Smart Cities: Vision

The Smart Cities Group pursues sustainability, livability, and social equity through technological and design innovation.

We take the particular perspective that cities are systems of systems, and that there are emerging opportunities to introduce digital nervous systems, intelligent responsiveness, and optimization at every level of system integration – from that of individual devices and appliances (a traditional concern of the Media Lab) to that of buildings, and ultimately to that of complete cities and urban regions.

Furthermore, through cross-communication among digital nervous systems – for example those of a city’s mobility systems and its energy systems – it becomes possible to coordinate the operation of different systems to achieve significant efficiencies and sustainability benefits.

In designing smart products, buildings, and urban systems we simultaneously consider both their synchronic and diachronic aspects. Synchronic views – as shown in maps, CAD models, and data snapshots – reveal the more persistent spatial and functional relationships among elements and subsystems. Diachronic views bring into focus supply and removal chains, fabrication processes, assembly and disassembly, actuation and motion, and the choreography of activities and interactions.

This approach radically reframes many traditional design problems, and opens up possibilities for new products, services, and business models.

Professor William J. Mitchell