A Day In The Life of a Connected City

Day and night, pedestrians converge on Copenhagen’s Strøget — at 1.1 kilometers (.7 miles), one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe.

A Day In The Life of a Connected City

Technology is rewiring our global infrastructure, often in ways invisible to the naked eye. Two early adopters building connected cities show us what this means for our routines right now — and how it will shape our collective future.

60%

The amount of electricity savings thanks to sensors that control lighting and other home systems

Connectivity means different things to different people. To one person, it still means a conversation over a cup of coffee, a firm handshake, a spark in one's eye. To another, it means instant messaging with a friend in India while they play the newest video game or Snapchat. Increasingly, meeting "IRL" isn't required to have a connection.

Most of the time, though, connectivity remains at its most powerful when it combines both interpretations — an intersection of the virtual and the physical. In a city, this means tying big data together with the beating heart of cultural identity to create a more efficient, enjoyable and sustainable place to live, work and play.

Take Copenhagen. Its physical location on the trade-route crossroads between the North and Baltic seas has made it a strategic connector for over 900 years. Today the city uses technology to continually innovate the way it connects with its citizens. With a goal of becoming the world's first CO2-neutral capital by 2025, Copenhagen has mastered the art of balancing efficiency with quality and equality, a mash-up that makes it — and all of Denmark — world-famous for a high standard of living.

50%

The percentage of Copenhagen residents who commute by bike every day

On an even more micro level is the city of Aarhus, just three hours west of Copenhagen. Denmark's second-largest city, it was named the European Capital of Culture and the European Region of Gastronomy for 2017 — a pair of distinctions no other city has earned in the same year. It's no surprise that a city so invested in the quality of life of its residents is on the leading edge of the connected cities movement that will soon span the globe.

Here's a glimpse at our connected future — over the course of a single day in these two dynamic cities.

6 A.M.

Rise and Shine / Aarhus

Climbing out of bed comes a bit more easily when window shades open automatically and lights turn on and brighten gradually. Such automated features are, perhaps at the most personal level, why intelligent homes are integral to a connected city. Using sensors for lighting, heating/cooling and other systems ensures that energy and other resources are used wisely, too, ultimately contributing to collective sustainability goals. In fact, sensors that control lighting, detect your presence in a room and adjust window shades can help homes save upwards of 60 percent in electricity costs, 45 percent in cooling costs and 25 percent in heating costs.

The Iceberg’s glass balcony walls — which gradually transition from dark aqua to clear as they move upstairs — maximize views of Aarhus and the sea.

Large angular windows play off The Iceberg’s architectural shape and maximize light.

A dramatic design of four L-shaped buildings with 11 peaks gives The Iceberg its distinctive look and frames units’ views toward the city and sea.

Architect Mikkel Frost of Aarhus-based CEBRA designed The Iceberg. He commutes on a folding bicycle that’s easy to carry onto a bus or into a car or building.

An iPad sketch by architect Mikkel Frost shows how The Iceberg is supported by pilings buried deep underground.

Our work always begins with trying to understand how people live and move and spend time in public space.

Jeff Risom, Partner and Managing Director, Gehl

Cyclists commute through Nyhavn (New Harbor), a 17th-century canal district in Copenhagen. Two bike counters on nearby streets let city planners know how many people cycle by each day, which helps inform future street-design decisions.

A biker counter on Copenhagen’s Dronning Louises Bro, or Queen Louise’s Bridge, calculates daily and yearly traffic in real time.

Copenhagen is showing the world that connected-city features can coexist with existing infrastructure in nearly invisible ways. Streets in and around the 17th-century canal district of Nyhavn (New Harbor), for example, feature sensors that monitor movement, air quality and noise.

8:30 A.M.

Morning Commute / Copenhagen and Aarhus

Fifty percent of Copenhageners commute by bike every day, and the city's Dronning Louises Bro, or Queen Louise's Bridge, is said to be the busiest spot for bicycles in the Western world. A bike counter on the bridge calculates daily traffic in real time; it provided data that recently drove the city to widen the bike lanes there. City planners in Aarhus have tried something else: attaching RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to bikes. The tags trigger sensors that turn traffic lights green — with the hope that riders never stop at a single red light on their way to and from work or school.

Learnings about how people use public spaces — including data gathered by sensor technology — help inform designs from Jeff Risom, partner and managing director with Gehl, and his team.

9:15 A.M.

