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Community smart or low tech cities  let s keep it simple | Upload Smart Cities

Smart Or Low Tech Cities? Let’s Keep It Simple

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by: Sharai Hoekema
smart or low tech cities  let s keep it simple | Upload

Cities are increasingly focusing on becoming smarter. With the ever-continuing urbanization and the wave of digitization sweeping across the globe, governments are seeking ways of living up to the extra demand for residential, commercial, and industrial areas. At the same time, they are under intense scrutiny for their use of scarce resources and CO2 emissions. 

Smart Cities: Cameras, Trackers, And Sensors?

The puzzle of having to expand cities while becoming greener and more sustainable seems to have been solved by technology. Creating so-called smart cities, governed by the internet and connected devices, has long thought to be the answer. Unfortunately, if you are looking beyond the flashiness and sophistication of smart trashcans and autonomous people movers, there is a dark side to the smart city movement as well.

Smart Cities, cameras, trackers and sensors

Are there any smart cities?
Examples of Smart city technologies and programs have been implemented in Singapore, Dubai, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, Copenhagen, China and New York.

There is a certain appeal to being dubbed a ‘smart city,’ or so most governments seem to think. It appears to be the latest fad amongst mayors and city managers, with start-ups eager to present their latest brainchild that promises to improve city life drastically. Not only does it hit the sweet spot of everyone’s futuristic city dreams, but it also solves quite a few notorious headache files. More straightforward solutions for trash collection and traffic congestion, anyone?

Recommended: Smart Cities, Safe, And Efficient, But Are We Being Watched?

While there is no consensus yet as to what makes a city smart, there are commonalities. For instance, they extensively use cameras, trackers, and sensors to monitor whatever is happening in the city closely - be it on the roads, in the city center, or hospitals and schools. The generated data is used to not only act on problems but also to help make predictions about when similar issues are expected to occur in the future and to come up with the best course of action to either prevent or remedy them as soon as possible.

black silhouette blue sparks

The benefits of smart cities are clear. But there is a downside as well. Who owns this data? Who has a right to use and possibly exploit it? What are your rights, as a private citizen, in the light of the privacy vs. safety debate? Eventually, the only party that will stand to lose is us, those living in the 'smart' cities.

What is smart city concept?
A smart city is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs.

Smart Cities, Or Low Tech Cities? Let’s Keep It Simple

The opposite of smart is simple. Does this make a city that refuses to incorporate smart technologies into a low tech city? Not! At least, not in the meaning most commonly associated with simple. For most issues that are faced by governmental bodies, there are ‘low tech’ solutions available that will do the job just as well.


                                                    Smart Cities Or Low tech Cities? Let’s Keep It Simple
                    Life on the Mekong River in Cambodia. The floating village inhabited by fishermen and fish farmers.


While smart cities are becoming huge breathing, living machines that rely on sensors and other input devices - not to mention its reliance on the internet -,, they are also becoming vulnerable. When everything is connected to the internet, it could theoretically be accessed by anyone, anywhere. Those with bad intentions will be able to take over control of a city - and it will not be hard to picture what could happen next.

person blue coat, hoody, computer, digits
Smart Cities Or Low tech Cities? Those with bad intentions will be able to take over control of a smart city.

Slightly less dramatic, but still relevant. Technology can break down; sensors can fail. Its operating, updating, and maintenance require a whole new team of often expensive personnel. It also involves a lot of energy, meaning that smart cities will initially have a larger carbon footprint. And this extra energy goes to issues that could be solved using low-tech measures as well.

What are the features of smart cities?
Features of Smart Cities:
  • Adequate water supply
  • Assured electricity supply
  • Sanitation, including solid waste management
  • Efficient urban mobility and public transport
  • Affordable housing, especially for the poor
  • Robust IT connectivity and digitalization
  • Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,

Recommended: Eco-friendly Sustainable Megacities Clean By Trees: Globally

Looking back in history and figuring out how our ancestors used to deal with the issues that we are facing today would be a great start. Progress for the sake of growth is an invalid argument when dismissing ancient methods of keeping our cities clean, dry, and safe. And yes, this is probably a controversial claim, and I do not advocate going back to the dirty medieval towns, but there are some things to be learned from ‘how we used to do it.’ Items that are not attached to a cable or dependent upon the IT helpdesk.

