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7 Cool Things from the Smart Cities Expo in Brooklyn

How can we make a city that runs better? Where subways get fixed promptly, epidemics get spotted in real time, street lights don’t waste energy, and cops know where the perps are hiding? In the digital era, a vast quantity of data becomes the raw material that can make all of this happen. Harnessing that information is the mission of the smart-cities movement, which comes together this week at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a historic conference and expo.

Smart Cities NYC ’17 is drawing 2,000 attendees from 30 countries for four days of talks and demos for the stated mission of making the urban world “safer, smarter, more efficient, and more inclusive.” The planners had to be pretty smart themselves to orchestrate the intellectually sprawling event, not incidentally in Brooklyn, just as the borough is raising its profile in the conference business. “It’s very gratifying to see it all come together,” said Raj Pannu, CEO of Emergence Creative, one of the groups organizing the show. “It started out as a back-of-the-cocktail-napkin idea” two years ago, he said.

As the first of 150 speakers and 100 demonstrations got started today, experts talked about such issues as self-driving cars on busy streets and the threats to privacy in an all-knowing environment. Clearly, smart cities will have their controversies. Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, global director of smart cities for IDC Government Insights, raised the prospect of digital wearables communicating with a driver’s car. “There’s nothing I want less than an automaker to read my vital signs, but for some people with health issues, that may be comforting.”

In this bustling hub of smartness, The Bridge found seven cool early takeaways.