The idea of a city connected in every way — from the workplace to a transit hub to your own home — is moving from something conceptual to something very real. And it’s not just happening in Silicon Valley or places you might expect. It’s happening in small towns and cities rarely under the high-tech spotlight.
Among the most intriguing examples are the ReGen Villages, designed by Copenhagen-based architectural firm EFFEKT, near the Dutch town of Almere. The communities — with a pilot set for a 2017 groundbreaking and a 2018 move-in date — will use resources in a closed loop so that they’re self-sustaining or regenerative (thus the ReGen name). Internet of Things (IoT)–integrated renewable energy, water management and waste-to-resource systems (compost-fed produce, for example) will help the homes stay off the grid. But perhaps most fascinating is how the super-connected design will bring people together. Those community gardens aren’t just providing food — they’re providing a place to gather.
Most connected cities in the works, however, aren’t being built completely from scratch. Projects and initiatives underway in established cities include everything from bike lanes in Copenhagen, where your bicycle commute is timed for nothing but green lights, to The San Francisco Shipyard development, where residents use the Smart Community app with localized, real-time information about what’s happening immediately around them. Cities like Tampa are getting in on the action, too. Last year, NHL Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik announced plans to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” downtown that’s geared toward healthy living. Among the features: air-quality meters, smart buildings with lighting tied to circadian rhythms and — get this — pedestrian-friendly streets.