Expert Talk: Carlo Ratti on Smart Cities of tomorrow

Carlo Ratti

Carlo Ratti is a Italian architect, engineer, inventor, educator and activist who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, where he directs the MIT Senseable City Lab, a research group that explores how new technologies are changing the way we understand, design and ultimately live in cities. Following the Wired Magazine Carlo Ratti is one of the "50 people who will change the world" and was also named as "50 most influential designers in America" by Fast Company. He was also a speaker at ‘National Conclave on Smart Technologies’ organised by Smart Cities Council India at Hyderabad in August 2015.

The MIT Senseable City Laboratory by Carlo Ratti aims to investigate and anticipate how digital technologies are changing the way people live and their implications at the urban scale. The lab's mission states that it seeks to creatively intervene and investigate the interface between people, technologies and the city.  The Lab's work draws on diverse fields such as urban planning, architecture, design, engineering, computer science, natural science and economics to capture the multi-disciplinary nature of urban problems and deliver research and applications that empower citizens to make choices to make a better liveable urban experience. Among the Lab's partners are a group of corporations, including AT&T, General Electric, Audi, ENEL, SNCF as well as cities such as Copenhagen, London, Singapore, Seattle, and Florence. At present, 31 researchers are working on activities sponsored by these industrial and municipal partners. The Senseable City Lab begins its project and research work with a vision for an urban future, or "urban demo". This vision is tailored to a particular city's needs and can be motivated by the challenges a place may be confronting, or by opportunities for providing new experiences or services due to advances in digital technologies. Urban demos are designed to be showcased at large public events and exhibitions to stimulate debate between citizens, public administrators, and industry. Following an urban demo, the Lab typically engages in more traditional academic research - analyzing the data that has been collected and producing research papers.

Since 2000, he has been working as a Fulbright fellow with the MIT Media Lab. His contribution to the field of future cities has been enormous and unsurmountable. He outlines his vision as “architecture that senses and responds” and quiet vividly, there’s no looking back for him post that. Ratti's work deals with the built environment of cities—from street grids to plumbing and garbage systems—using new kinds of sensors and hand-held electronics that have transformed the way we can describe and understand cities. Other projects flip this equation—using data gathered from sensors to actually create dazzling new environments. His work has been seminal in the field of intelligent or smart cities. Ratti contrasts the prevailing technocratic vision of smart cities – highlighting instead the ‘human face’ of urban technologies and their potential in promoting bottom-up social empowerment. He has also opened a research centre in Singapore as part of an MIT-led initiative on the Future of Urban Mobility.

Featured in Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List 2012: 50 people who will change the world’, the world-renowned innovator Carlo Ratti expresses his views of the future perspective for public transport in a changing technological, organisational and market landscape for urban mobility. Here
“The city of tomorrow will not look dramatically different from the city of today”, says Carlo Ratti. The architect and MIT researcher explains, how digital technologies and smart data will change the way we live in cities, and that’s where lies the difference.