Seek in­no­va­tion for great­ness

Vancouver Sun - - FP VANCOUVER - EVAN DUG­GAN [email protected]­dug­ twit­­gang

To be­come a “smart city,” Van­cou­ver’s plan­ners and de­vel­op­ers should be look­ing to in­no­va­tive coun­ter­parts like Bris­tol, Barcelona and Chicago, which are tap­ping into the ex­po­nen­tially grow­ing amount of data and the In­ter­net of Things, says Niko­las Bad­minton, a fu­tur­ist, au­thor and teacher.

Bad­minton said com­mer­cial real es­tate play­ers should also be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to ur­ban in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy, as cities like Van­cou­ver be­come more densely pop­u­lated and glob­ally con­nected.

On April 11, Bad­minton — an English­man who has lived in Van­cou­ver for the past nine years — shared some of his thoughts on smart cities with com­mer­cial real es­tate stake­hold­ers at the Van­cou­ver Real Es­tate Fo­rum.

“I don’t think I’ve met any­one here (at the fo­rum) who wants to main­tain the sta­tus quo,” Bad­minton told The Sun in an in­ter­view af­ter his pre­sen­ta­tion. “I think peo­ple re­ally want to push the think­ing about what real es­tate can be. They know to be com­pet­i­tive in com­mer­cial real es­tate they’ve got to of­fer some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Van­cou­ver has much work to do to earn a rep­u­ta­tion as a smart city, he said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re not go­ing to make progress in the next few years. It just means that there has to be some cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in that,” he said. “We’re go­ing to have to look to busi­nesses lead­ing the way, as well as cit­i­zens be­ing en­gaged.”


While fac­ing eco­nomic chal­lenges, Barcelona’s city plan­ners started look­ing for ways to op­ti­mize their city’s op­er­a­tions, he said. They wanted to make the city smarter.

“They started in­vest­ing in data pipes. They started in­vest­ing in smart lamp­posts and sen­sors and smart waste to re­ally op­ti­mize,” he said. The city is now sav­ing mil­lions of eu­ros a year, he said.

“They had to be brave at the be­gin­ning, but they did the cost anal­y­sis and they re­al­ized the pay­back was go­ing to be pretty good. Now they’re ahead of the game and ev­ery­body is try­ing to catch up.”

Bad­minton said peo­ple in the com­mer­cial real es­tate in­dus­try need to re­al­ize that space and prop­erty is about hu­mans and com­mu­nity. Ev­ery­thing else is sec­ondary.

“A lot of peo­ple think there’s a lot of dis­tance be­tween peo­ple in Van­cou­ver. I think a lot of that dis­tance can be closed by de­vel­op­ing the right kinds of com­mer­cial spa­ces and busi­nesses to bring peo­ple to­gether,” he said.

Bad­minton likes to drop talk­ing points like “data is the new oil.” He men­tions stats such as: By 2020, 2.83 bil­lion peo­ple in the world will have smart­phones; and by 2050, 86 per cent of the global pop­u­la­tion will live in cities.


By 2020, there will be 50.1 bil­lion de­vices world­wide that are con­nected to the In­ter­net, he said. “That growth is in­cred­i­ble. What do we do with all that data?”

The an­swer, he said, is to use it to build and op­er­ate smarter cities.

“We’re sur­rounded by things that are watch­ing us, lis­ten­ing to us, soak­ing up our data and putting us into re­ports and help­ing com­pa­nies get closer to what we ac­tu­ally want,” he said.


In Eng­land, the Univer­sity of Bris­tol and Bris­tol city coun­cil have jointly launched Bris­tol is Open. It’s a ven­ture that is turn­ing Bris­tol into a pro­gram­mable city with an un­der­ground fi­bre broad­band net­work, a su­per-com­puter city op­er­at­ing sys­tem, a fleet of self-driv­ing cars and a canopy of data-col­lect­ing lamp­posts around the city.

“(Us­ing that data) means that ev­ery­one is get­ting their job done a lot bet­ter,” he said.

Last sum­mer, Chicago launched the Ar­ray of Things, an ur­ban sens­ing project that will in­clude 500 sen­sor nodes around the city that mea­sure air qual­ity, cli­mate, traf­fic and other ur­ban fea­tures. The open data is ex­pected to help re­searchers, city of­fi­cials and soft­ware de­vel­op­ers un­der­stand and solve prob­lems that the city faces, while mak­ing op­er­a­tions more ef­fi­cient.

De­vel­op­ers and plan­ners here need to get on board with sim­i­lar projects and quickly, Bad­minton said.

“It’s go­ing to have an im­mense im­pact on your busi­ness and the way that busi­nesses work to­gether go­ing for­ward and on the peo­ple who live in cities.”

Bad­minton said com­mer­cial real es­tate bro­kers and de­vel­op­ers are re­spon­si­ble for help­ing to main­tain the “soul” of the city.

“Cities that set their own agenda are the most re­silient,” he said. “We can pro­gram our cities the way we want them to be.”


Niko­las Bad­minton, a fu­tur­ist, au­thor and teacher, speaks at the Van­cou­ver Real Es­tate Fo­rum on Tues­day.

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