The above-featured image of Smart City Laguna in Fortaleza, one of Planet Smart City’s projects in Brazil
The acquisition will strengthen Planet Smart City’s ability to integrate proptech expertise and environmental, social and governance principles into real estate development around the world.
Smart affordable housing company Planet Smart City has signed an exclusive agreement to acquire Politecna Europa which specialises in architectural and engineering design.
The acquisition will strengthen Planet Smart City’s Competence Centre, offering expertise that integrates proptech and environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into real estate development.
Politecna Europa, founded by Luca Massimo Giacosa and Pietro Putetto, specialises in project management activities and is at the forefront of architectural, structural, and industrial design in the civil and infrastructure sectors.
The company is involved in activities across Italy, France, Switzerland, and Oman, leveraging a team of more than 100 engineers and architects. The specialist knowledge of both companies will be applied to create intelligent neighbourhoods and homes by increasing their efficiency and maximising the user experience of residents.
Planet Idea, Planet Smart City’s Competence Centre, and Politecna Europa are already working on joint projects around the world. Planet Idea designs innovative solutions in fields including technological systems, planning and architecture, social innovation, and the environment.
These solutions are integrated into real estate development projects that Planet Smart City carries out in Italy, India, Brazil, and the US, as well as supporting consultancy services to third party real estate developers.
“Planet Smart City and Politecna Europa have the same vision of real estate development aimed at the joint application of proptech together with the principles of ESG”
Planet Idea’s interdisciplinary team already includes architects, engineers, and urban planners, as well as digital transformation and social innovation specialists, who all work together at the Competence Centre in Turin.
After the two companies are fully integrated, an entity will be established including 350 professionals. A 4,000 square metre building has been chosen as the headquarters in Turin and, from October, will become an international centre of technological innovation and ESG in real estate.
“Planet Smart City and Politecna Europa have the same vision of real estate development aimed at the joint application of proptech together with the principles of ESG,” said Giovanni Savio, CEO of Planet Smart City.
He added: “The integration of our respective skills and professionalism will lead to the establishment of an interdisciplinary group that will increase our ability to generate and implement ground-breaking ideas.”
Planet Smart City’s mission is to create communities that respect local cultures and support inclusivity and sustainability. It does this through integrating innovative infrastructural, technological and social innovation solutions into its projects.
The research, development and integration of these innovative solutions is undertaken by subsidiary Planet Idea, which operates through multidisciplinary Competence Centres in Turin (Italy) and Pune (India). Planet Idea has, among other projects, created and launched the Planet App, a digital platform of high value-added services that also facilitates communication between residents in Planet Smart City’s neighbourhoods.
The Planet Smart City model has been rolled out in Brazil where four projects are underway: Smart City Laguna; Smart City Natal; Smart City Aquiraz; and Viva!Smart. In 2020, the business expanded into India and the US. In Italy, the company collaborates with leading real estate developers as an advisor in numerous smart social housing districts.
TECHWIRE ASIA looks like yet another media to confirm that Sustainability actions speak louder, all per an Oracle study.
When it comes to sustainability, how much action is actually taken, given the efforts announced today? While organizations continue to make sustainability announcements and find ways to reduce their carbon emissions, the reality is, that people are fed up with the lack of progress society is making toward sustainability and social initiatives.
According to the No Planet B study by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development, people want businesses to turn talk into action, and believe technology can help businesses succeed where people have failed. The study involved more than 11,000 consumers and business leaders across 15 countries, including 500 from Singapore.
The statistics from Singapore show an increasing demand for businesses to step up sustainability and social efforts. In fact, 97% believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever with 95% also believing that society has not made enough progress.
About half of the respondents attribute the lack of progress to people being too busy with other priorities with 39% believing people are just too lazy or selfish to help save the planet. 53% also believe businesses can make more meaningful changes on sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.
