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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.

Panama panorama
Panama panorama
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
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.
“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).
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.
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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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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