talKIT 2014 The Future City – Urban Challenges Mastered by Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.  May 15th 2014

The international talKIT conference of 2014 took place from the 13th till the 15th of May at the  Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Nathalie Kerstens, an intern working on Eurbanlab, attended. The theme of conference was “The Future City – Urban challenges mastered by technology”.  “How will the future city look like? How can we design urban life to be easier, faster and even more intelligent? How can we improve urban water supply, transport and energy systems? Will there be enough resources and how can we manage them? Can society keep pace with technology?” These questions were all addressed during this three day event with  discussions, lectures, dialogues, workshops and networking possibilities with inspiring entrepreneurs, managers, scientists, politicians and students from all over Europe.

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Some of the core topics of the conference are mobility, energy, resource management and data collection. Within mobility, public transportation will be the main focus in the future. But with an increasing amount of city citizens, the pressure on road infrastructure will increase. A step in the good direction for less traffic is car sharing. Today, already about 700.000 people throughout Europe are making use of concepts like this and estimated is that this number will grow to 15 Million by 2020. Another innovative approach to optimize traffic flow and improve road safety is car2car communication: vehicles interact via wireless connections and exchange data to automatically adjust driving speed or warn the driver of dangerous situations.

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Due to climate change and the worldwide electricity demand that keeps on growing, sustainable energy is an important point of attention. An interesting discussion remains the debate between centralized and decentralized energy and how this will affect our power grid. Another challenging focal point is the efficiency of tidal energy. Since water is approximately 1000 times denser than air, an 8 knot tidal current has more energy than wind blowing at 380 km/h. In the UK for instance experts estimate that there are over 59 Terawatts of power through tidal unutilized, which is equivalent to the average energy demand of 11,8 million 4 person households.

Resource management with the recycling and the transport of valuable materials is also an important aspect of growing cities. Stockholm for instance has an efficient way of resource management, which is an automated waste collection system that utilizes air to transport waste from household to a collection centre, with the use of inlets instead of common bins. Another trendy example within this topic is urban mining, being the recycling of precious materials from urban waste.

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During the conference there were also strong debates about data collection management. The future of a city might perhaps not be managed without artificial intelligence, but this also holds risks and social resistance. Some cities have installed networked sensors that record data to turn on street lights when pedestrians pass. The downside of this is that the pedestrians can be counted and statistical analyses can be performed, without them knowing. In this case the used data should be made transparent and is therefore subject to discussion regarding privacy issues etc.

Next to these topics, a lot of other interesting aspects were brought to light and were a source of inspiration for all attendees. This event also gave the participants the possibility to grow their network and discuss the future cities with different people from all over Europe.

For more information, visit www.talkit.eu