Interestingly, 92% believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of AI, and 62% even believe bots will succeed where humans have failed. For business leaders, they are aware that sustainability efforts are critical to corporate success and even trust bots over humans alone to drive sustainability and social efforts.
As such, 97% of business leaders would trust a bot over a human to make sustainability and social decisions. They believe bots are better at predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance, collecting different types of data without error, and making rational, unbiased decisions.
At the same time, business leaders also believe people are still essential to the success of sustainability and social initiatives and believe people are better at educating others on the information needed to make decisions, implementing changes based on feedback from stakeholders, and making context-informed strategic decisions.
Sustainability actions lauded
Another interesting highlight from the survey showed that people will cut ties with businesses that don’t take action on sustainability and social initiatives. Simply put, businesses need to prioritize sustainability and social issues and rethink how they use technology to make an impact, or risk facing major consequences.
The report also showed that if organizations can clearly demonstrate the progress they are making on environmental and social issues, people would be more willing to pay a premium for their products and services, work for them, and invest in their companies. Business leaders understand the importance and urgency with 95% believing sustainability and societal metrics should be used to inform traditional business metrics. 93% also want to increase their investment in sustainability.
For Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development, the events of the past two years have put sustainability and social initiatives under the microscope and people are demanding material change. While there are challenges to tackling these issues, Rucker pointed out that businesses have an immense opportunity to change the world for the better.
“The results show that people are more likely to do business with and work for organizations that act responsibly toward our society and the environment. This is an opportune moment. While thinking has evolved, technology has as well, and it can play a key role in overcoming many of the obstacles that have held progress back,” added Rucker.
Juergen Lindner, senior vice president, and CMO, Global Marketing SaaS at Oracle also commented that while business leaders understand the importance, they often have the erroneous assumption that they need to prioritize either profits or sustainability.
“The truth is this is not a zero-sum game. The technology that can eliminate all the obstacles to ESG efforts is now available, and organizations that get this right can not only support their communities and the environment, but also realize significant revenue gains, cost savings, and other benefits that impact the bottom line,” said Linder.
The Arabian Business tells us a story about the ongoing trends in high-tech businesses, technological innovation and the use of social media in the Emirate, wondered if Dubai can be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?
The emirate provides those in the Web 3 space with the ‘perfect balance of work and fun,’ making it attractive for talent, said the 26-year-old co-founder of interactive short video platform Vurse
Originally intending to stay in Dubai for only 12 days, Shadman Sakib ended up “falling in love” with the city and choosing it to launch his interactive short video platform Vurse from, set for the second half of 2022.
Vurse will be one of the first deep tech companies to come out of the Middle East and 26-year-old Sakib said Dubai “has so much potential and can become the next Silicon Valley.”
“We just have to fine-tune people’s mentality on a deep tech perspective and once that happens, the sky is the limit. For us people in the Web 3.0 space, we really want a nice balance between fun and work and Dubai really has the capability to provide both,” said Sakib.
“We are in the process of hiring our team members from across the world and it is actually much easier for us to attract them being based here in Dubai versus other cities because of the fine balance between work and life, plus the entertainment aspect. This is why we chose Dubai and we feel like it is going to be our long-term home,” he continued.
Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space, giving the example of how the presence of the big tech companies in San Francisco led to the development of the American state’s tech reputation.
“Dubai is one of the smartest cities in the world. You go to the airport and immigration is done in minutes, not many cities in the world can compete with that kind of technology,” explained Sakib.
“It is therefore high time we have a homegrown company that goes beyond the traditional businesses we have in this city. Traditional companies can only grow so far versus the companies in deep tech or Web 3 space – especially the ones with proper resources – where the sky is the limit; you have the whole world to play with,” he continued.
How Sakib got into tech and conceived of Vurse
Sakib grew up in Bangladesh and says he was “pretty much of an underdog,” for most of his life, recounting how he dropped out of his undergraduate studies in the US before moving to the UK where he again pursued his studies while working as a waiter on the side.
