Headline July 04, 2014


AND O' OH !''' 


When plans to build  Masdar City  were unveiled in 2006,  the project felt something like out of science-fiction classic  '''Dune'''.

In the desert in Abu Dhabi, above one of the planet's largest reserves of fossil fuel, would rise the world's first  carbon-neutral and zero-waste city. But it would not rise directly from the sands:

All its buildings would sit on an elevated platform. Underneath, the citizens would zoom around in self-driving pods. Above, they would feel comfortable despite scorching temperatures, thanks mainly to clever urban planning:

Such as shady narrow streets oriented in such a way that they can be swept by cooling desert winds.

More than seven years later the future looks a bit less fantastic.

Most of Masdar, designed under under the aegis of Norman Foster, a British architect, will not sit on a podium; though models of the self-driving pods may find a place in a museum, the pods themselves are off the menu.

Conventional cars, or at best electric ones will roam the streets instead. When there are streets to roam, that is: the city was supposed to be completed by 2016, but the date has been pushed back to between 2020 and 2025.

Others much hyped  ''smart-from-the-start''  cities are showing similarly scant signs of success. Songdo, near Seoul, boasts, flats and offices packed with built-in electronic hardware  -in particular videoconferencing systems -but not people; Few want to move there.

PlanIT Valley in Portugal promises to be a wonder stuffed with sophisticated sensors. But though muted since 2009, construction has yet to begin.

The financial crisis has a lot to do with the Portuguese problems, and those of Abu Dhabi too. Money was not an issue when Mubadala, Abu Dhabi's deep pocketed development company, launched Masdar.

"Build it, and they will come," was the mantra. A rush of post crisis realism to the head has lead the company that operates the city "to slow down a bit and review our plans," says Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, its boss.

All is not lost. Masdar was originally touted as a ''living laboratory" for green technology; now some of its lessons are on how to make do with less. And right outside the city researchers are trying to find out how solar energy can be used directly for cooling and what solar panels are best suited for the desert.

While PlanIT Valley is stalled, some of its technology will be used on the Greenwich peninsula in London. And one day, perhaps, someone will find a use for the hardware cluttering up Songdo that makes people want to live there. 

VENTURE CAPITALISTS have not proved very keen and enthusiastic about ''Clever Cities''  and many a developer have given up.

Companies such as  Cisco -Siemens- IBM  are all eager to sell their smart-city systems. ''None has met its revenue targets,'' says a smart-city expert at a big consultancy.

A new  ''infrastructure and cities''  division of Siemens has the lowest profit margin of all Siemens's  big businesses.

Tim O'Reilly,  one of the IT industry's more thoughtful gurus, talks of a future in which government itself is best seen as a platform. If that is the way the things are headed, cities may be in the van.

City governments could provide basic services such as environmental and traffic information, a citywide payment system along the lines of those now often used for mass-transit and firewalls to keep users safe from hackers and-

Other digital-mischief-makers  and let citizens and companies use them to build their own offerings.

But the balance between what the  city-provides and what is sorted out by the citizens and the companies they with business will be differ from place to place.
And that variety should in itself, act as a safeguard against dystopia. 

One of the great things about cities is that they can and do compete with each other. Would Karachi then, like to compete with Bombay? Or London with Tokyo?

In most countries people have at least some choice as to which city to live and do business in.

The quality of the information platform a city offers will increasingly become a factor in those choices. Further cities may seek a control their internal flow of goods, services and even citizens.

They will not be able to stop a run for the exits

¬Alas! Building the city of the future is costly and hard/.

With respectful dedication to the '''Global Energy Revolution'''.

With respectful dedication to the  ''Future Generations'' of  Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. Here, our work, and our sacrifices!

See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' Digital Highlights '''

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - The Voice of the Voiceless


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