Low Tech Cities Are Not Simple At All

In the past, we managed to live together with nature in a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship. The advance of technology is one of the primary reasons why this fragile balance has been broken, with us now taking Mother Nature to the edge of destruction. Going back to a pre-technological age and finding ways of living together with nature, even in cities, does not make a city ‘simple.’ Instead, it makes it more resilient and sustainable.

city, high rise buildings, ponds, trees

Green urban spaces or urban agriculture are some examples of what low tech cities invest in. They take know-how from the local population, based on tradition and history, and incorporate this in today’s world. Why build a fancy bridge if you can just as quickly make one using trees and wood, that better withstands humidity and harsh weather elements, as experienced by the people in Northern India?

What are 'low tech' solutions?
  • Congestion can be tackled with autonomous cars, right; it can also be addressed with better railways, bus rapid transit, and bike lanes.
  • Houses can be covered in sensors to control an automated heating and cooling system; they can also be built with operable windows and high-quality insulation.

Why not use green roofs, permeable pavements, and terraced wetland parks in areas frequently stricken by monsoons - allowing for better absorption of rainwater, hence preventing floods in a more natural way than expensive pumps? The Chinese already do this, as they have seen the benefits and enjoy the extra nature it brings to their overcrowded cities.

Recommended: Architecture Designs: Green White Roofs To Cool Urban Area's

Low Tech City: Green And Blue

Denmark has implemented a similar project in her capital city Copenhagen. Their ‘low tech’ solution for preventing floods is green and blue. They created several parks that can, during storms, become lakes. This allows for nature and animal species to thrive, while people enjoy the nature reserve it has created.

Copenhagen city adaption, buildings, ponds, wtare, trees
Low Tech City: Green And Blue Copenhagen

Similar wetlands have been introduced in India, where the areas also function as cleaners of wastewater. This has proven to be more effective than high-tech sewage treatment, absorbing a bunch of pollution while fostering a lively fishing industry.

green, pmats, water
Florida, Gainsville’s Sweetwater Wetland park

Low Tech Cities: On Stilts And Floating

Makoko, the remarkable town in the African country of Lagos, is taking a different approach to battling rising sea levels. The city, which is home to 80,000 people, is sustainable, solar-fuelled - and on stilts. Rotterdam is working on a similar concept, planning a sustainable floating city.

Recommended: A Floating Airport Cutting Edge Madness Or Visionary?

areal houses floating water
Low Tech Cities On Stilts And Floating: Makoko

Low Tech Cities Have Simple Airconditioning

How to build excellent ‘low tech’ cities?
  • Rather than chasing the newest shiny smart-city technology, we should redirect some of that energy toward building excellent ‘low tech’ cities
  • Cities planned and built with best-in-class, durable approaches to infrastructure and the public realm. For many of our challenges, we don’t need new technologies or new ideas; we need the will, foresight, and courage to use the best of the old ideas

Another surprising idea that can be found in nature is the alternative it offers for airconditioning, a notorious polluter. Plants are the solution for cooling down on a hot summer day. With more tree cover, temperatures will be considerably lower. Also, green roofs are great for cooling down the buildings they cover. 

Frankfurt, city, water, trees
Frankfurt was named the European City of Trees and had approximately 200,000 of them in public spaces around the city.

Low Tech Cities Are Smart Cities

Are smart cities are making us shallow?
  • Embracing evidence-based, data-driven decision-making, and using technology to capture that data is a laudable goal. The problem with the idea is that it’s often presented as a panacea
  • There is an underlying assumption that technology is the key to unlocking the smart solutions our cities most desperately need. To believe this is to miss the plot completely

The ‘low tech’ solutions to things that we are trying to make smarter are endless. This goes for virtually anything. Transportation, with an old bike or walking shoes being superior low-emission solutions. Or airconditioning and heating, where plant cover can prove highly efficient. With a little effort, it is not hard to find alternatives for sensors, cameras, and trackers. 

