Sensors that automatically transmit air, soil, and water conditions to smartphone apps; busy intersections connected to a local, cloud-enabled, deep learning system for coordinating pedestrian and autonomous vehicle traffic; a new formula for producing cement that significantly cuts greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, our crowded urban areas will require blue-sky visions like these to render them more livable, sustainable, and climate-resilient. Or, in other words, smart.
Though the phrase “smart city” entered our lexicon about a decade ago, the concept is still very much evolving. At its simplest, it employs the Internet of Things (IoT) to optimize urban services. But implementing clever tools for harnessing ever more data isn’t enough, says Civil Engineering Professor Andrew Smyth—to be truly smart, cities must integrate technology with an eye to the greater good. “It takes thoughtful engineering to ensure that these initiatives directly support societal benefits,” he says. “At Columbia, we’re looking for ways to serve neighborhood groups, industry, municipalities, and individual citizens.”