Want to get smart about smart cities? Check a university course catalog

Fri, 2014-08-15 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

Getting a handle on the emerging and evolving smart cities movement is a challenge.  Industry advocates like the Smart Cities Council and tech companies like Council Lead Partner IBM understand this challenge and have stepped up to help city leaders and planners examine smart city concepts and solutions.

But universities and academic outlets are also starting to take a bigger role in smart cities learning. Seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of the smart cities conversation, higher ed departments in urban planning, engineering, architecture and computer science are offering courses and workshops to help students -- and public sector professionals -- get a better grip on the smart city solutions.

Here are a few examples:

  • Arizona State University this fall is offering a class called Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge. This workshop-style undergraduate course from the School of Sustainability will have students examine the urban enhancement promises of smart technologies like telematics, data aggregation and cloud computing. According to the press release, “students will dissect the idyllic, ultra-sustainable city of the future and explore its underpinnings.”
  • CEPT University, an architecture, planning and design institute in India, will offer a smart city course for masters-level students in architecture, planning, technology and management, as we noted in a recent article.
  • Earlier this summer MIT offered Beyond Smart Cities. The $2,700, Short Programs course targeted a wide audience including executives, financial investors, entrepreneurs, engineers designers and urban planners. The course objective for participants: “Develop a holistic and system-level perspective on smart sustainable cities that takes an integrative approach towards complex problems leveraging Big Data analytics and strategies related to planning, zoning and public policy.”
  • Just up the street from MIT, Harvard Design School last winter offered Smart[er] Cities. The graduate level course took up “how new models of networks, enhanced immersive and interactive spaces, and novel computational technologies can contribute to tackle pressing questions of learning and healthcare through the lens of the design of smart architectures, infrastructures and ultimately artifacts, as well as technologically retrofitting or repurposing our built environments.”

Academic conferences and events

On the research end, universities have been exploring the smart cities phenomenon for even longer. From the Smart Cities Research Center at UC Berkeley to Columbia University’s Center for Smart Cities to University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, researchers are studying, analyzing and modeling the technology solutions for future cities.

For city and government personnel, it’s useful to know that these investigative hubs often sponsor conferences and events that provide insights and understanding of smart city developments. For example, the Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center at the University of Alabama recently hosted the Sustainable Smart Cities Symposium. The upcoming Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, hosted by the University of Hawaii, offers participants an Electronic Government track that includes a focus on Smart Cities and Smart City Government.

With metropolitan areas often home to major universities, city leaders and staff can expect to have expanding opportunities for smart cities learning.

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