The theme of this year’s Smart Cities New York, kicking off tomorrow at Brooklyn Navy Yard before shifting to Pier 36, is the “Emerging Power of Cities.”
Over the past three decades, cities have become more prominent political entities, seeking their own place at the global table by banding together and broadening their impact beyond their borders. If there’s power in numbers, cities should be one of the strongest forces on the planet: According to the United Nations, 54 percent of the global population resides in cities. When you include people that live within one hour of a city in that calculation, as Oxford University did in a recent study, that number jumps to 80 percent of all the people on Earth – over 6 billion people.
Oxford’s study examined correlations between quality of life and not just distance, but travel time, to the closest city. What they found was a big disparity: 90 percent of people living in high-income countries could get to a city within an hour versus only 50 percent in low-income countries. The study tied the much lower accessibility to large cities in low-income countries to diminished social and economic outcomes. These results present a snapshot of the challenges and opportunities of the modern city, projected only to intensify as the world continues to urbanize, with a full 60 percent of the world’s population expected to reside in cities by 2030. With so much influence and millions of people’s’ well-being at stake, how can cities continue to serve those reliant on them and without buckling under their own weight?
As the gathering this week in New York demonstrates, cities – their leadership and their citizenry – are eager and well-positioned to leverage their unique strengths and opportunities for growth to solve the political, economic, social and technological challenges impacting our world – and they plan to do so together. Nowhere is this more prominent than the issue of climate change, where organizations like 100 Resilient Cities and C40 are bypassing the traditional national-level approach to spearhead models of resiliency and sustainability that not only help cities flourish, but also to ensure the survival of our planet.
As Oxford’s study illustrates, you cannot address the issue of transportation and disparate travel times without addressing the infrastructure and policies that created it, the environmental impact of resulting transportation patterns, or the impact that travel then has on health, education or life expectancy. It requires solutions from the public and private sector coming together to create new solutions. Companies like Transloc are creating software that empowers municipal transit agencies to better serve their communities through data analysis to improve and increase the utilization of public transportation, improving air quality and quality of life. Others, like CycleHop, are working to increase access to transportation options while lowering institutional and personal carbon emissions by partnering with municipalities, universities and corporations to provide customized bike share solutions that are affordable and sustainable — and promote individual health.
Solving transportation challenges in today’s urban centers is just one of scores of ways that emerging technologies can make cities smarter, more equitable and more sustainable. At Antenna Group, we pride ourselves in our position at the nexus of people, companies and institutions working toward smarter cities: those testing and deploying new technologies, building ‘future-proof’ infrastructure, creating innovative business models and policy frameworks, and driving social and political progress. This week, we’ll be among those from all corners of the world and all segments of business, government, technology, nonprofits and academia gathered at Smart Cities New York to build a more human-centric future for our cities and world – together. We hope to see you there.