At Work / Copenhagen

As with homes, sensors at the workplace adjust light and heating/cooling levels. They can also help buildings adjust to your circadian rhythms (the "body clock" regulating your daily routine), boosting productivity and creativity. At the offices of Copenhagen architectural firm EFFEKT, work on several projects focuses on a different routine entirely: regeneration. Their concepts for new residential developments such as ReGen Villages in the Netherlands (founded by James Ehrlich, a senior technologist at Stanford University and entrepreneur in residence at the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab) and Helsinge Garden City in Denmark bring residents together in producing their own energy and growing their own crops, among other sustainability initiatives. These Internet of Things (IoT)-connected "eco-villages" may someday even sell surplus energy to neighboring homes.

We want to investigate if food can be produced locally within our cities — basically integrated like other technologies are integrated.

Sinus Lynge, Director, EFFEKT Architects

From left to right, project managers Toni Rubio Soler and Tina Lund Højgaard discuss the ReGen Villages residential project with architects Sinus Lynge and Alexis Anderson at the EFFEKT Architects offices in Copenhagen.

11 A.M.

Study Break / Aarhus

The 12-story Grundfos Dormitory is home to 200 students — and nearly 2,000 sensors. As the students study, socialize and even sleep, those sensors are gathering data that documents their daily routines along with how the dorm's systems are performing. It's not about getting too personal — it's about learning the best ways to minimize the water and energy students use while maximizing the building's performance.

Sensors fill the Grundfos Dormitory in Aarhus in an effort to maximize building efficiency.

12:30 P.M.

Lunchtime / Copenhagen

It's easy to peek at the daily specials before even arriving at Copenhagen Street Food, where 39 food stalls, trucks and containers — serving everything from smørrebrød (open-faced rye sandwiches popular in Denmark) to Colombian empanadas — connect with customers via social channels such as Facebook and Instagram. Even though the popular hangout sits on the harbor's Papirøen, or Paper Island, hopping online is a cinch using one of the city's countless free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Copenhageners and visitors alike flock to Copenhagen Street Food on the city's harborfront.

Dokk1 is not just a global best practice of modern libraries. It’s the embodiment of connected life in the modern age.

Martin Brynskov, Associate Professor, Interaction Technology, Aarhus University

The Center for Innovation at Dokk1 in Aarhus introduces citizens to new technologies such as drones, 3-D printing and a robot named Norma Pepper, pictured here.

Work spaces at Dokk1 can easily be repurposed to serve a wide range of activities, from maker fairs to film screenings to debates.

After driving into a bay, getting out of your car and paying via touchscreen, a robotic system parks your car at Dokk1.

Martin Brynskov, associate professor at Aarhus University and chair of Open & Agile Smart Cities, regularly points to Dokk1 as an example of a city building that connects people in innovative ways. In this photo, he’s standing in front of an Elmgreen & Dragset artwork at Dokk1 that shows upside-down models of modern landmark buildings around the world.

2:15 P.M.

Culture and Community / Aarhus

Innovators have reinvented the library as a place for books plus family activities, games, cultural events, makers and start-up fairs, political debates and public services. Called Dokk1, the hybrid community space has received high international praise along with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a “toolkit” with ideas and best practices to help transform libraries around the world. Dokk1 is also designed to introduce citizens to new technologies, including drones (it’s officially the only spot where they can be launched in Aarhus, primarily to monitor events and assist in emergency situations) and a humanoid robot named Norma Pepper (who even has her own Facebook page). Beneath the surface, quite literally, a robotic parking garage lets you get out of your vehicle so it can be automatically transferred to an empty spot. With room for 1,000 tightly packed vehicles on three levels, it’s the largest completely automated parking facility in Europe.

Dokk1 demystifies new technology by helping residents get familiar and comfortable with it. Robot Norma Pepper, for example, regularly makes appearances at community events.

4 P.M.

Afternoon Stroll / Copenhagen and Aarhus

By monitoring the usage of parks and other public spaces — installing sensors to calculate foot traffic, for instance — city planners learn more about where people are and how they spend their time, helping inform designs for the future. Sensors can also monitor automobile traffic — including CO2 emissions in real time and in aggregate, with an aim to reduce levels — plus precipitation and humidity levels, security concerns, and even something as simple as when a trash can is nearly full.

