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May 3, 2011 / Omar J. Peters

The Sentient City

There’s a new idea on one way the city of the future will function – our urban spaces will be sentient cities – cities that can feel.

This piece on the Mobile City provides a discussion on what is a Sentient City:

What exactly do we mean when we invoke the emergence of a ‘Sentient City’? The artist and architect Mark Shepard puts it this way. He states that increasingly, it is the ‘dataclouds of 21st century urban space’ [3] that shape our experience of the city. All over the city, ‘intel­ligent’ applications have started sensing what is happening around them and reacting to it – be it smart traffic lights or cctv camera’s whose images are computer analyzed for suspicious behavior. Add to this the increase of tracking devices such as cell phones that most urbanites carry, and as a result the city has become ‘sentient’.

The concept of the Sentient City is not an arbitrarily chosen stock term for these developments. In a definition drawn up by Mark Shepard, he explicitly refers to the Latin roots of this term to explain what he means with that term: ‘Sentience refers to the ability to feel or perceive subjectively.

Today, there are already some examples of the city becoming sentient, such as one technology San Francisco is to use in on-street parking to sense when parking spots are open.


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