Lying on his couch one day and playing with his phone Sakib wondered why he was using someone else’s product instead of developing a product that people could use.
“I was 20 years old at the time and while my peers were focused on enjoying life, I was consumed with finding a purpose for mine,” he recalled.
“My philosophy was all about being determined that I would have a strong footfall by the time my friends finish university so that they would come to me and ask for a job,” added Sakib.
Having no background in technology, Sakib talked to a few of his friends and contacts in the app design space but was frustrated with the ideas they came up with as they were a copy of what already existed.
“I wanted to look at how I can wow the customer or my user not recreate the same thing – I wanted to build something different,” explained Sakib. As such, he taught himself coding before meeting the co-founder of Vurse who is a “coding genius.”
It is within this context that the idea of Vurse came about to take the social media experience into the Web 3 space and give content creators ownership over their content rather than having a platform control that.
“Our target is to make the content creators bigger because once they are a big brand themselves, a similar effect will happen to the company itself,” explained Sakib.
“My co-founder and I have been wanting to work on a consumer-facing product for some time now because that is where we think the main fun is. We want to understand the newer generations that are coming up and their culture. We also want to understand the music industry very well,” he continued.
As such, Sakib has delegated his other businesses to fully focus on Vurse, a business he self-funded. And while he declined disclosing much information about Vurse itself, he said it is built on three verticals: a content creator marketplace where people will be able to trade NFTs, a short video platform and the AI verse, a self-created metaverse within the platform.
“The metaverse will stay but the way we see and think of it will change. Currently, you have to have a specialised device to access the metaverse which restricts access somehow,” said Sakib.
“Once the technology catches up to the extent that it is easily accessible to anyone anywhere, then the real game begins,” he continued.
As of October 2021, 44 countries were reported to have their own national AI strategic plans, showing their willingness to forge ahead in the global AI race. These include emerging economies like China and India, which are leading the way in building national AI plans within the developing world.
Oxford Insights, a consultancy firm that advises organisations and governments on matters relating to digital transformation, has ranked the preparedness of 160 countries across the world when it comes to using AI in public services. The US ranks first in their 2021 Government AI Readiness Index, followed by Singapore and the UK.
Notably, the lowest-scoring regions in this index include much of the developing world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Carribean and Latin America, as well as some central and south Asian countries.
The developed world has an inevitable edge in making rapid progress in the AI revolution. With greater economic capacity, these wealthier countries are naturally best positioned to make large investments in the research and development needed for creating modern AI models.
In contrast, developing countries often have more urgent priorities, such as education, sanitation, healthcare and feeding the population, which override any significant investment in digital transformation. In this climate, AI could widen the digital divide that already exists between developed and developing countries.
The hidden costs of modern AI
AI is traditionally defined as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. To solve problems and perform tasks, AI models generally look at past information and learn rules for making predictions based on unique patterns in the data.
AI is a broad term, comprising two main areas – machine learning and deep learning. While machine learning tends to be suitable when learning from smaller, well-organised datasets, deep learning algorithms are more suited to complex, real-world problems – for example, predicting respiratory diseases using chest X-ray images.
Crucially, neural networks are data hungry, often requiring millions of examples to learn how to perform a new task well. This means they require a complex infrastructure of data storage and modern computing hardware, compared to simpler machine learning models. Such large-scale computing infrastructure is generally unaffordable for developing nations.
Beyond the hefty price tag, another issue that disproportionately affects developing countries is the growing toll this kind of AI takes on the environment. For example, a contemporary neural network costs upwards of US$150,000 to train, and will create around 650kg of carbon emissions during training (comparable to a trans-American flight). Training a more advanced model can lead to roughly five times the total carbon emissions generated by an average car during its entire lifetime.
Developed countries have historically been the leading contributors to rising carbon emissions, but the burden of such emissions unfortunately lands most heavily on developing nations. The global south generally suffers disproportionate environmental crises, such as extreme weather, droughts, floods and pollution, in part because of its limited capacity to invest in climate action.
