5 cities, 5 smart ideas: Beijing, Burlington, Bogota, Montreal, Kitakyushu

Can another city's approach solve your city's problem? Scroll down for five smart ideas.

Bogota looks beyond cars to streamline mobility
Since the late 1990s, Bogota has had a road-space rationing system as a way to combat traffic congestion. The idea was that cars with even-numbered license plates could drive only on odd-numbered days, and vice versa. But motorists managed to get around that by having two cars, Information Week reports. So the city is now collecting data to help alleviate congestion on bike paths, pedestrian walkways and the like to encourage people to get out of their cars and use alternative modes of transit.

Beijing pilots air purifying bus stops
Alarming air quality metrics led Beijing to test a bus stop designed to reduce the pollutants inhaled by passengers waiting for buses by significant amounts. The system allows air in at the bottom and out at the top, with air purifying structures in the middle removing pollution as the air travels through. If the bus stop – or oxygen bar, as the China Post calls it – installed at Tsinghua University proves successful, future versions will be rolled out elsewhere in the city. But it won't be cheap; the device, which was already tested for four months in Hong Kong, costs about $77,400, the Post reports, but that's starting from scratch. It's expected the cost would be less to install the system on an existing bus stop.

Burlington, VT teams with landlords to reduce energy use
After working with Council Lead Partner IBM engineers via the company's Smarter Cities Challenge in 2013, the city of Burlington, Vermont took aim at resource conservation. One target: energy usage in rental properties. Working with landlords, StateScoop reports the city agreed to pay for 75% of energy efficiency improvements in their buildings in return for letting the city utility department conduct energy audits on their properties. City staff set an initial goal of 50 audits, but Mayor Miro Weinberger recently reported they'd already done 84 and expects to have completed 100 by year's end.

Montreal moves into the apps space cautiously
The Montreal Gazette reports that the city of Montreal has been developing and releasing a number of mobile apps in recent months – but doing so very quietly. And according to City Council Chairman Harout Chitilian, that's by design. He told the Gazette that the city's strategy is to test first with a limited number of users. “The city is very new to this domain and we are very keen to offer services that work 100% of the time," he said. "So that is why when we release these things, we are building up the … citizen base very, very gradually to test the limits of the application." He suggested the city would lose credibility if it rolled out buggy software to thousands of citizens.

Pilot in Kitakyushu, Japan demonstrates dynamic pricing success
One of four cities participating in a several years long smart cities pilot in Japan, Kitakyushu was involved in a test of building energy management systems (BEMS) that included solar hot water. According to Triple Pundit: "Results there showed that when automated response systems were supplemented by human interaction (building occupants were notified by email when rates were about to go up,) energy savings of up to 45.9 percent were achieved." Results from the Kitakyushu Smart Community Project did find that dynamic pricing can be very effective with citizens, according to a report on the Japan Smart City website. But it also found that visualization – making pricing changes visible – were not as effective at changing workplace behaviors, which tend to be more operations driven. Instead, the city found active communication was helpful in triggering workplace behavior change.

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