditions of Iran is to have overlooked the power of grief among our people.

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