Building a smarter city

Renderings of what a smart city could look like in the future.

By Amanda M. Perez

Renderings of what a smart city could look like in the future.

Building a smarter city

By Amanda M. Perez
The University of Miami brings together leaders in academia, professional practice, and industry to examine cities of the future.

The world is rapidly evolving. Today 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. This rapid influx is inspiring city leaders around the world to transform urban areas into more efficient and sustainable "smart cities."

“A smart city is a city that is hyper connected by means of information technology,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture. “This creates a kind of heightened intelligence which enables more efficient management, better planning, and better services.”

el-Khoury is leading UM’s research into building these cities of the future. His interest has led him to create a Smart Cities Miami Conference, an annual gathering at the University that explores the convergence of technology, design, and development in the shaping of new urban landscapes transformed by disruptive innovation.

“The University of Miami is emerging as a major player in the smart city field and the annual conference, now in its third edition, showcases the work with our local and global partners,” said el-Khoury.

UM’s Center for Computational Science has been working closely with the School of Architecture to create future smart cities. The accumulation and utilization of data is a necessary component in building a smart city. One of the ways to achieve this is through the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. The center plays a key role in analyzing the data and turning it into useful information.

“Sensory devices can collect a variety of data around a city to help people make decisions that can not only improve city services, but also customize them as well,” said Nick Tsinoremas, founding director for the Center for Computational Science. “For instance, it could help decision makers determine how to relieve traffic and congestion in certain areas. It helps tremendously with urban planning.”

The City of Coral Gables is interested in exploring how this technology can potentially improve the quality of life for those who live, visit, study or work in the city. This year they have partnered with the University to host a competition that will give applicants the chance to prototype ideas on how to alleviate traffic congestion in Coral Gables.

“We are thrilled to have Coral Gables as partners this year because we want the discussion around smart cities to have traction in the real world,” said el-Khoury. “Having partners who want to actually implement these ideas is a great outcome for the whole effort.”

The competition will launch the day of the Smart Cities Conference on Friday, Jan. 25 at the School of Architecture. Engaged citizens, urban planners, architects, engineers, businesses, and others—regardless of background or skillset—are all invited to participate. el-Khoury said the formation of multidisciplinary teams is encouraged.

“Building a smart city involves a variety of people from different industries that range from IT to lawyers or designers,” said el-Khoury.

Christopher Chung, who is one of the organizing committee members from the School of Architecture, believes this is an incredible opportunity for students.

“It’s a possibility for real world implementation,” he said. “Students will be able to work in teams that could be made up of professionals or city officials. Collaborating with these people who are outside the academic world could give them invaluable experience.”

Teams will compete over a 3-month period. Winners take home a prize of up to $2,500, and finalists will also receive recognition at eMerge Americas 2019. Tsinoremas urges participants to use their imagination and think outside of the box.

“Go wild and don’t get bogged down on limitations. These kind of competitions are made to inspire the public to get creative. We have no idea how people are going to interpret this competition, and that’s what’s exciting about the whole experience,” said Tsinoremas.

For more information on how to register for Smart Cities 2019 and the Design Your Coral Gables: Smart City Solutions Competition, visit