The One Thing Your Smart City (Probably) Doesn’t Have

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “Smart Cities”. So what is a Smart City? According to Techopedia:

“A smart city is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation, and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. The overarching aim of a smart city is to enhance the quality of living for its citizens through smart technology.”

The Smart City movement seems to be predicated on the embedding of computerized sensors into the urban fabric. This means that car and bike shares, parking, lamp posts, traffic lights, home appliances such as internet fridges and remote-controlled HVAC systems, all become part of the so-called “internet of things”.

One of the latest companies to launch a Smart City project is Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, which will attempt to build a “Smart Neighborhood” in Toronto. Last year Sidewalk Labs partnered with Waterfront Toronto to bring planning, process, community, and technology together in order to develop more than 800 acres of vacant land that sits just southeast of Downtown Toronto.

We should applaud Sidewalks Labs, a holistic approach to urban planning, development, and construction. This type of out-of-the-box thinking is what drives innovation. However, technology alone won’t considerably improve the quality of life in our cities.

Technology and data collection are powerful and can help us better plan our cities as well as increase efficiencies. However, if we truly want to build cities that have an excellent quality of life we need to get zoning right. If your city’s zoning code promotes sprawl and automobile dependency Smart City technologies won’t save your city.

The invisible hand that guides a city’s development and future growth is zoning. Zoning builds the foundation of your city. If your city’s zoning code doesn’t encourage density, mixed-uses, walkability, transit/mobility options and reduced parking requirements there is probably little or no hope for your city.  If the end goal is to build a city that is walkable, transit-friendly and less reliant on the automobile, start with smarter zoning or you’ll end up like Tuscon, Arizona or Houston, TX.

When thinking of “Great Cities” Toronto, London, Vancouver, Seattle, Paris, Tokyo, Vienna, and Curitiba all come to mind. What makes the quality of life so great in these cities?

Great cities:

  • Are walkable
  • Encourage density
  • Provide mobility options (transit, biking, walking)
  • Are less reliant on motor-vehicles
  • Have reduced or eliminated minimum parking requirements

So if you want a want a Smart City, start with smarter zoning.

New Event: 2018 West Palm Beach Development & Investment Forum

ULI and the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority invite you to hear from developers and other experts on the front lines of the most significant projects in the city. The program explores real estate investment trends, creative development strategies, and projections on the opportunities ahead. Fees vary from $25-$65 depending on status and age.


May 11, 2018

8:00 am – 10:30 am


Hilton West Palm Beach

600 Okeechobee Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL

Register Here


Event: 2018 South Florida’s Real Estate Summit and R.E.A.L. Awards Luncheon

Join the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce for the 2018 South Florida’s Real Estate Summit and R.E.A.L. Awards Luncheon. This event will include keynote speakers W. Allen Morris of The Allan Morris Company, as well as Jim Barbaresso of HNTB.


Friday, April 20, 2018
7:30 AM to 1:30 PM


Jungle Island
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail
Miami FL 33132

Go Here to Register

Online registration open until 4/20/2018

Event: Linked & Livable Miami: An Evening with Gil Penalosa

Join The Urban Land Institute, Miami DDA, Knight Foundation, and 8 80 Cities for a happy hour discussion with world-renowned urbanist Gil Penalosa. This event is part of Linked and Livable Miami, a joint effort by the Miami DDA and 8 80 Cities. Gil Penalosa is the founder of  8 80 Cities and the international Car Free / Open Streets Movement.


April 11, 2018 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm


We Work Security Building
117 NE 1st Ave
Miami, FL 33132-2125

Go Here To Register

Event: Smart Cities Miami 2018 presented by Hotwire

Smart Cities Miami 2018 presented by Hotwire explores the convergence of technology, design, and development in the shaping of a new urban landscape transformed by disruptive innovation. Join us for conversations with social scientists, humanists, engineers, administrators, and citizens, as we contemplate a future of hyper-connected environments and lifestyles. This presentation will be held over 2 full days in April. Day 1 is $30. Day 2 is free, but by “selection” to attend. If you would like to attend both, please register for both.


April 5 & 6, 2018


Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center (Lectures in Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Lecture Hall | Exhibits in Irvin Korach Gallery)
University of Miami School of Architecture, 1223 Dickinson Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Go Here to Register/Apply