In Portugal, A Smart City From the Ground Up

City 2.0, an online platform designed to allow individuals and organizations to collaborate in imagining the city of the future, won the TED Prize last year. The idea was that by putting the kinds of tools usually only accessible by city planners and government officials into the hands of citizens everywhere, innovative new ideas would emerge around transportation, energy, public space, housing, and law, giving people a chance to build their own vision of a smarter city in collaboration with others from their area.

Lest you find this all so much happy-talk, ideas generated via this online platform are now making their way into the real world, as FastCompany reports that a new planned city in Portugal called PlanIT Valley will be built, in part, on ideas generated through the City 2.0 platform. Located near Porto, one of Southern Europe’s major urban areas, the city will house up to 225,000 inhabitants by 2015.

PlanIt Valley_streetview

image via Living-PlanIt

The idea here is that when you start with a blank canvas, so to speak — rather than an organically growing city, with its various demands — you can build the innovation in from the ground floor, avoiding the urban planning mistakes of yesteryear. (Such as, say, neighborhoods designed for the benefit of cars, rather than people, and buildings dependent on AC.)

A collaboration between a company called Living PlanIt and the Portugese government, the planned city will make extensive use of smart sensors — more than 100 million of them. This isn’t surprising, considering the fact that Living PlanIt actually owns the Urban Operating System that provides the essential platform for Machine to Machine Communication (the “M2M market”), estimated to be worth US$1.2 trillion by the time the smart building/city/everything revolution really takes off in 2020. Still, if you do the math, that’s nearly 450 sensors per person in this brave new city.

PlanIt Valley_aerial

image via Lving-PlanIt

These many sensors will work together to combine intelligent buildings with connected vehicles, providing the citizens of PlanIt Valley with an unprecedented level of info about their built environment. The key word here is efficiency — from optimum control of peak electricity demand to adapted traffic management, to real-time information about open parking places in the vicinity of your next appointment. These sensors will even be able to adjust the timing of traffic lights when emergency vehicles need to get through.

The finished city is intended to serve as both a living laboratory for partner companies and an incubator for tech start-ups.  Companies will be able to use PlanIt Valley (which seems to be a conscious play on “Silicon Valley”) to investigate collaborative potentials with Living PlanIt, then replicate that approach in other locations. A major feature here being the fact that, unlike the average technology park, and the sprawling campuses of, yes,  Silicon Valley — PlanIT Valley will  integrate its tech-forward centers for innovation (appropriately enough) into the urban environment itself.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply June 7, 2012

    Steve Lewis

    One slight correction, PlanIT Valley, and other projects around the world in which we are involved is using the Living PlanIT Urban Operating System which has been developed over the past 7 years and is significantly richer in terms of function and intention than the City 2.0 platform described in your article.

    Otherwise, good article and we are happy to provide further information relating to our work as needed.

    Steve Lewis
    CEO & Founder
    Living PlanIT SA

  • Reply June 7, 2012

    John Aguilar

    It is nice that urban planning involves the community. With this innovation, the thoughts and opinions of the public can and should be considered towards urban planning’s success.

  • Reply February 18, 2013

    Pinguim Das Neves

    so far it is a lot of “smoke” and no “fire”… it looks good in computer made pictures with fancy 3D videos and so on, but the reality is that this project is most probably not going to be a reality before 2020-2030 to be optimistic … the thing is there is a lot more that can be done without building everything from the scratch – controlling public lightning, urban farming, building cycling roads, engaging the citizens in the budget and political decisions – this is a smart city. Not a lot of fancy high-tech terms that 99.9% of the population does not understand, probably wont understand and are not even a priority for them..
    Welcome to the reality.

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