The new urbanism is here and it's digital. Around the world, cities are adding intelligence to everything from traffic lights to parking meters. That means new business opportunities: GE is working with Abu Dhabi to build a zero-emissions city; IBM is centralizing management of municipal resources with its Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities software; companies such as Cisco and Siemens compete here too. To celebrate the planners and engineers at this Hamburg expo, we've gathered some particularly, ahem, smart urban solutions from around the world.
Lone drivers in Atlanta can pay premiums (up to $1 a mile) to drive in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes. The practice, called congestion pricing, is also used in Stockholm, where it has cut travel times in half.
The streetlights in Keynsham, England, automatically dim based on the natural light of the day; the 71 lights will save the town $7,300 a year.
Amsterdam aims to eliminate internal-combustion-engine cars from its roads by 2040. To help it get there, power company Essent is adding 125 electric-vehicle charging stations to the city's existing 100.
Washington, D.C., uses IBM software to analyze water use and learn where repairs are needed to prevent costly leaks. Municipal resources, such as the fire department, can access the information to study fire-hydrant flow rate before arriving at a fire.
Nearly 30% of San Francisco's traffic comes from drivers looking for parking. To combat congestion, the city uses demand-responsive pricing and offers a smartphone app to guide drivers to open spots.
In Curitiba, Brazil, the city's buses transport 2.3 million people daily—and send signals instructing traffic lights to stay green, allowing the vehicles to zoom through intersections.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.