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Interdisciplinary Approaches to Urban Challenges are Creating Smart Cities

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Posted July 25, 2017

Cities have been around for thousands of years, so urbanization is hardly a new phenomenon — but it’s happening now at an unprecedented pace.

A majority of the world’s people now live in urban areas, like Atlanta, creating both challenges and opportunities for “Smart Cities.” Image credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech

In 1950 about 30 percent of the world’s population lived in cities, a number that shot up to nearly 55 percent by 2016 and is expected to hit 60 percent by 2030, according to United Nations statistics. This dramatic growth brings challenges on a variety of fronts, transforming “smart cities” from a catchy phrase into a critical endeavor.

Georgia Tech has been intensifying its smart cities initiative, including membership in the national MetroLab Network and the launch of a new faculty council with members from more than a dozen university units.

“Smart cities is a highly complex area, encompassing everything from resiliency and environmental sustainability to wellness and quality of life,” said Elizabeth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) and distinguished professor in the College of Computing, who is co-chairing the new council. “Although Georgia Tech has been working in this area for some time, we’re organizing research so we can be more holistic and have combined impact.”

“Instead of discrete projects, we’re moving into a programmatic approach,” agreed Jennifer Clark, associate professor of public policy and director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation. “Smart cities research touches on everything from computing and engineering to the social sciences. It’s a different way of thinking about technology — not just in the private sector but also the public sector — so we make cities more efficient and economically competitive places.”

Author of an upcoming book on smart cities, Clark notes that metro areas generated nearly 91 percent of the U.S. gross national product in 2015. “Technology and economic growth are interlinked,” she said. “Just like a world-class airport, you need a world-class IT infrastructure, and it has to be deployed in such a way that people can access it for their own economic activities, whether it’s large or small companies. We need a technological infrastructure that will work for the 21st-century economy and the centuries beyond.”

Source: Georgia Tech

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