Smart Cities

How can we re-invigorate existing communities and design smarter cities from the ground up?

Start-ups, entrepreneurs and the tech elite are bringing a fresh perspective to our biggest societal challenges and re-thinking how we approach everything from urban planning, to transport infrastructure & social policy.

Airbnb recently launched Samara, a design studio created to build communal housing projects that will draw people to declining towns, revitalise tourism industries and local economies. 

Their first project in Yoshino Japan pairs accommodation, that tourists book through Airbnb, with a community centre that acts as a central meeting point where locals can connect with their visitors and offer services; as hosts, tour guides and translators.

Meanwhile Google’s Sidewalk Labs is turning street smarts into smart streets, harnessing technology to tackle our cities biggest challenges and build products that re-imagine how people will live in tomorrow’s urban centres. 

One such initiative, Flow, is a transportation platform that aggregates anonymous, real-time traffic data and funnels this information to policy makers & city officials in real-time – helping them better manage fundamental infrastructure like parking, public transport and traffic congestion and identify sustainable long-term solutions for their cities. 

Looking to the cities of the future, start-up accelerator Y Combinator have launched a project focused on researching, understanding & even building new ‘smarter’ cities from scratch. 

Bringing together a cross-functional team of innovative thinkers from fields as wide-ranging as architecture, politics, urban planning and technology, their aim is to re-think the traditional rules that define how a city works and start instead from a blank-slate to design the best possible city.


So What?
Where urban planning was once the domain of councils and architects, it is becoming an open source platform for people to influence change and growth in their cities. By creating an infrastructure built around technology and product sharing, the lines between public services, businesses and personal assets become blurred. Companies may have to re-think their business models in order to grow and adapt with the cities of the future.