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Adapting to a Technology-Driven Future

In the face of uncertainty regarding our future, the need to evolve is more pressing than ever before. We are faced with the challenge, as professionals, of finding ways to evolve our engagement processes, client relations, workspaces and, more broadly, the form our urban spaces take.



June 22, 2020

There is no time like the present to consider the ways in which our cities, and the way we design them, must be adapted to address the changing world we live in. In the face of uncertainty regarding our future, the need to evolve is even more pressing than ever before and we are faced with the challenge, as professionals, of finding ways to evolve our engagement processes, client relations, workspaces and, more broadly, the form our urban spaces take. Whether it be the rapid evolution and integration of technology, changes in societal and economic health, or new social trends, the question is no longer about how we should design in the present, but rather how we plan our cities for an ambiguous future.

While there is no way to predict exactly where our world is headed, it is clear that our societies will become increasingly reliant on technology in the coming years. While there are many applications for technologies in our cities, the following potential uses and benefits will be explored further, speaking to IBI Group’s wealth of experience in successful smart city creation.

Leveraging technology for an improved quality of life.

In a rapidly-changing and technologically-evolving world, IBI Group recognizes the need to respond to, and capitalize on, disruptive technologies to develop future-proof communities. New technologies, including AI, drones and autonomous vehicles, amongst others, are continually in the process of development and will soon become an integral part of our communities. As such, we are always looking for ways to shift the perception of technology from a “futuristic” part of our urban environments, to a seamless function of our everyday lives. Using a human-centric design approach allows us to ensure that the addition of technology not only enhances the design process, but allows for more efficient design and comprehensive public engagement, also creating environments that improve the quality of life of citizens that interact with them.

Technology can provide benefits for the creation of a sense of place, efficient community functionality and resilience. Our application of technology in Bhubaneswar, India, marks our award-winning efforts to create technology-first communities. Bhubaneswar was designed to be a comprehensive smart city, applying technology from the start to offer holistic community engagement that informed smart design. Among the many features of this smart city was the creation of a unique and responsive operational control centre for real-time incident management and service delivery improvements for the city’s transit and utility operations. The use of integrated control centres in cities offers the opportunity to manage and analyze various city-wide and individual functions efficiently to ensure a community both functions at capacity, and meets the day-to-day requirements of its citizens. Technology and real-time data collection within IBI-designed smart communities will allow communities to adapt and function in the most efficient way, ensuring the citizen experience is comfortable and convenient for all.

Technology can also provide benefits such as the creation of a distinct sense of place through smart wayfinding, public art, smart phone community applications and the unique ability to market oneself as a tech-forward and smart city.

Technological resilience.

In addition to the social and economic changes we are witnessing in our society today, environmental challenges are also essential to mitigate through the use of technology. With climate change and environmental degradation at the forefront of our ecological challenges, technology can be leveraged to better manage our resources, to track and maintain environmental initiatives and to create accountability for our ecological footprint. Digital strategies such as smart energy solutions and lighting, green energy creation and smart waste and water management through online applications and sensor-based technologies can help ensure that our cities are efficiently using our resources. Resilience can also be fostered through the use of technologies that can help maintain our resources and track climatic changes that could have the potential to damage cities and their resources. Applications deployed city-wide can also help residents track their consumption patterns and set goals to reduce their ecological impact. Our experience in San Pedro Sula, Honduras is another prime example of strategic smart city planning for an enhanced quality of life. Through this smart master planning project, the city aims to become more resilient and intelligent; a city that is competitive and prepared for change in the coming years.

In the context of places in which big change is both welcome and feasible, IBI Group utilizes our smart processes and technological approaches through products like our Smart City Platform, IBI Quantum, InForm, and CurbIQ to not only optimize the design process, but design places that leverage technologies and provide a citizen experience that is unparalleled. Bringing light to the game-changing technologies we are developing in-house will be important to ensuring our clients recognize the added value technology can bring to transforming their communities.

Tech-forward cities need a careful balance.

While technology is a powerful tool to utilize in our cities, it can also be a detriment to the ‘human touch’, and should be approached with balance. The evolution of smart cities must be leveraged responsibly to ensure that they are still accessible, affordable and inclusive to all citizens, regardless of socio-economic status and familiarity with technology. In the initial engagement required for city building projects, this balance should be sought through the provision of a variety of consultation options that cater to the different members of a community. This will allow all stakeholders to have an opportunity to participate in the planning of their community in ways that best suit their individual strengths and challenges. Moreover, in the design of our cities, while the efficiencies offered by technological approaches may tempt one to rely solely on software-based design and applications, it is also important that the human aspects of design are incorporated. The computational design of cities has the shortcoming of being too utilitarian or neglecting to understand how humans actually interact with their spaces.

In order to ensure that our cities are still livable and vibrant, tech-based design solutions should be paired with a human understanding of creating places in which people actually want to live, work and play. Finally, in the creation of smart cities that actively leverage technologies on a day-to-day basis, creating spaces to connect with nature and escape our digital world is also essential to deriving this balance. In addition, technology should be integrated only in ways that are practical and impactful, rather than redundant and surface-level, to ensure that the benefits are readily experienced and that technology is not integrated in vain.

It is clear that technology has the power to drastically change and actively shape our communities and cities moving forward. At IBI Group, we strive to responsibly incorporate technology into our design of vibrant, livable and inclusive spaces in the hopes of defining the cities of tomorrow.

Ashish Ghate is Deputy Lead, Placemaking at IBI, and oversees the International region in the capacity of International Sector Lead, Infrastructure. He is responsible for business growth, team motivation and professional development, while focusing on strong collaborations between our offices and sectors globally. Ashish also serves as the first point of contact for Buildings-sector work within the International region.

Ashish graduated with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from McGill University in 2006 after completing his Bachelor of Architecture. He has worked on a variety of award-winning regional planning; transit-oriented-development; master planning, urban design and land use planning projects across North, Central and South America, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and India. Ashish applies his unique understanding of contextually-appropriate design that embraces the local culture and design excellence, while making an impact on communities across the world.

Headshot of Ashish Ghate

Written by Ashish Ghate

Director | Deputy Lead, Placemaking
Infrastructure Sector Lead, International
Toronto, ON
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