We hear terms like innovation and disruption all the time, especially in the maker world, but often we end up so enamored with shiny new technology that its connection to the human element — our civilization — is left behind or overshadowed. In a fascinating new video series put together by Mouser, called Shaping Smarter Cities, Grant Imahara travels around and looks at how new technology is actually being integrated into the world around us.
The five-part series starts by explaining its goal to highlight concepts that attempt to tackle cities’ major problems in categories like transportation, shelter, maintenance, and food. You then follow Imahara as he travels around the world to see how innovation is actually happening in these areas.
This concept — answering the big questions about the future of our cities — is especially interesting for us makers. We tend to look at the world around us as something that can be molded, shaped, and ultimately improved. In a way, we’re like engineers, and Imahara shows how current engineers are approaching these things.
In the very first episode we see how Veniam is tackling the concept of data in a big city. When you have to collect information on traffic, hyper localized weather, road conditions, and more, creating a network can be a substantial problem. Veniam is harnessing the mobility of public transportation to make a robust mesh around the city of Porto, Portugal, equipping the cities buses and ports to be mobile internet providers. This allows them to collect an unprecedented amount of data, and also provides Wi-Fi for citizens, improving their lives.
Feeding areas that have extremely high population density, such as Tokyo, presents a unique set of problems. You either need to import massive amounts of food, or innovate in the area of farming. Vertical farming is proving to be one method that can address this issue. In this edition, we learn about how Mirai is producing much more food in a much smaller footprint by stacking layers of produce and controlling the environmental factors with its indoor location.
By taking a farm vertical, you don’t need to rely on some things that a traditional farm would. You can grow all year long thanks to tight control of the environment such as the amount and type of light the plants receive. By more efficiently controlling the environment and space, the yield on a vertical farm can be 50 to 100 times more than the typical field growing a crop.
At a glance, augmented reality may seem like it is only a tool for amusement. What Imahara sees when he tries on this headset isn’t a game. This episode, featuring DAQRI, shows how the ability to overlay data on top of our world in real-time may lead to more efficient work sites. Imagine how much more productive you could be if all the data you needed for a project was right in your sight. You could trace plumbing or electrical wires, know exact measurements, or have real-time readouts of sensor data that would otherwise be unavailable. Augmented reality is surely going to be a huge part of our future.
These three examples are very intriguing. They range from the feasible and relatively easily implemented such as mesh networks to hints of our future in the potential of augmented reality. One thing the Shaping Smarter Cities project has shown us is that innovation is happening all around us, possibly on the buses we ride, and even in the food we eat.