Our Cities Could Get a Whole Lot Smarter – Facts So Romantic

Pieces of SolaRoad, concrete blocks topped with solar cells, were recently installed in a bike path in Holland.SolaRoad

Remember having to stay at home and wait for phone calls? (If you’re below a certain age, you can consult old movies, books, or TV shows—or just trust me on this.) It wasn’t so long ago that we all got mobile phones, but landlines already seem all but obsolete.

So, soon, could a lot of our urban infrastructure. In fact, most of it, from sewers to electrical grids to roadways, is outdated technology that goes back a century or more. It wastes energy and money, is vulnerable to disasters, and doesn’t expand to meet the needs of growing populations.

A dramatic rethinking of our infrastructure is underway, especially as part of the “smart cities” movement. Smarter technologies—some older and established, some still in development—could make our cities more efficient and livable.

Activate urban surfaces

Our sidewalks, parking lots, bike paths, and possibly even roads can be much more than the inert blocks they are now. Last week a new product called SolaRoad—a concrete block with solar cells embedded near the top—started its first trial (pdf), as the surface of…
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