Register for your free ZDNet membership or if you are already a member, sign in using your preferred method below.
The Biogas boat is a very interesting take on how to make urban living more sustainable. Launched in Amsterdam by Café de Ceuvel and A46K, the boat, which offers food and drink to customers, uses "biodigesters" to transform organic waste into biogas which can then be used to cook in the restaurant.
The biodigester containers use bacteria to break down waste molecules into methane gas, which is then used to fuel ovens and cooking equipment -- which is what the creators call "closing a loop" of waste and turning what we throw away into a means to generate our own energy.
The WHO says that urban smog and air pollution is responsible for up to eight million deaths each year, with 90 percent of city populations breathing in polluted air. Not only does this have a damaging effect on the economy, but individual health and lifespans.
To clean up our cities, Green City Solutions has introduced CityTree -- a freestanding device which is able to purify the air around it with the power of 275 trees -- while taking up little room.
The CityTree stand hosts moss cultures which attract pollutants including CO2, nitrous oxide and dust, turning these harmful chemicals into its own mass, while IoT technology monitors the CityTree for maintenance records.
CityTrees can be found in Oslo, Hong Kong, Paris and Germany.
The GEYSER project, "Green nEtworked data centers as energY proSumers in smaRt city environments," is being launched by a group of organizations through European Commission funding to develop a framework which will make our data centers energy sustainable.
At the moment, data centers -- which provide the backbone for businesses, cities and research efforts -- often come with high running costs, but by ensuring the facilities make the best use of renewable energy at the local level, they can be networked effectively with smart grids and smart city projects, further promoting innovation and sustainability projects.
Travel is a major cause for pollutants to enter our atmosphere. The more industrial the world becomes and the larger our cities, the problem worsens. With rising private vehicle ownership, it is not just traveling from A to B which causes environmental damage -- but the traffic and congestion caused by trying to find somewhere to park.
Telensa wants to combat these issue through a smart parking solution which uses a set of magnetic sensors and a low-power, wide-area Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) radio network to detect when Moscow parking spaces are in use. When vacant, this information is sent to a central hub which the public can access through mobile devices to quickly find a spot -- saving time, reducing congestion and making a small contribution to the environment by wasting less fuel in their travels.
The brainchild of Panasonic and made possible through partnerships with Japanese energy and government bodies, the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST) is a blueprint of what our future smart towns and cities could be. The town, which now supports 330 households, bases its philosophy on smart technology and sustainability.
Among the town's schemes to reduce energy costs are solar panel fields, personal solar power battery storage, electric vehicle and bicycle sharing programs, as well as smart healthcare facilities. Households are able to collect and store their own solar power through roof panels to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and if they gather more than they require, this excess energy can be sent back to the grid.
See also: An in-depth look inside SST
Improving efficiency and using renewable energy is a start, but what about what happens below? Over in Victoria, Australia, South East Water has launched a trial of Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology to monitor the city's sewer and water systems.
It is hoped that the IoT technology will connect electronics, sensors and software throughout the network to improve the reliability, efficiency, and safety of the sewer systems by controlling water waste flows and give operators the chance to be alerted to faults in water systems before they become critical.
The European GrowSmarter project, currently underway in Barcelona, Spain, is a 25 million euro scheme to "design and promote sustainable and environmentally smart cities.
The project is tackling the challenge through a number of areas, including reducing emissions and energy consumption by refurbishing buildings, integrating local energy production into the smart grid, smart city lighting, modern rubbish collection which will turn waste into electricity, heat and biogas for vehicles and smart traffic management.
San Diego, California, hopes to become a model for other cities turning towards clean energy and sustainability. Working with a number of tech firms, the city is not only employing IoT to make city living smarter -- including smart LED lighting, free Wi-Fi and using technology to revitalize neglected areas of the city -- but is also working hard to promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).
To do this, San Diego is building an infrastructure which supports EVs and has established 1058 public charging stations to date, alongside 72 fast chargers which are suitable for congested and busy areas. In addition, the city has created EV charging stations which power up residents' EVs through solar energy, with excess power then distributed along the smart grid for city use.
Renewable energy and sustainability projects are not just about power -- we have to consider our food sources, too. Established last year, Eden Urban Farms hopes to promote indoor farming in the Detroit area to provide a sustainable, financially viable source of fresh food for underserved communities and city residents.
The company says that by using indoor farming methods, including hydroponics and growing system stacking, it can provide double or trip yields in comparison to traditional methods, grow all-year-round and eradicate the need for pesticides, which can harm local ecology.
Over in Dubai, Cisco is taking on the challenge of encouraging the city's 2.1 million residents to use public transport rather than personal vehicles to improve road safety, reduce congestion and improve air quality.In order to do so, the tech giant is using IoT technology to improve the efficiency of public transport options.
Residents can now use a mobile app to view schedules, pay for parking and purchase tickets, and the metro is now driverless. In addition, toll gates do not require travelers to stop -- making the whole experience less painful. Cisco says that with these upgrades, the number of people using public transport in Dubai has doubled from six to 12 percent.