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IBM and the Knowledge District

As Providence Mayor Angel Taveras announces the city's designation as one of IBM's "Smarter Cities" and plans to develop a computerized land management system to help spur growth in the Jewelry District (or Knowledge District), it may be worth another look at a piece that appeared in last week's Phoenix on Brown University's Chris Bull. An excerpt:

Right now, Bull is working on advanced batteries, next-generation electric cars, high-efficiency buildings, even a solar-powered plastics recycling system for Brazil. He also has students teamed up with local nonprofits, and he has just begun a particularly ambitious project in Providence.

It’s called Green the Knowledge District, and its goal is to turn the Knowledge District, nee the Jewelry District, into a model of energy efficiency and environmental, economic, and social sustainability.

The project is sponsored by the Ocean State Consortium of Advanced Resources (OSCAR), an outgrowth of Brown’s partnership with IBM to set up a supercomputer in the state. OSCAR now also includes other universities, hospitals, businesses, and state and city officials; Bull’s project is led by Brown, the University of Rhode Island, and the city’s Planning Department.

What they’re doing, Bull says, is seizing an opportunity: If Rhode Island were not in a slump, developers would be building all over the Jewelry District. But right now, “the economy is so bad that we have the luxury of thinking about sustainability.”

And they’re thinking big, mapping the flow of energy — electricity and natural gas — across the district, as well as the flows of traffic, people, resources, trash. They’re looking at how local businesses, institutions, and the small residential community interact with one another. 

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