4 P.M.

Afternoon Stroll / Copenhagen and Aarhus

By monitoring the usage of parks and other public spaces — installing sensors to calculate foot traffic, for instance — city planners learn more about where people are and how they spend their time, helping inform designs for the future. Sensors can also monitor automobile traffic — including CO2 emissions in real time and in aggregate, with an aim to reduce levels — plus precipitation and humidity levels, security concerns, and even something as simple as when a trash can is nearly full.

Visitors to ARoS Aarhus Art Museum colorfully connect with the city of Aarhus from Your rainbow panorama by Olafur Eliasson (2011), a permanent work of art atop the museum.

6:15 P.M.

Evening Commute / Copenhagen

The summer sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m., but for much of the year, streetlights help commuters clearly see their way home. At the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL) near Copenhagen, testing is now under way for 80 different lighting systems, including solar- and wind-powered models. And because lampposts are integrated into a city’s infrastructure and are almost everywhere, they’re the ideal spot for sensors and small cameras that monitor traffic jams, street parking availability and emergency situations — all of which DOLL is testing. But perhaps the most welcome test is one that, again, is most critical come winter: sensors in the pavement that monitor icy conditions and whether city crews need to apply more salt.

What is interesting for a living lab is that you actually build the solution in real life. It’s not a PowerPoint.

Kim Brostrøm, Head, DOLL Living Lab

Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL) head Kim Brostrøm monitors parking availability in Copenhagen. DOLL also tests lighting, waste management and environmental conditions.

The DOLL Visitor Center includes an app-controlled coffee tap called TopBrewer, made by Denmark-based Scanomat, that lets users customize drink settings.

A digital outdoor sign doubles as a big-screen phone at DOLL.

Various designs of solar-powered streetlights are put to the test at DOLL.

Because streetlamps connect to a city’s power grid and number in the tens of thousands in most cities, they may soon double as charging stations for electric cars. A test of one model is under way in a parking lot at DOLL.

8:30 P.M.

In For The Night / Aarhus

At the end of the day, nearly every critical environmental condition is covered in a connected city. This includes noise pollution, something especially important come bedtime, considering research shows that high levels of noise have an adverse effect on your health. In Copenhagen, urban planners monitor noise levels and create a noise map every four years, but sensors now give them the opportunity to take readings in real time. That information can factor into the value of a home — and help reduce noise for a restful night.

8:30 P.M.

In For The Night / Aarhus

At the end of the day, nearly every critical environmental condition is covered in a connected city. This includes noise pollution, something especially important come bedtime, considering research shows that high levels of noise have an adverse effect on your health. In Copenhagen, urban planners monitor noise levels and create a noise map every four years, but sensors now give them the opportunity to take readings in real time. That information can factor into the value of a home — and help reduce noise for a restful night.

Technology in a connected city never sleeps. For example, noise sensors keep tabs on conditions in Copenhagen’s neighborhoods — including Nyhavn (New Harbor), shown — in an effort to reduce unnecessary noise pollution and ensure a restful night.

Connected Cities Around The World

Tallinn, Estonia

Don’t let its medieval streets fool you: Fifteen years ago, Tallinn rolled out a free Wi-Fi network, and every resident here (and in all of Estonia) is assigned an 11-digit digital identifier that connects to key aspects of life, such as employment and healthcare. That highly digital mindset drove the early years of Skype — founded in Tallinn in 2003 before being sold to Microsoft. Learn more about what makes Tallinn one of the world’s most connected cities.

Songdo, South Korea

This newly built city 40 miles from Seoul boasts 106 buildings and 22 million square feet of LEED-certified space. Besides sensors to monitor climate, energy use and traffic flow, it features a waste system that sucks trash directly from kitchens to a processing center.

The SF Shipyard and Candlestick Point, San Francisco

A major revitalization of a long-dormant shipyard and the former Candlestick Park stadium site is connecting residential, retail, office and R&D spaces in several cutting-edge ways. One example: a connected parking solution that guides drivers directly to the nearest available space.

COMMENTS

  1. Ryan Williams - June 27, 2017

    Nice travel video

    Reply »
  2. JeanMarie - July 1, 2017

    Great ideas to think about!

    Reply »
  3. Debra Riha - July 1, 2017

    Yes I loved this piece about Copenhagen Denmark. Now I want to live there….

    Reply »
  4. Srinivasa Katakam - July 20, 2017

    Very interesting to know the innovation around the world.

    Reply »
  5. Cristiano De Berardinis - July 21, 2017

    THank you very much. Very interesting as always. Best regards

    Reply »
  6. Sandra Bell - July 28, 2017

    OMG such a beautiful place.

    Reply »

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