Developing countries also benefit the least from the advances in AI and all the good it can bring – including building resilience against natural disasters.
Using AI for good
While the developed world is making rapid technological progress, the developing world seems to be underrepresented in the AI revolution. And beyond inequitable growth, the developing world is likely bearing the brunt of the environmental consequences that modern AI models, mostly deployed in the developed world, create.
But it’s not all bad news. According to a 2020 study, AI can help achieve 79% of the targets within the sustainable development goals. For example, AI could be used to measure and predict the presence of contamination in water supplies, thereby improving water quality monitoring processes. This in turn could increase access to clean water in developing countries.
The benefits of AI in the global south could be vast – from improving sanitation to helping with education, to providing better medical care. These incremental changes could have significant flow-on effects. For example, improved sanitation and health services in developing countries could help avert outbreaks of disease.
But if we want to achieve the true value of “good AI”, equitable participation in the development and use of the technology is essential. This means the developed world needs to provide greater financial and technological support to the developing world in the AI revolution. This support will need to be more than short term, but it will create significant and lasting benefits for all.
Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’ as explained by Dr B K Mukhopadhyay and Dr Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay in The Sentinel is a simple and easy way out of the current difficult conjecture of human-induced deterioration of planet earth’s natural potentialities.Masdar City pictured above is a good example of what is put forward here.
Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’
”If man and machine work side by side, which one will make the decisions?” Smart cities essentially combine data and digital technology aiming to make faster and better decisions to improve the quality of life. Well-rounded, comprehensive, real-time data open up the opportunity to observe, plan, and project events as they unfold while understanding how demand patterns and behavioural changes occur; and, finally to respond speedily with low-risk and lower-cost solutions.
Smart city plans are now part of core discussions when it comes to planning, forecasting, and resource allocation by municipal leaders globally. It is interesting that after almost two decades of awareness and recognition of the concept of smart cities, there is less misunderstanding around the fact that smartness is beyond simply installing digital interfaces in existing infrastructure or streamlining city operations. Once again, the purpose of smart cities is to be able to make better decisions using a wide range of information and improve quality of life and well-being.
By 2050, projections show that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas while the number of megacities will double. In other words, about 7 of 9.8 billion people are projected to live in urban areas by 2050. For India, studies show that the projection would be 52.84% while it’s 80% for China. There are some disagreements between the UN and other researchers in regards to different projected numbers for Africa.
When MDGs (millennium development goals) were quite the buzz alike our SDGs (sustainable development goals) today, Governments in Africa and Asia started a more strategic plan for rapid urbanization to reduce the risk of harming the prospects of hundreds of millions of their citizen. This had a global knock-on effect. More than a decade ago, studies show that Brazil failed in the past to plan for rapid urban growth which exacerbated poverty and also created new environmental problems and long-term costs that could have been avoided.
A) Urbanization and Smart Cities
Some of the benefits of urbanization are a high density of economic activity, shorter trade links, utilization of human capital, and shared infrastructure. Urbanization is not a curse in as much as the same creates huge wealth and opportunities, enables better use of assets and creates new ones. Urbanization – being a continuous and spontaneous process – in most developing countries is bringing about enormous changes in the spatial distribution of people and resources and the use and consumption of land.
However, such a process is strongly linked to development [social, technological and economic], and many countries lack the appropriate policies and frameworks that can leverage it for increased development gains thereby channelising it towards larger sustainable patterns. In a word, these are not harnessed for development and de facto urbanization’s challenges often seem to outpace the development gains.
On the other hand, the idea is also to double the number of smart cities, and also ‘mega cities’ in this period. The concept of a smart city refers to the initiatives that use digital/ICT (information, communication, technology)- based innovation to improve the efficiency of urban services and generate new economic opportunities in cities. The OECD defines smart cities as “initiatives or approaches that effectively leverage digitalization to boost citizen well-being and deliver more efficient, sustainable and inclusive urban services and environments as part of a collaborative, multi-stakeholder process”.
