Beyond Smart Cities

Beyond Smart Cities

This course focuses on data analytics, new urban systems, real-time simulation, and urban design strategies that can enable more entrepreneurial, livable, high-performance urban districts. Over three days, students will experience lectures by MIT experts, and will participate in hands-on exercises using the MIT CityScope platform.

Today, academic research and industrial applications in the area of Smart Cities seek to optimize systems through the deployment of digital networks. Optimization techniques have reported incremental improvements in energy efficiency, water use, public safety, road congestion, and many other areas. However, optimization has its limits. This course looks beyond Smart Cities by exploring disruptive innovations in technology, design, planning, policy, and strategies that can bring dramatic improvements in urban livability and sustainability.

Highly successful cities in the future will likely consist of a network of compact urban districts where resources and amenities of daily life are in close proximity, allowing people to live, work, play, and exchange ideas in walkable, vibrant communities. New urban planning strategies and digital feedback technologies will allow distributed and dynamic urban systems to replace static and inefficient centralized systems, thereby greatly reducing resource consumption.

2017 course topics included:

  1. Resilient Urban Cells – Compact, walkable neighborhoods where places of living, work, culture, shopping, and play are within short reach and support a rich diversity of interactions and activities
  2. New Mobility Systems – Shared-use and autonomous alternatives to the private automobiles that can allow an increase in the vibrancy and density of the city without problems created by congestion and parking demand
  3. Living and Working Spaces on Demand – Hyper-efficient residential strategies, including transformable micro-apartments, that are affordable, fun, and productive for young professionals in the creative heart of the city; and co-working facilities, cafés, fab labs, and other shared facilities support innovation, human interaction, and entrepreneurship
  4. Urban Food Production – Advanced urban agriculture systems to produce high-quality food near the point of consumption
  5. Responsive Technologies – Systems enable powerful new applications that improve the life of each resident in areas of health, energy conservation, mobility, and communications
  6. Community Engagement and Decision Support – Data-driven, evidence-based decision support systems that enable expert and non-expert stakeholders to participate in complex urban design and infrastructure decision making

The course will feature lectures by course faculty and guests from academia and industry as well as participatory group design work in “charrette” sessions (a type of brainstorming) using the CityScope platform (see: The goal of the workshop is for participants to engage in critical thinking about the technological, social, cultural, and economic challenges for achieving smart sustainable cities.

Earn a Professional Certificate in Innovation and Technology

Beyond Smart Cities may be taken individually or as an elective course for the Professional Certificate Program in Innovation and Technology.

Lead Instructor(s): 

Kent Larson


TBD 2020

Course Length: 

3 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Closed

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

This course is not planned to run in 2019

Participant Takeaways: 

Takeaways from this course include:

  • Understanding the current environmental, energy, housing, health, food, and mobility issues facing cities
  • Building a knowledge base of the latest technological innovations, strategies, and policies being developed by industry and academia that are being deployed in cities and understand the benefit and cost tradeoffs for these solutions
  • Developing new concepts and designs by participating in "charrette" sessions that focus on a limited set of core issues connected to real-world implementation
  • Evaluating and critiquing the technological, design, economic, and policy implications from the "charrette" and follow-up discussions
  • Developing a holistic and system-level perspective on smart sustainable cities that takes an integrative approach towards complex problems leveraging big data analytics and strategies related to planning, zoning, and public policy

Who Should Attend: 

This program is designed for executives, business unit leaders and managers, financial investors and entrepreneurs, engineers/designers, and urban planners from companies focused on the built environment, personal mobility and transit, energy, IT infrastructure, food, and Smart Cities development.

This program is also designed for government leaders charged with new urban economic development, design of new cities, and urban innovation districts or zones. Participants may include government leaders, ministry and agency leaders, department directors, innovation managers, policymakers, city planners, and civil servants at the city, state, regional, or federal level. This course is open to government leaders in the U.S. and internationally.

Computer Requirements:

Laptops or tablets with PowerPoint, Word, and Excel (or similar programs) are required.

Program Outline: 

Lectures in Beyond Smart Cities will fit into 5 main categories as follows:

Insight (understanding current conditions). Urban designers will make use of powerful new data collection and analytic tools to achieve a fine-grained understanding of human behavior. This insight will inform the development of proposed interventions.

Transformation (interventions to improve conditions). Over the next 10 to 20 years, cities will undergo rapid change as emerging systems are integrated into the urban fabric, and cities replace heavy infrastructure with agile distributed systems, including: Mobility, Energy, Food, Places of Live/Work, & Urban Design

Prediction (simulating the impact of proposed interventions). New simulation tools will predict the impact of proposed interventions on how people interact with their environment, move through the city, consume resources, and exchange ideas.

Consensus (facilitating decision-making). Interactive physical models with AI recommendation engines will enable rapid scenario testing and real-time simulation to allow a broader group of stakeholders to engage in a creative, iterative decision-making process.

Governance (dynamic, self-regulating systems). In the future, communities will be empowered to quickly respond to changing economic and social conditions, and to optimize for social, cultural, and environmental benefits using Algorithmic zoning and district scale economy.

Course Schedule: 

View 2018 course schedule (pdf). Note: schedule is subject to change.

Class runs 8:30 am - 5:00 pm each day.


Participants’ Comments: 

President, Multilog S/A

"It was great in every aspect. The course itself made us see more clearly how urban sites can be improved."

Associate Professor, Wentworth Institute of Technology

"Wonderful and well worth it!"

Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

"Incredible. I've attended a two-day professional education course at Harvard GSD in the past, and this course far exceeded my experience there. MIT is dynamic, interdisciplinary, hands-on and cutting edge in comparison."

Senior Professional, Chamber of Commerce of Bogota, Colombia

"This is the real Smart Cities strategy, that should be spread all over the world. Thank you."



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We can also offer this course for groups of employees at your location. Please complete the Custom Programs request form for further details.


Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools (25%) 25
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (25%) 25
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (25%) 25
Real-World Implementation: Design and decision-making for change (25%) 25

Delivery Methods: 

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (35%) 35
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (35%) 35
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (30%) 30


Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (50%) 50
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (25%) 25
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (25%) 25