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A decade ago, no one had ever heard of Uber or Lyft. Five years ago, few knew about dockless bike-sharing. And most did not expect collaborative workspaces to explode. By all accounts, advances in urban technology are making a huge impact on major cities throughout the world. Hundreds of technology startups now flock to urban areas introducing new technology products and services that were not considered before. With such a rapid pace of change, cities face major challenges in the future related to these urban technology shifts.

Urban Shifts and Trends – A “Driving” Force

Consider the design of most major cities today. Roadways and parking lots comprise a major portion of the urban landscape. A hundred years ago, the automobile was the new urban technology. The automobile had a tremendous impact on urban infrastructure. Today, new urban technology pressures are appearing. Technology startups are introducing new transportation options like dockless bikes, dockless scooters, and other “last mile” transportation options. Indeed, urban areas may need to find technology solutions for EV charging stations and autonomous vehicle accommodations. But the scope of new urban tech challenges extends well beyond this.

crowd moving around in an urban area
Urban technology shifts pose major challenges for future cities

 The Domino Effect of Modern Urban Technology Trends

What began with ride-sharing has continued with other urban technology services. Various technology startups have advanced shared workspaces, community building events, and social networking platforms. But more importantly, urban transportation technology changes have major impacts on other city infrastructures. For example, fewer roads and parking lots will likely be required. Scooter parking, bike lanes, and other urban infrastructures will be needed to support technology shifts.

Likewise, shared workspaces and higher density of urban technology offerings will affect real estate, water, and waste considerations. And greater use of battery-related urban technology products will demand new assessments of power grids. Though the predominant urban driver of new technology services, these transportation shifts will affect all areas of urban function.

Urban Technology Solutions Through Urban Startups

Some cities may perceive technology startups as the cause of their current dilemmas and challenges. These technology startups introduce new products and services that change how city dwellers live and work. But in reality, these companies simply introduce urban technology solutions for problems that already exist. Proactive cities are now partnering with companies that help technology startups excel. Understanding that technology startups can offer innovative urban technology solutions, cities are taking advantage of these opportunities.

night cityscape with beams of light passing through buildings
New products and services from technology startups may change how people live and work

One company that facilitates relationships between technology startups and urban technology planners is Urbantech NYC. In addition to collaborative work environments, Urbantech NYC provides technology startups with private, public and industry connections. Urbantech NYC also performs comparable model testing and scalable solutions in conjunction with technology startups to solve urban technology problems.

Dreamit is another company that helps technology startups connect with larger enterprises. By connecting technology startups with a network of urban developers, Dreamit’s Urban Tech vertical also helps cities find effective urban tech solutions. Dreamit recently launched a Secure Tech vertical and formed a strategic partnership with prominent Tampa businessman Jeff Vinik.

Urban Technology Prototyping

Given the complexities of urban technology trends, notable challenges exist in determining how an urban technology might affect a city. Understanding this, some enterprises have pursued small urban prototypes in which to test urban tech solutions. One such enterprise is part of the University of Michigan. Entitled “Mcity,” the prototype consists of a 32-acre area on the north part of the university’s campus. The prototype is specifically designed to test autonomous vehicle function and safety in typical urban environments. Mcity presents a broad range of complexities to assess how this urban tech might fare in an urban setting.

SideWalk Labs, a private enterprise, also provides prototypes for examining urban technology solutions and trends. Specifically, SideWalk Labs has nine different labs in various areas that explore a number of urban technology facets. These not only include transportation options but social networking, sensing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and urban designs.

SideWalk Labs seeks to rebuild urban environments using digital technology as their foundation. In addition, SideWalk Labs is pursuing a 12-acre “high technology” urban district in Toronto as a city design prototype.

Should Cities Invest Now in Urban Technology Testing?

Many cities and their urban planning departments have had the luxury of taking a more methodical approach to change. Evaluating resource availability and making incremental changes were feasible in the past. Today, however, the speed of change with new urban tech offerings is much faster. Likewise, both consumers and technology startups are pushing the envelope. What’s the solution? Perhaps, cities should create departments for urban tech testing. These departments could utilize technology startups to solve current problems and anticipate future ones. And cities could collaborate with larger private enterprises in testing and prototyping an array of urban tech changes to come. Major urban changes are inevitable, and cities that prepare for these changes will naturally be better positioned for the future.

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