High resolution real-time weather forecasting

With over 50% of the world population living in cities and a projected two-thirds of the population living in cities in 2030 (UN-Habitat), accurate weather forecasting becomes an important tool to respond timely and mitigate risks in cities. Extensive conurbations like the Pearl River Delta, Tianjin-Beijing, Yangtze River Delta, New York-Boston and (mega) cities like Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Manila, Los Angeles, Lagos, London, Hanoi, Bangalore have important features in common: dense populations, impervious built surfaces, significant emissions of pollutants, heat and waste, etc.(WMO). Large urban areas have differentiated weather patterns distributed across the city or metropolitan area. High resolution real-time weather forecasting becomes ever more important in order to forecast impacts, to communicate timely to urban populations at risk and to take right decisions in deploying emergency services in cities. It can also provide the evidence for adaptation measures among others the location of flood retention areas or the implementation of smart sewage systems that can be controlled as needed. High resolution weather forecasting can also provide diversified data on energy consumption and production of different neighbourhoods in the city and the way smart grids should respond to distributed peaks. In an urbanised world the weather forecast can no longer be seen as an external factor as the urban atmospheric conditions are impacted by emissions, pollution, heat island effects, urban form and other environmental factors. High resolution weather forecasting is increasingly focusing on air quality in addition to temperature, humidity and precipitation which is a signal that urban meteorology, climate and environmental research could evolve in more integrated city services (Urban Climate, Baklanov, Grimond). High resolution real-time weather forecasting for urban areas is a field that requires not only the technical instruments, data collection and interpretation, but also sophisticated comparative analysis between urban datasets available in cities, accurate algorithms, policies and governance models for risk mitigation.
Picture: Antony Pratap CC2.0

100 Smart Cities

Mumbai

The Indian government will develop 100 Smart Cities in the next 15 years. The current urbanization level is around 31% accounting for 60% of India’s GDP. The urbanization level is expected to grow rapidly in the coming 15 years and hence the Indian Government developed an ambitious plan to develop plans for these ‘engines of economic growth’ using the latest principles for sustainable urban development and new technologies. Accordingly, the current thinking is that 100 cities to be developed as Smart Cities may be chosen from amongst the following:

  • One satellite city of each of the cities with a population of 4 million people or more – 9 cities
  • All the cities in the population range of 1 – 4 million people – 44 cities
  • All State Capitals, even if they have a population of less than one million – 17 cities
  • Cities of tourist and religious importance – 10 cities
  • Cities in the 0.5 to 1.0 million population range – 20 cities
  • In Delhi, a new smart city through the land pooling scheme has been proposed

More than one and a half year ago the Indian government already launched the initiative. At that moment in time the ‘100 Smart Cities’ plan was conceived as a mere technological approach to the city. The Note on Smart Cities that is to be found on the website of the Indian government now takes a much broader and interesting approach. Summarised ‘Smart’ is being defined as providing basic infrastructure and services, resilient and attractive urban patterns, quick and transparent planning processes and new technologies. In a sense the ‘100 Smart Cities’ strategy is upscaling the ‘pilot project’ hundred fold in order to generate a real and lasting effect on a broad range of cities across the country. Learning from these examples and all the new brainpower that this ‘grande project’ attracts should equip local governments with the right tools and guiding principles to cope with the rapid urbanisation in the country.
Picture: Martin Roemers

Infrastructure Packaging

Historically, cities as separate urban government units had never garnered any significant attention from the United Nations, but at Tuesday’s U.N. Climate Summit in New York, mayors from all over the world took center stage.
A common theme throughout the day was that cities are crucial to fight climate change because urban areas are responsible for nearly 70 percent of all carbon emissions.
To reduce pollution from urban centers, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the establishment of the Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, tasked with funding low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure projects and make their implementation better and easier as a key component of the struggle against global warming.

Despite the U.N.’s usual good intentions, the purpose of CFLA seems to be a work in progress, not due to a lack of focus by the loose partnership, but in part because infrastructure project funding is so different for various sectors in different cities. Participants at the summit highlighted that any financing initiative must be flexible in order to bring everyone to the table.
So far about 20 partners — ranging from the C40 advocacy group to Citibank — have committed to CFLA, according to Amanda Eichel, adviser to Michael Bloomberg, U.N. special envoy on cities and climate change and former mayor of New York.

Partners will not engage in direct funding of infrastructure projects, but rather leverage the right investors to make those projects a reality in developing countries, precisely where the risk is highest.
CFLA will thus function like a consulting firm for cities on “how to package projects in an interesting way to make them more attractive to investors,” Eichel said.
“A common communication, language and approach” in presenting infrastructure projects is the main reason cities have such trouble funding large infrastructure projects, Bloomberg’s adviser explained.
Investors struggle to navigate the bureaucracy’s competing priorities and the lack of clarity on any potential returns, so the initiative will provide them with guidance on each sector instead of focusing on individual cities, in order to maximize development impact.

To illustrate how the process works, Eichel gave the example of a mass transit development project in a particular urban area. CFLA would study what transport needs are across a range of cities within that sector and give recommendations on how to “market and advertise” that type of project to potential investors. It would then be up to that city to apply that “branding” strategy and choose their own partners and contracts based on individual cities’ criteria.

Outside of its partners, the initiative’s unofficial steering committee is led by the World Bank,Bloomberg PhilanthropiesU.N.-Habitat and the Rockefeller Foundation. Although final roles have yet to be finalized, Bloomberg Philanthropies and World Bank will be in charge of researching and assessing “the state of climate finance in cities” in annual reports, because measuring impact can provide more confidence to investors. U.N.-Habitat will act as technical adviser, determining the type of project for particular needs in various cities. The Rockefeller Foundation will be a core member of this group, although in a still unknown capacity.

