In 2007, the number of people living in cities exceeded those in rural areas for the first time. A century ago there were only 16 urban centers with more than a million inhabitants. There are currently 450 cities with more than one million inhabitants in the world . In fact, every week a million people move to an urban area. And, as if that were not enough, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s energy is currently consumed in cities, and that urban buildings consume 42% of all the energy generated on the planet. In addition, traffic jams on its roads cost 1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the whole of Europe.
These staggering figures, presented yesterday in Malaga before the audience of the EmTech Spain congress organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and its Technology Reviewy magazine, leave no room for doubt: it is urgent to renew cities, turn them into “smart” cities ( smart cities, in English) and sustainable. In this sense, Ryan Chin, from the MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities research group, has come to the conclusion that low energy efficiency, traffic, urban land use, and carbon dioxide emissions Carbon are the main problems of the cities of the 21st century.
To solve them, he leads the development of a new system called Mobility on Demand (Mobility on Demand), which will allow future users to move around the city “freely” through a network of electric, light and stackable vehicles, the CityCars, which They can be used simply by picking them up at charging stations, and they will circulate in the city at a maximum speed of 50 km / h. This will also avoid the problem of parking, which is more serious than we usually think if we take into account that ” 40% of the gasoline used in urban areas is consumed while we park “, as Chin, in favor of eliminating private vehicles, points out.
Scientists from MIT MediLab have started a collaboration with the Hikiro business consortium, from Bilbao / Vitoria, to manufacture the first CityCars in Spanish industries. “In 2012 we will have 20 prototypes; it will be the concept of the car integrated into the ecosystem,” Chin announced yesterday.
Monitored homes and cities
If vehicles will play a key role in future cities, housing will be no less important. ” People should live and work in the same city, we have to think of each city as an autonomous entity ,” said Chin. From this point of view, MIT is developing the CityHome, a home that can be personalized, equipped with transformable modules that become a living room, bedroom, party room, office or gym, according to the needs of each moment. In addition, the buildings that MIT Media Lab envisions for the future would incorporate a “dispenser” for electric vehicles, urban farms to self-supply fruits and vegetables, and so on.
For its part, IBM is focusing its efforts on monitoring, as explained by Juan Antonio Zufiria, executive president of the company in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Israel. Among the success stories, Zufiria highlighted the intelligent traffic management systems that are being implemented in Stockholm, reducing traffic jams by 20%. Or the case of Singapore, where it has been achieved that “buses have such precision
like trains. “In terms of urban safety, Zufiria mentioned the case of Richmond, which five years ago was the fifth most dangerous city in the United States, and in the last two years it has risen to 99th place on the list thanks to monitoring.