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Do You Know How Smart Our City Is Becoming?

Washington, D.C. is full of smart technologies, some of which you know about (apps such as Uber, Lyft, Google Maps, Bikeshare, etc.) and others you probably don’t. This past summer, I attended an event called Smart City Symposium- “Solutions for Business Growth and Economic Development” (include a small exhibition) in downtown D.C., hosted by the DC Chamber of Commerce and Verizon.

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https://twitter.com/vorangedc         @VOrangeDC

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https://twitter.com/dcchamber        @dcchamber

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer shared some of the technologies the city is already using. Further information on this can be found on their website.

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But “5G Technology” was the key word through the whole event. For people who don’t know about 5G, it is basically 4G with user data. For example, Google will detect the amount of traffic by counting how many people are using their map at a specific location, same as they are tracking the restaurant rush hour by counting how many people are searching for it online.

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Verizon is working to engage 5G technology in the D.C. area to make people’s lives more convenient. Here are some of the great products they demonstrated:

  1. Smart trash can

I was really impressed by this new trash can. They look like unimpressive boxes, but can fit four times more than a regular trash can. The smart part is that it can sense how full the trash bin is in real time and send a signal that it needs to be emptied, allowing garbage crews to come only as needed instead of on a set schedule, emptying bins that are not yet full. It can save time, resources, and energy emissions.

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2. Home clinic

Home clinics are long-distance personal doctors. A doctor can talk with patients over video chat and then send devices the patient can use to measure their own vitals, such as blood pressure or blood sugar. After they know the patient’s health information, they can provide suggestions and prescribe medication. This will save patients time and money by allowing them to skip a trip to the doctor’s office if they have only minor symptoms and don’t need to go to hospital. The same methods can be used for other doctors, such as psychologists.

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3. Agriculture drone

Agriculture uses more natural resources and has a greater carbon footprint than almost any other sector. Agricultural drones, however, will change the way crops are produced. Drones will gather information throughout the day on weather conditions like temperature, moisture, and wind. As more information is collected, the system will analyze the data and tell other devices how much water different crops need, if a certain action needs to be taken, and so on. This will significantly reduce resource waste and improve production.

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4. Smart car

This program is similar to Zipcar, but it’s currently only implemented on some university campuses. It works like Car2go, where the customer can use the app to track where there has an available car. However, Verizon is still testing this technology so I do not have too much information about it.

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From what I can see, 5G technology will save people time and help make life easier and more convenient. One of the downsides, however, is that I feel less secure because our personal information is publicized and stored on the internet. The internet will have information on where we are, what we are doing, and what we are talking about. I am excited about how the world is becoming more and more advanced, but I also want to be reassured that our information can be private. This is something people should keep in mind as these types of technologies become more prominent.

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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Together Through Tech

In the past, whenever I would think about technology and the future of this country or even the world, I couldn’t help but worry. It seemed as though the world was full of educated individuals who were creating technology that reduces the need for humans to perform labor, think and be social. That didn’t sound bad until I realized no one was talking to one another outside of some sort of social media or gadget. Then I thought about all of the shortcuts technology provides for just about everything, whether it’s information gathering or figuring out how to get around in your car without actually driving. I thought we were only educating ourselves to 1) wear the “Educational Debt” Badge of Honor and Struggle, and/or 2) to be able to sit back and do nothing, possibly eliminating the need for the badge all together. Essentially humans were trading their human uniqueness, value and autonomy for automation and comfort.

But as I revisit the topic, I have a change of heart: maybe technology is bringing us together and empowering us. Maybe it gives us more power and control in the exchange of information and knowledge; maybe it enables community members to control of how their environment looks and operates. Maybe technology reestablishes old values, such as transparency with those we elect to represent us.

CHBlogPicThink about Smart Cities: in essence, smart cities create a quality of life by using information and communicative technologies to excel in economic development, mobility, environmental justice, safety, and health.  As technology expands to include a variety of accessible data, even those without a 4-year college degree are able to create technology that addresses those areas and link strangers in communities (i.e., Bluetooth, wireless sensors and tech, hybrid cars, Uber Eats, Fitbit, Google Earth, Snapchat). City officials have better access to a wide variety of data and analytical tools, which allows them to better understand and plan for their constituents to address urban problems. Essentially, Smart Cities are gathering so much data and information from technology that answers to various urban problems are available at the click of a dataset.

What’s even better, we, as their constituents, have access to most of the same data and technology. Developments by techies such as search engines, advanced sensors, smart phone apps and even the ability to store information has allowed us the chance to educate ourselves and demand a seat at elected decision makers’ tables to provide relevant information and feedback on the effectiveness of systems and polices. It even provides the option to provide solutions to our own problems rather than rely on decision makers. And of course, the same data and technology has resurfaced an old but overlooked value: transparency in government. Since today’s tech makes workings of the government more accessible to the public, it’s more difficult for our elected leaders to abuse their power. In other words, WE hold the power, thanks to our tech!

It’s easy to fall into the “oh this generation is this and that” mode and blame all of society’s negative traits on technology. But thanks to humans’ dependency on technology, we are gaining more value and power, and are transforming cities and their structure to a more bottom-up system rather than a top down. I believe that cities accepting the digital transformation of society are generally becoming more socially connected and equitable environments where people thrive. “We, the People” are not reduced to our utility; we are more powerful and are a necessity if cities are to bring about any significant, lasting change or improvements through technology. So, I retract my past conclusions that technology will assassinate the value of the human and that education will only create an educated class of lazy individuals; technology will open the door for both the educated and uneducated to work together to design efficient, safe, healthy and people-centered communities.

Christie Holland is an aspiring planner at the University of Texas-Arlington, with a passion in building social equity and transportation planning. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new cities and experiencing other cultures and traditions.





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