Imagine a skyscraper that floats. Or one that slowly rebuilds the polar ice caps. These concept towers all find bizarre ways to house everyone who is moving to cities—but they're a lot more than just places to live.
As more and more people decide to live in cities rather than anywhere else, urban centers are innovating in how they provide services to their citizens. But this year also showed us that just because cities seem like fortresses, nature can have other ideas.
Cities are too big for workers to figure out where all the potholes are. They need citizens' help. In Boston, they’ve figured out how to get that help as effortlessly as possible: An app that can sense a pothole from a bump.
Cisco is about to help China network up to half a million cameras in the city of Chongqing. Ostensibly it's a crime-prevention maneuver, but given China's record, this, and plenty of other tech, could help spy on the populace.
"There's a lot to like about urban poverty," writes Edward Glaeser in this provocative new book. When the Harvard economist looks at the poorest cities — Kinshasa, Rio — he sees not just deprivation but opportunity. People in slums are better off than their poor rural neighbors — happier, more likely to find a job, and with more means of advancement. And poverty is higher for new arrivals than for established residents, suggesting the benefits over time of urban living.
Airborne lasers shooting at the streets of New York. I know: Putting those phrases together in a sentence makes it sound like a plot for an Austin Powers movie, but take a chill pill—it's for your safety and convenience, New York.
So far in the Undead Tech series, I've traced back the roots of some pretty rich items: a $75,000 car Audi, a $200,000 spaceflight, and thousands of dollars in laptops, phones, mountain bikes, and e-readers. This installment will poke around in one colossally important everyday technology—one that buys us geographical freedom for the price of a hot dog. It's winter, in a crippling economic recession.