Since every city has its specific characteristics in size, built environment, and fiscal resources- these differences affect the capacity of cities to manage smart technologies and attract smart city investment. The variation in physical characteristics may also affect the degree of applicability of specific digital technologies. Many studies on smart cities tend to focus on large cities which makes it difficult to transfer their experience to smaller cities. A study by Frost & Sullivan projects that spending on smart city technology is expected to reach US$327 billion by 2025, up from US$96 billion in 2019.
B) How does a smart city work?
Three layers make this concept work in practice. First – is the choice of selected and interconnected technology base, second – is the customised applications (or simply, apps) that allow translation, organization, and interpreting raw rate for generating alerts, insights, analytics, and determining the right tools for solving problems. Third – is the interdependent use of the above two layers by the public, private, and people on an ongoing and sharing basis. Most apps would be effective when more users sign up to it and start sharing user and usage data during work hours, off-hours, driving, and while using utilities (energy, water, internet) at different times of the data. This data could also be used by healthcare and security systems as much as local councils.
It is important to recognise that a Smart City should be able to attract and retain high-tech and creative talent. As traditional jobs disappear and workplaces go highly digitalized, talent is required to be the catalyst in a process that creates new businesses and new jobs. The megacities of the world are therefore competing for this talent.
A study by McKinsey project the following benefits coming from innovation in smart cities, A) smart-city technologies can make daily commutes faster and less frustrating, B) Cities can be catalysts for better health, C) Smart cities can deliver a cleaner and more sustainable environment, D) Smart cities can create a new type of digital urban commons and enhance social connectedness. Above all, a smart city is not simply a light-switch strategy for job creation, but smart solutions are meant to make local labour markets more efficient and lower the cost of living while improving well-being.
C) Smart cities and toward the future
Economic growth will increasingly come from the strength and diversity of innovative activities instead of factor accumulation as in the past. Recent researches also suggest that such innovative activities are concentrated in high–tech clusters in globally–linked cities. Over time as the share of the rural sector in GDP goes down, urban activities take the lead in the very growth process, ably backed by the service activities – major components of the urban service activities include business and creative industries with high value-added. Globalization and the emergence of the tertiary economy have raised the profile of cities in development, especially as innovation and foreign investment are attracted by the agglomeration economies offered by well managed large cities – e.g. telecommunication, broadcasting, energy, tourism; and major urban infrastructure services – water supply, transportation, and education.
Globalization and urbanization together? could bring significant challenges as well as opportunities to both developed and developing countries. A study shows that development is likely to be polarized in a limited number of urban regions, which shows and indicates that while the convergence of production and income may happen across countries, divergence is likely to occur within each country as globalization will bring a concentration of activity to a few sites. The emergence of mega-urban regions with the development of world cities and links amongst them is a strong possibility – the formation of transborder regions, the development of international corridors, and the significance of international networking, among others.
Looking at the writings on the wall
Following Mila Freire, World Bank, it may be located that the main challenges include (a) The need to keep urban planning and management flexible and ready to adapt to new developments on the economic or social front; (b) Getting the best possible technical analysis; (c) Pushing the agenda of excellence; (d) thinking big and long–term; (e) Looking at the big picture – overall competitiveness, labour market, environmental quality, and standing as regards capital and human capital; (f) engaging the private sector; (g) understanding and discussion with community leaders of how much limited–resource local governments can offer; (h) establishing contracts vertically with the central government and horizontally with other municipalities. Equally importantly, policies can also empower local authorities to work more closely with the national government. The importance of developing national urban policies as levers for sustainable development remains beyond any shade of doubt.
Dr B K Mukhopadhyay (the author is a Professor of Management and Economics, formerly at IIBM (RBI) Guwahati. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr. Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay (author, international award-winning development and management economist, formerly a Gold Medalist in Economics at Gauhati University)
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