We have a new blog site!

February 10, 2015

Dear readers,

We are excited to announce our new news site, ecocitiesemerging.org. The new blog is a comprehensive portal for news, calls to action, tools, and knowledge of Ecocities.

VISIT ECOCITIESEMERGING.ORG NOW

Thanks for being an Ecocitizen!

~Naomi Grunditz

Ecocity Builders Media

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Swarms and Smart Hives, Part 2

June 28, 2014

In his last post, Warren Karlenzig discussed how cities enabled by data and modeled after beehives can improve our urban experience. Here is part 2 of his discussion, including a mention of Ecocity Builder’s Ecocitizen World Map Project.

swarm

Recently I explained how cities benefit from open data-enabled “swarms” of sustainability apps for energy, the built environment, mobility, food and more, transforming them into “Smart Hives.” The focus was on the rise of citizen-business user sharing apps and crowd-sourced capabilities emerging in the Silicon Valley as the Next Big investment wave. Let’s look at how global cities can plan capacities to attract and facilitate these emergent Sharing Economy swarms. Read the rest of this entry »


Swarms of Apps Will Turn Cities into Sustainable ‘Smart Hives’

May 27, 2014

By Warren Karlenzig. Originally posted on Sustainable Cities Collective.

The amazing growth of sharing apps promises to mark the spring of 2014 as the beginning of a new era demonstrating the power of the swarm. Just as the summer of 1998 marked the beginning of the mainstream Dot Com era and the spring of 2008 saw the advent of global social media, the April IPO of Opower marks a new digital-physical era, the collaborative economy.

The collaborative economy will make cities more convenient, less costly and more sustainable. To provide a mental model of this new world, think of cities as “Smart Hives” for “swarms” of physical activities optimized by, or made possible through open urban data schemes. Earlier this month, I presented this concept in Vienna (ranked as one of Europe’s top smart cities) at IconVienna, a Central European investment forum on smart cities and innovation.

Cities are similar to beehives as they provide the physical locations for the activities of the swarms they host. Of course, both cities and hives need to be in the right place to attract and maintain the largest, healthiest swarms. For beehives, it doesn’t hurt to have access to sunlight, water and flowers. (Admission: I’m an urban beekeeper) Swarms of bees, if they are wild, decide on locating in a hive according to consensus (15 bees must approve of the location) and then they develop optimal social structures according to simple rules and communications.

Cities or metros set laws, regulations and policies at the level of the hive. But emerging swarms, based on digital maps of locations and characteristics of “flowers,” optimize according to physical needs, desires and energy. When bees find flowers, they go back to their hive and dance to show the location of pollen-laden flowers.

Imagine if bees could compare with other nearby swarms how much energy they were using (as Opower enables its users to do), how much other swarms were gathering and the quality of their haul. Or if Airbnb offered swarms an easy way to find convenient unused hives, saving much energy and reducing greenhouse gases in the process.

More and more we humans are using rich digital maps and pricing information for sharing rental rooms, office space, cars, bikes, food, and energy use. Our pollen dance will be our testimonials, use patterns, geo-location, and referrals.

Some swarms will get smaller or even die off, while other swarms will grow until they divide and form new swarms based on emerging needs and changing conditions. Open data will reduce urban traffic congestion: no longer must cars circle downtown blocks as real-time parking rates and open spaces become transparent. Even more sustainable are those who are deciding to telecommute or use public transit on days when they know that parking costs are spiking or when spaces are unavailable.

Likewise mobility and housing availability will be based on shared uses through sharing and peer-to-peer platforms such as ZipCar, LyftUber, and Airbnb. Walkability data through Walkscore already allows people to analyze and select the most walking-friendly housing, jobs and vacations, so they don’t even have to depend (or spend!) on cars or transit. At a TEDx Mission a while back, I showed how hacktavists use open data from the Paris Velib bikeshare program to map bicycle availability in real time.

 

Gathering local food has been juiced by fruit and berry locator maps like the Urbana-Champaign Fruit Map (above), including the University of Illinois campus, being one example on the Urban Foraging site. Wouldn’t it be great if the fruit could start to pulsate on the map when nearing ripeness! An illustrative example of smart hives as a bottom-up opportunity, I doubt whether the cities or university would provide or condone this.

