Smarter Cities

Smart Cities International: Wearable Berlin, Underwater Future, Open Montreal

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 Saint Petersburg, Russia
In Saint Petersburg, Russia
Emily Liedel

Over the past several months, hundreds of thousands of refugees have left their homes in search of the most basic security in foreign countries. Though the path may take them through the countryside, and even across the sea, migrants usually wind up in cities â€" temporarily and otherwise. The human masses have represented an enormous strain on urban infrastructures on the receiving end. Munich, for example, had days in October when more than 6,000 refugees arrived in a 24-hour period.

The needs of the arrivals present a serious challenge to cities, in both the short and long term. But they also bring opportunities. This month, in addition to other smart city news, we’ll look at how a refugee crisis constitutes not only a humanitarian puzzle, but an architectural one as well. We’ll also look at several new smart transportation programs in Saint Petersburg, Singapore and Paris.

â€" Emily Liedel


The upcoming WearCityHack in Berlin aims to bring together the trend towards wearable technology and smart city ideas. The hackathon’s goal is to create more wearable technology that is relevant to city planning, especially in categories like Urban Living, Urban Mobility and Urban Sustainability, Berlin Partner reports (German). From Dec. 5 to 6, participants will develop innovative wearable technology promoting sports, apps encouraging eco-friendly transportation modes and data-driven software that triggers more environmentally-conscious behavior.


For the first time, the city of Montreal is making public the results of a yearly analysis of its overall performance. The data includes 111 performance indicators that have been standardized to allow easy comparison with other Canadian cities, reports (French). The performance indicators cover 18 areas of urban development, from parking spaces to water management, public libraries, modes of transport, etc. Montreal is a global leader in using big data to learn more about its citizens, and with this effort hopes to also become a leader in government transparency.


“As long as energy is cheap, we won’t change,” Jury Troy, an Austrian architect, told Wiener Zeitung (German). Troy says that one of the challenges to building more energy-efficient homes is that, especially in big cities where people live in apartments, most building choices are made by developers focused on the upfront cost of construction, not by the eventual residents who care about daily needs and costs. Often the cost of heating a small apartment in Vienna is higher than heating a stand-alone house in the suburbs. Still, even in the face of such surprising facts, and because flats are already supplied with affordable district heating, people aren’t clamoring for a change.


If CO2 emissions are maintained at their current rate, global warming could trigger dramatic sea level rise, putting cities like Shanghai, Jakarta, Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong, Miami or New Orleans at risk â€" and forcing 150 to 700 million inhabitants to relocate, Le Monde reports (French). The Paris-based daily, which launched a new Smart Cities portal on the eve of the current UN summit on climate change, introduces its readers to Climate Central, an independent grouping of scientists and journalists that has created striking videos and interactive maps to help us visualize what surging sea levels might actually look like in our cities.


From December on, Bogota will begin electronically fining all vehicles that haven’t completed their required annual emissions check-up, El Espectadorreports (Spanish). More than half of the city’s two million vehicles â€" including both cars and motorcycles â€" don’t get the required check, which will now trigger automatic fines to the registered owners.


In Vienna, 250,000 tons of garbage are burned every year to provide heat to the city, reports (German). The garbage, about half the city's total, provides heating to around 60,000 households in the city. In addition to being a well-known tourist attraction â€" it was designed by famed Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser â€" the Spittelau incineration plant, by burning waste collected from the city, allows Vienna to rank among the cleanest cities in the world.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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