The Deputy Mayor of New York City under Bloomberg and Google are launching a new initiative, presumably for cities in the developed economies, that will take an approach different from the sensor-intensive centralized models promoted by IBM and the like, according to NYT:
Major technology companies, like IBM and Cisco, already have large businesses that apply information technology, to improving the efficiency of cities. IBM has used its researchers and technical prowess in projects like traffic management in Stockholm and microlevel weather forecasting to predict the location of life-threatening mudslides in Rio de Janeiro.
Sidewalk Labs, Mr. Doctoroff said, planned to work in “the huge space between civic hackers and traditional big technology companies.”
While big technology companies take a “top-down approach and seek to embed themselves in a city’s infrastructure,” he said Sidewalk Labs would instead seek to develop “technology platforms that people can plug into” for things like managing energy use or altering commuting habits. He pointed to New York’s bike-sharing program as an early example of a technology-assisted innovation in transportation.
This is in line with our thinking on what is appropriate for the organic cities in our countries:
There is a middle path that positions the citizens who are the ultimate beneficiaries of urban development as the primary sensors. Instead of seeing the city as a clock-work machine that can be perfectly controlled, this approach recognizes the inherent complexity of the system and supports incremental changes, following the Deng Xiaoping dictum of “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” Experimentation and learning are integral to the approach. This low-cost approach is especially appropriate for the organically developed, congested cities in developing countries where the costs of installing and maintaining city-owned sensors would be quite high.
Of course, we are in different space than Google/Doctoroff.