While city life has many advantages and serves many people at once with public transportation, restaurants and tourist attractions, and apartment complexes, this can create an overflow of waste. Tel Aviv has solutions to these efficiency problems that most big cities face today.
Well-designed and professionally managed cities can be highly efficient at delivering big-scale services like transportation, energy, housing, food and medical care. When it comes to performing more granular civic functions, however, they can be sinkholes of waste — sanitation departments that dispatch more trucks than necessary because there’s no way to predict the daily volume of garbage; sprinklers on automatic timers that water city greenery while it rains; traffic lights that stop vehicles for no one …
The best way to address these efficiency problems, according to some planning experts, is to install and deploy an urban Internet of Things that crunches and shares data from a vast network of sensors. Robust R&D is underway in New York City, Beijing, London and other megacities, but some of the most promising technology is emerging from midsize centers like San Diego, Barcelona and, most especially, Tel Aviv, which has become one of the world’s fastest growing hubs for smart-city technology.
For starters, city leaders aggressively back the hometown effort. Tel Aviv Global, an economic development agency, is responsible for wiring 80 public locations with free Wi-Fi, including beachside hot spots, and providing support to the city’s 84 accelerator programs and 1,450 startups. One outfit, Green IQ, was launched in 2013 in part to tackle efficient water usage, which is mission critical to a desert-adjacent city like Tel Aviv but also crucial to any urban area trying to foster sustainable growth. The company’s primary product is the Smart Garden Hub, which cuts water consumption by as much as 50 percent. Think of it as a landscaping version of Nest: The system, which can be controlled via a smartphone app, tracks weather patterns and forecasts and adjusts in-ground drip irrigation accordingly. It’s now used to control irrigation on thousands of public and private properties both in Israel and internationally, and is being considered for implementation in smart-city projects around the world.