Capacity building

Joan Clos, executive director of U.N.-Habitat and former mayor of Barcelona, insisted the problem is not a lack of money but putting it in the right places.
“What is lacking is not funding, what is lacking is the quality of the project,” he told Devex, stressing that the real issue is making sure cities know how to get a slice of that money. “Financial institutions require that [urban infrastructure] projects have a clear business model, they are understandable, in order to be funded.”
We are in the “demand side of the equation” to build up the capacity of developing country cities, Clos said.

The head of U.N.-Habitat specified that “turning solid waste into energy is one of the most important group of projects.” For instance, landfills in developing countries are usually the highest emitters of methane gas, but urban governments there don’t have the technology to harness the waste and turn it into energy. The goal is to convince investors that they can make a return on that type of financial risk, which Clos noted can be done by showing them the potential for “maturity of long-term investment” in sanitation and transportation projects, to name just two.

CFLA, he said, will help create institutional settings to attract investors. These would be “innovative instruments … not necessarily on the financial side” in the form of new water, electricity or transport companies, legislative reform or utility subsidies. The field is open because each city has a unique set of issues despite a shared, overarching problem within different sectors.

“The scarce resource is the solid business plan” for infrastructure projects, and the initiative has been established to remedy just that, Clos pointed out.
CFLA will thus adopt a unique business and climate change-based approach to development, which has the potential to push more private sector engagement if investors see they can make a profit.

Top U.S. banks want to be a part of the initiative, and surely Bloomberg’s name and business acumen will also help attract investors. But it remains to be seen if governments, aid groups and the private sector will be able to work together to achieve the goal of helping cities develop low-carbon and carbon-resilient infrastructure to really make them the next battleground to combat climate change.

Source: www.devex.com
Picture: Johannesburg by SmartCityStudio

Smart Citizen

“What are the real levels of air pollution around your home or business? and what about noise pollution? and humidity? Now imagine that you could know them, share instantly and compare with other places in your city, in real time … How could this information help to improve our environment quality?” Smart Citizen wants to answer to these questions and many more, through the development of low-cost sensors. Smart Citizen claims that you can only build a real Smart City with Smart Citizens, and that’s true.
By connecting data, people and knowledge Smart Citizen creates a platform to generate participatory processes of people in cities. A fine grain network of sensors can monitor microclimatic behaviour in cities. This could create possibilities to measure the impact of interventions in the living environment.
Source: http://smartcitizen.me

Shared Electric Car Network

Paris has been wired with a shared electric car network: Autolib’. Modelled after the successful Velib’ bike-sharing program Autolib’ has won over 70.000 clients since its launch in 2011. The program combines a sharing concept with an easy-to-use internet platform, an urban transit strategy and clean fuel technology. It fuses low tech and high tech, people and the city in one system. Although SmartCityStudio is very positive about the distribution and amount of stations implemented in the metropolitan area of Ile-de-France, this new urban ecology has not only been cheered. The criticasters somehow surprisingly come from the green party in Paris according to the Chicago Tribune:

“Conservatives intially attacked Autolib as a vanity project of the Socialists who control the Paris city hall, but have toned down their criticism as the scheme’s popularity has grown. …But Greens fear the 1,800-strong fleet may be drawing Parisians away from public transport rather than from their gas and diesel-powered cars…The Greens, who voted against Autolib while remaining part of Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe’s majority, have asked for an audit on the scheme’s finances and its impact on traffic. “We remain very sceptical on Autolib,” said Denis Baupin, Green MP for Paris and transport councillor until last year.

As opposed to this criticism Autolib’s backers make some bold claims, according to the Chicago Tribune: “The project, they say, is breaking down social and physical barriers between the two million inhabitants of affluent central Paris and the other eight million who live in the “banlieues”, the often neglected high-rise suburbs outside the “peripherique” ring road. “There was a time when Parisians thought the banlieues were where they sent their rubbish and built council blocks or cemeteries,” Paris transport councillor Julien Bargeton said. “That relationship is changing, and Autolib shows that,” he told Reuters, estimating that about a third of all trips in the electric cars take place between Paris and its outskirts.”

Some information on the system itself. It is a public private partnership. The French Bollore Group invested in the fleet of Italian designed cars (Pininfarina) and spends 50 million euro’s annually to keep the fleet running. The City of Paris has invested 35 million in the charging points. As a customer you can choose between a yearly subscription (144 euro’s and 5 euro per half an hour), a monthly subscription (30 euro’s, 6 euro per half an hour), a weekly subscription (15 euro’s, 7 euro’s per half an hour) and a one day subscription (10 euro’s and 7 euro’s per half an hour). A total of 1750 cars has been registered in January 2013 and the Bollore Group’s goal is to deploy 3000 cars by 2013. By February 2013 the fleet had 65.000 subscribers and has driven a total cumulative of 15 million kilometer. There are over 650 charging stations in around 50 municipalities in the area of Ile-the-France with over 4000 charging points. The Bollore Company plans to expand the system on a short notice in Bordeaux and Lyon.

Sources: Wikipedia, Chicago Tribune, Paris, Autolib. Picture: Mairie de Paris

Responsive Bike

The Copenhagen Wheel, developed by the SENSEable city LAB from MIT: “Smart, responsive and elegant, the Copenhagen Wheel is a new emblem 
for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also
function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture
 the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need
a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion,
and road conditions in real-time.

Sense and Sustainability: 
Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes
a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and
lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.
 As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and
information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide,
 NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data
through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes,
to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. 
You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously
if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of
 environmental information from which we can all benefit.”
Source: senseable.mit.edu/copenhagenwheel/
Photo above: by Max Tomasinelli www.maxtomasinelli.com
Picture below: screenshot SENSEable city.