For energy use, besides Opower, companies such as C3 Energy and Stem provide Big Data energy analytics for businesses and industries, so they can reduce energy consumption through more intelligent use of utilities. These applications differ from sharing platforms, but still rely on bottom-up use strategies based at the level of digitized electrons—with energy being the last realm of digitization in our society, after communications, entertainment, and financial or healthcare services.

In Vienna, the hive and swarm concept I presented was met with excitement. European Union contingents of investors are planning trips to explore San Francisco Bay Area sharing economy start-ups as a result. The European Union is spending $92 million Euros on an ambitious smart city funding and strategy effort as part of its Horizon 2020 program, yet I was told that swarm-type user-centric applications have been largely overlooked so far. That omission is not surprising, as even in the US, cities such as Los Angeles are only now preparing to open up their data.

Smart Hives (cities) must offer not only the best amenities, such as high quality of life, transit on demand and walkability, but they also must reduce restrictive policies favoring business as usual in order to enable massive, easy and open access to city data.

The swarms are coming: if you’re a city leader, you can block them or anger them. Or you can accommodate the swarms and share in the eco-efficiency and abundant ‘honey’ they produce as they prosper.


 

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current (www.commoncurrent.com), a global consultancy for urban sustainability planning, policy and development. He has led urban sustainability strategy with clients including the The White House Office of Science and Technology; the United Nations; the nations of South Korea and Japan; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; US Department of State; nation of China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD); and the private sector. He is co-author of the United Nations publication the “Shanghai Manual: Guide for Sustainable Development in the 21st Century.” Warren wrote the original language for one of the nation’s first municipal green building ordinances (San Francisco).


Green Collar Jobs, Industrial Policy and a Society with a Future

July 2, 2008

This article on Green Collar Job recently appeared at www.BeyondChron.org, San Franciso’s Alternative Online Daily, and was written by Bernard Marszalek

“Green Collar Jobs” have gone mainstream. Obama endorses it. And a plank in the Democratic Party Platform calling for green collar jobs would solidify it as Democratic Party policy. Even if that expectation is premature, the popular reception of this program is a remarkable achievement for what began only a few years ago as an under-reported campaign uniting a few progressive labor leaders and some politically astute environmentalists. Despite its popular appeal, or maybe due to it, “Green Collar Jobs” lacks clear definition. The term arose from the groundbreaking, alliance between labor and environmentalists to create a massive national effort to “jump-start” an alternative energy program. They modeled it after John Kennedy’s well-funded Apollo Project to get an American on the moon, fast.

(link to rest of article)


Wendy Pulling at Day 2

May 12, 2008

Director of Environmental Policy for PG&E Wendy Pulling speaks at day 2 of the Ecocity World Summit.


Colin Grant at Day 2

May 9, 2008

Colin Grant, Founder and CEO, Visible Strategies, Vancouver

Colin has worked as a strategic adviser to leaders worldwide helping them to achieve meaningful, sustainable results in the face of the world’s most difficult challenges. He is a Board Member of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, a member of the Vancouver Mayor’s Sustainability Council and the Vancouver Climate Leaders’ Group. He received the UK Government’s Millennium Products Award for developing and commercializing a process that allows naturally occurring organisms to consume toxic waste products. He has coached top-level athletes in his favorite sport of skiing and has inspired Scottish skiers to Olympic medal success.

Visible Strategies: www.visiblestrategies.com


Shanfeng Dong at Day 2

May 7, 2008

Shanfeng Dong – Chief Planner, Shanghai International Investment Company, (SIIC), Shanghai, China

Shanfeng Dong started his career as a chief architect and developer, and has become a recognized project leader in Beijing.  After initiating several sustainability projects in China in 2002, he began work on the first Eco-city, Dongtan, with SIIC just as the project was beginning. Shanfeng now manages 5 Eco-city projects for SIIC in China.  He has established a multi-disciplinary team for both project management and research during the city development experience.  He is greatly interest in delivering and incorporating culture and philosophy into the city environment and consequently set up a Cultural Planning team to research and implement those findings in Eco-cities.

Shanghai International Investment Company: www.siic.com