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Meeting of the Minds: harnessing data and technology to build better cities

Published on September 18, 2013

Meeting of Minds leads discussion on urban sustainabilityInternational leaders in technology and innovation gathered in CRH Gallery, sharing visions for sustainable cities (Photo: Bill Wilson)

In the midst of a September heat advisory, Meeting of the Minds convened at Evergreen Brick Works last week to address the role of technology and innovation in solving our urban sustainability challenges.

In an opening session, Rogier van der Heide, vice president and chief design officer of Philips Lighting, sparked discussion with his talk on 3D printing, the “makers economy” and “thinking with your hands” in order to move innovative ideas into action.

Technology and data can help us better understand cities—what drives them, our patterns of behaviour within them and how different systems interact with each other. Data visualization can provide new insights into the connections between land-use planning, economic policy and infrastructure design, while technology can enable us to make better use of existing infrastructure.

Technology such as the new signal systems being installed in Toronto’s subway enable trains to run more frequently. This means the same tracks can carry more passengers and increase the capacity on Canada’s busiest subway.

Cleaner and more sustainable forms for transportation such as the Primove wireless charging technology, presented by Bombardier, could introduce electrified buses and trains to our cities without the need for messy overhead wires. Through induction technology, buses and trains can recharge in the time that it takes to load and offload passengers.

The focus wasn’t all on technology, though; people are a key ingredient in accelerating the shift to sustainability. Technology can bring to life the innovative thinking of individuals and the desire to build greener cities, but taking concrete action in our own communities will be a defining factor in the future of our urban centres.

By convening these conversations and showcasing transformative ideas, CityWorks hopes to take innovative ideas and turn them to action.

Watch the plenary talks from Meeting of the Minds for more on how we can innovate for a sustainable future.