On Friday, local state outlets reported that Bill Gates had bought a plot of 25,000 acres of land in Arizona. The area, which is a 45-minute drive from neighboring Phoenix, cost $80 million and it will be destined to the development of a smart city called Belmont.
The news comes less than a month after Alphabet announced similar plans in Toronto, Canada, yet on a way smaller scale. The tech giant plans to renew a 12-acre portion of the Waterfront area on the iconic city, to which it will move its local headquarters once it has been google-ified.
The promise of a smart future begins with small changes like these, although there are several projects to technologically enhance existing metropolises on the horizon. Companies like Amazon opening bids to take their businesses there might play a role in accelerating this process.
What will Bill Gates’ smart city be like?
The concept of a smart city is not new by any means, and the ex-CEO of Microsoft’s approach is not too different from what we would expect. For Belmont, think about a whole lot of automation, a digitally controlled environment, and technology put to the service of the city.
Belmont Partners, the firm who closed the deal for the plot of land from one of Gates’ investment arms, said that communication and infrastructure will be at the heart of the future city. Data centers and broader, faster telecom services alternatives will likely be available to inhabitants of the community.
Speaking of the community, the project estimates around 80,000 residential units, on which several people could live at once. Belmont, then, could have a citizenship between 150,000 to 200,000 people, with almost a fifth of the land destined to an office, retail and commercial space and nearly 500 acres to public schools.
The firm said that this forward-thinking community they look forward to building will enjoy tomorrow’s technologies such as an autonomous vehicle infrastructure, autonomous logistic hubs, and more upon completion of the project.
— #SmartCity (@hashsmartcity) November 11, 2017
Belmont will face the challenges of smart cities
Before there were smart cities, there was the idea of conceptualized communities like Walt Disney’s Epcot and Brasil’s Brasilia. Neither of them came to be what they were originally supposed to be, with one being sucked into the theme park conglomerate and other just not working as a city or a place to be.
Then we have Alphabet’s Quayside, their project to google-ify a portion of the Toronto waterfront area with cutting-edge technology, housing, and public services all streamlined by data it gathers from citizens and their activities.
With this approach, both Alphabet and Bill Gates might be able to make city life more organic, thus avoiding the issue of artificial feelings and prejudices by prospective citizens. Using data to manage day-to-day life can also be a way of translating that human element into an efficient and dynamic infrastructure.