By Jonah Bleckner - 9th May, 2017
PLASTARC attended Smart Cities NYC, a conference hosted at the Brooklyn Navy Yard that assembled urban planners, technologists, community organization leaders, city officials and investors to collectively discuss and envision the future of cities. Frequently throughout the event, speakers invoked the demographic projection that by 2050, 70% of the world population–that is 6.5 billion people–will live in cities. This statistic was used as a provocation to motivate a sense of urgency around how we shape our cities of tomorrow.
During a panel entitled Innovation to Facilitate Inclusion, Filiep Decorte, Officer-in-Charge NY Liaison Office at the UN-Habitat, made a statement that encapsulated our view of urban technology: “it is not about the smart, it is about the city.” The technology embedded in the city fabric is only progressive insofar as it is responsive to the needs of all its residents. At PLASTARC, we believe that social research and people analytic tools that we use in the context of workplace strategy, can also be applied to inform urban environments. In particular, we priviledge research methodologies that are participatory so that the people that live and work in a particular space play a critical role in shaping it. The other pillar of our approach is to reinforce policy and design decisions with evidence. Our team was excited to see that there is an appetite for human-focused city design at a technology-focused event.
We were happy to see Verizon Enterprise Solutions was hosting a booth at the conference to share some of its Smart Cities and Communities Solutions. One IoT technology that was showcased was an intelligent street lighting system that increases energy savings and creates a infrastructure for future IoT initiatives, such as digital signage, audio speakers and sensors. Verizon also recently acquired LQD Wifi, an interactive urban technology solution similar to Intersection’s LinkNYC tower. We also particularly enjoyed the sponsorship booth of Carto, a location intelligence software. At the booth, we spoke with Jeff Ferzoco, Public Sector Technical Advisor and Customer Success, who has previously spoken on a panel with us at the Center for Architecture about the future of data and the built environment. Carto is a powerful and accessible platform that we love to use at PLASTARC, to uncover location-based insights about the relationship between an organization’s current real estate portfolio and employees.
We would like to echo some of the disappointment, voiced by attendees like Sarah Kaufman, that the panels were dominated predominantly by men. In future conferences, we hope to see a more diverse speaker selection. In order to design the future of equitable and livable cities, everyone needs to have a seat at the table.