Things change

What’s the likely impact, in the near-term future, of all the data-driven advanced technologies that are flooding into our cities?
Can new data-powered innovations really make our transport systems more responsive, more adaptive and more

Gordon Feller assesses the situation

"What happened in 2018 is remarkable – hundreds of projects focused on building real IoT solutions designed to solve real problems"

Which element of our urban transport systems will be most responsive to the futuristic tools at our disposal, especially given the array of different assets already in place: roads, signage, intersections, traffic lights, highways, tunnels, bridges, tolling systems, parking spaces?

When looking around these corners, peering into the future, one helpful vantage point to use is this: consider, in some depth, the actual characteristics of specific emerging-technologies. And, once that’s done, then consider the actual role that these new innovations will play.

The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) is now used by many technologists, and even some policy-makers, to describe the interconnectivity of many “smart” sensors and “intelligent” devices that seamlessly communicate with one another. When used in increasingly interesting ways, these IoT solutions are bringing improved coordination and simplicity to services in everyday life – and mobility is one of the first domains to benefit. 

From mobile payments to smart home technology, IoT applications can enable hyper-connected and super-powered communications that are already revolutionizing the many ways that we live in and interact with our urban worlds.

Some of the research groups focused on this development are predicting that by 2021 or 2022, connected “things” will outnumber humans by 5:1, with an estimated 40 billion devices on the planet. Much like mobile, the Internet of Things presents some amazing opportunities for collaboration between local governments (who own key assets like streets and parking) and private companies – especially for those who are prepared to deliver significant, enduring and transformational impact and value for the citizens of cities, for visitors to cities and for the investors who are putting their valuable capital to work in cities.

What happened in 2018 is remarkable – hundreds of projects focused on building real IoT solutions designed to solve real problems. Companies across a variety of industries see big problems that IoT can actually help to solve. The non-profit team at Meeting of the Minds - working with and through partners like Deloitte, Black & Veatch, Verizon, Microsoft and Itron - connects those companies to city leaders, and to startups, who together are jointly tackling those problems.

Together, they’re creating opportunities from such deployments inside an urban environment to benefit citizens. By correcting the innovation paradigm to first connect established companies with startups to solve identified problems, real products will be made and tested, and real business opportunities will be created as a result.

Companies large and small, headquartered in countries across the globe, have concluded that cities are a superb practical point of focus for IoT development.

Which cities really have the willingness to explore different ways of doing things, reflecting their commitment to innovation? Private investors are seeking city partners that:

  • Aspire to focus on quality of life and quality of place;
  • Wish to explore how the quality of place and community is forged at the intersection of technology, social design and urban design;
  • Offer explicit endorsement of the project’s intent and focus from their highest level of leadership, including Mayors and city leaders;
  • Value strong input from community organizations, entrepreneurs and innovators in the creation of new communities;
  • Aim to shift thinking, policy and practice at the highest levels of city governance and amongst individual players in the place-making process including architects, designers and property developers.

The convergence of globalization, changing demographics and urbanization is transforming almost every aspect of our lives. We face new choices about where and how we work, live, travel, communicate, and maintain health. Among the new technologies and strategies for design that respond to this changing world, here’s a short listing:

  • Computational tools to understand human behavior in natural environments, including the necessary sensing, interfaces, data collection methods, and visualization capabilities.
  • Prototypical applications that respond to human behavior, with an emphasis on proactive health, energy conservation and the support of new ways of living and working.
  • Urban planning, architectural and mobility interventions, deployed and evaluated in the context of case-study cities.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on urban planning and architectural interventions that dramatically alter the urban fabric. Typically, the impact on society and individuals is poorly understood. The good news is this: now that cities, universities, NGOs, philanthropists and corporations are now actively partnering, that is all about to change.

How one German-based company is taking a new approach

All kinds of cities are increasingly looking to smart technology to solve some of their biggest complex challenges; parking and traffic congestion is oftentimes high on their list of priorities.

Cleverciti’s parking solution helps those cities to do something about their big problem: reducing search traffic and their CO2 emissions, while also providing an integrated system that’s easy for city managers to implement. 

Searching for a parking space is one of the most time-wasting daily activities worldwide. Why? The search is still, in a very medieval way, entirely based on luck.

Cleverciti’s approach is simple: solving a universal problem by providing better solutions, data and services for drivers and cities, all of which allow them to manage their time, costs and assets in a much better way, is highly motivating and rewarding.

From the start the Cleverciti team were convinced that the lamppost will be the strategic data hub of the future: it’s ideally positioned to monitor and manage on-street and outdoor spaces.

For three years, Cleverciti developed a reliable sensor solution that can monitor spaces within a range of 320o and up to 300 cars per sensor. It can even measure the size of each parking space.

Cleverciti has created a complete solution, from generating on-street, real-time data to analyzing and distributing it through digital cockpits, apps and unique local parking guidance systems. A disruptive payment system will follow next year, providing a seamless and automatic process, enabling cities to significantly increase their parking revenues and offering an unmatched service to the drivers.

Cleverciti is convinced that cities, but also shopping malls, airports and many other parking operators worldwide, will come to the conclusion that they need precise live data at all times to manage their valuable real estate – their parking spaces. Furthermore, reduction of CO2 and NOx and the improvement of quality of life in the (smart) cities is a major challenge. It can only be solved by providing intelligent data to drivers, city managers and parking operators, thereby enabling them to make informed, smart decisions.


Gordon Feller is the Founder of Meeting of the Minds, a San Francisco-based international non-profit organization helping city leaders (from private sector, non-profits, academia, philanthropy, and government) to share knowledge, exchange best practices, develop joint projects.

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