Recommended: Bicycles Without Battery: We Just Forgot They Are Cleanest

Trees, root hang bridge
Low Tech Cities, Smart Cities: A Root Hangbridge

We can make the world a better place if we would try a little harder to go back to the methods that worked in the distant past. Suppose we would move beyond our current issues to a point where they did not exist yet. After all, if generations before us were able to make do without the internet and ‘smart’ solutions, why can’t we?

Before you go!

Recommended: Greenest Buildings In The World: Sustainable Highlights

Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below.
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Smart Or Low Tech Cities? Let’s Keep It Simple

Cities are increasingly focusing on becoming smarter. With the ever-continuing urbanization and the wave of digitization sweeping across the globe, governments are seeking ways of living up to the extra demand for residential, commercial, and industrial areas. At the same time, they are under intense scrutiny for their use of scarce resources and CO2 emissions.   Smart Cities: Cameras, Trackers, And Sensors? The puzzle of having to expand cities while becoming greener and more sustainable seems to have been solved by technology. Creating so-called smart cities, governed by the internet and connected devices, has long thought to be the answer. Unfortunately, if you are looking beyond the flashiness and sophistication of smart trashcans and autonomous people movers, there is a dark side to the smart city movement as well. Are there any smart cities? Examples of Smart city technologies and programs have been implemented in Singapore, Dubai, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, Copenhagen, China and New York. There is a certain appeal to being dubbed a ‘smart city,’ or so most governments seem to think. It appears to be the latest fad amongst mayors and city managers, with start-ups eager to present their latest brainchild that promises to improve city life drastically. Not only does it hit the sweet spot of everyone’s futuristic city dreams, but it also solves quite a few notorious headache files. More straightforward solutions for trash collection and traffic congestion, anyone? Recommended:  Smart Cities, Safe, And Efficient, But Are We Being Watched? While there is no consensus yet as to what makes a city smart, there are commonalities. For instance, they extensively use cameras, trackers, and sensors to monitor whatever is happening in the city closely - be it on the roads, in the city center, or hospitals and schools. The generated data is used to not only act on problems but also to help make predictions about when similar issues are expected to occur in the future and to come up with the best course of action to either prevent or remedy them as soon as possible. The benefits of smart cities are clear. But there is a downside as well. Who owns this data? Who has a right to use and possibly exploit it? What are your rights, as a private citizen, in the light of the privacy vs. safety debate? Eventually, the only party that will stand to lose is us, those living in the 'smart' cities. What is smart city concept? A smart city is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. Smart Cities, Or Low Tech Cities? Let’s Keep It Simple The opposite of smart is simple. Does this make a city that refuses to incorporate smart technologies into a low tech city? Not! At least, not in the meaning most commonly associated with simple. For most issues that are faced by governmental bodies, there are ‘low tech’ solutions available that will do the job just as well. {youtube}                                                     Smart Cities Or Low tech Cities? Let’s Keep It Simple                     Life on the Mekong River in Cambodia. The floating village inhabited by fishermen and fish farmers. While smart cities are becoming huge breathing, living machines that rely on sensors and other input devices - not to mention its reliance on the internet -,, they are also becoming vulnerable. When everything is connected to the internet, it could theoretically be accessed by anyone, anywhere. Those with bad intentions will be able to take over control of a city - and it will not be hard to picture what could happen next. Smart Cities Or Low tech Cities? Those with bad intentions will be able to take over control of a smart city. Slightly less dramatic, but still relevant. Technology can break down; sensors can fail. Its operating, updating, and maintenance require a whole new team of often expensive personnel. It also involves a lot of energy, meaning that smart cities will initially have a larger carbon footprint. And this extra energy goes to issues that could be solved using low-tech measures as well. What are the features of smart cities? Features of Smart Cities: Adequate water supply Assured electricity supply Sanitation, including solid waste management Efficient urban mobility and public transport Affordable housing, especially for the poor Robust IT connectivity and digitalization Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation, Recommended:  Eco-friendly Sustainable Megacities Clean By Trees: Globally Looking back in history and figuring out how our ancestors used to deal with the issues that we are facing today would be a great start. Progress for the sake of growth is an invalid argument when dismissing ancient methods of keeping our cities clean, dry, and safe. And yes, this is probably a controversial claim, and I do not advocate going back to the dirty medieval towns, but there are some things to be learned from ‘how we used to do it.’ Items that are not attached to a cable or dependent upon the IT helpdesk. Low Tech Cities Are Not Simple At All In the past, we managed to live together with nature in a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship. The advance of technology is one of the primary reasons why this fragile balance has been broken, with us now taking Mother Nature to the edge of destruction. Going back to a pre-technological age and finding ways of living together with nature, even in cities, does not make a city ‘simple.’ Instead, it makes it more resilient and sustainable. Green urban spaces or urban agriculture are some examples of what low tech cities invest in. They take know-how from the local population, based on tradition and history, and incorporate this in today’s world. Why build a fancy bridge if you can just as quickly make one using trees and wood, that better withstands humidity and harsh weather elements, as experienced by the people in Northern India? What are 'low tech' solutions? Congestion can be tackled with autonomous cars, right; it can also be addressed with better railways, bus rapid transit, and bike lanes. Houses can be covered in sensors to control an automated heating and cooling system; they can also be built with operable windows and high-quality insulation. Why not use green roofs, permeable pavements, and terraced wetland parks in areas frequently stricken by monsoons - allowing for better absorption of rainwater, hence preventing floods in a more natural way than expensive pumps? The Chinese already do this, as they have seen the benefits and enjoy the extra nature it brings to their overcrowded cities. Recommended:  Architecture Designs: Green White Roofs To Cool Urban Area's Low Tech City: Green And Blue Denmark has implemented a similar project in her capital city Copenhagen. Their ‘low tech’ solution for preventing floods is green and blue. They created several parks that can, during storms, become lakes. This allows for nature and animal species to thrive, while people enjoy the nature reserve it has created. Low Tech City: Green And Blue Copenhagen Similar wetlands have been introduced in India, where the areas also function as cleaners of wastewater. This has proven to be more effective than high-tech sewage treatment, absorbing a bunch of pollution while fostering a lively fishing industry. Florida, Gainsville’s Sweetwater Wetland park Low Tech Cities: On Stilts And Floating Makoko, the remarkable town in the African country of Lagos, is taking a different approach to battling rising sea levels. The city, which is home to 80,000 people, is sustainable, solar-fuelled - and on stilts. Rotterdam is working on a similar concept, planning a sustainable floating city. Recommended:  A Floating Airport Cutting Edge Madness Or Visionary? Low Tech Cities On Stilts And Floating: Makoko Low Tech Cities Have Simple Airconditioning How to build excellent ‘low tech’ cities? Rather than chasing the newest shiny smart-city technology, we should redirect some of that energy toward building excellent ‘low tech’ cities Cities planned and built with best-in-class, durable approaches to infrastructure and the public realm. For many of our challenges, we don’t need new technologies or new ideas; we need the will, foresight, and courage to use the best of the old ideas Another surprising idea that can be found in nature is the alternative it offers for airconditioning, a notorious polluter. Plants are the solution for cooling down on a hot summer day. With more tree cover, temperatures will be considerably lower. Also, green roofs are great for cooling down the buildings they cover.   Frankfurt was named the European City of Trees and had approximately 200,000 of them in public spaces around the city. Low Tech Cities Are Smart Cities Are smart cities are making us shallow? Embracing evidence-based, data-driven decision-making, and using technology to capture that data is a laudable goal. The problem with the idea is that it’s often presented as a panacea There is an underlying assumption that technology is the key to unlocking the smart solutions our cities most desperately need. To believe this is to miss the plot completely The ‘low tech’ solutions to things that we are trying to make smarter are endless. This goes for virtually anything. Transportation, with an old bike or walking shoes being superior low-emission solutions. Or airconditioning and heating, where plant cover can prove highly efficient. With a little effort, it is not hard to find alternatives for sensors, cameras, and trackers.   Recommended:  Bicycles Without Battery: We Just Forgot They Are Cleanest Low Tech Cities, Smart Cities: A Root Hangbridge We can make the world a better place if we would try a little harder to go back to the methods that worked in the distant past. Suppose we would move beyond our current issues to a point where they did not exist yet. After all, if generations before us were able to make do without the internet and ‘smart’ solutions, why can’t we? Before you go! Recommended:  Greenest Buildings In The World: Sustainable Highlights Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about green sustainable architecture? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'
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