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Soft machine

If Watson can win Jeopardy, can IBM make cities smarter?

Photo: Rodrigo SennaIBM has generated a lot of buzz lately for Watson, its game-show-playing supercomputer that recently bested a couple of skin jobs on "Jeopardy." Less high profile is the expansion of Big Blue's computer and software systems designed to monitor and control municipal water, energy, and transportation systems. Developed under the umbrella of IBM's Smarter Planet effort, such systems are designed to cut water and energy consumption and save cities money. On Monday, IBM announced a series of projects showing that in the future, public works may be just as much about sensors and cloud computing as pipes and …

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over a barrel

SYMPATHY RAGE: Watch Henry Blodget yell about this country’s complete lack of an energy plan

Feeling angry that America's economy is about to fall apart because oil and gas industries have a stranglehold on our political landscape, sprawl rules your city and no one seems willing to move toward a more rational energy and transportation future? You're welcome.

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Plugging in

Chicago to build electric car charging network

An electric car charging station next to a gas station in Lake Oswego, Ore.Photo: Todd MecklemFirst Chicago gets Rahm Emanuel, now electric cars. Well, at least an electric car infrastructure. In a move that indicates electric cars won't just be a phenomenon of Greater Portlandia, utility Exelon and the city will roll out 280 charging stations across Chicagoland by year's end. Two stations will even be solar-powered. It's part of a smart grid demonstration project, partially funded by the federal government, to get a jump-start on the potential impact on the electric system if Chicagoans start buying battery-powered vehicles in …

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WELCOME TO PORTLANDIA

Your guide to a great green weekend in Portland

Portland's swanky Sapphire Hotel.Photo: Sarah Gilbert Can you think of a greener city than Portland? Nope, didn't think so. The City of Roses occupies a warm, squishy spot in the hearts of many a biker, climate hawk, and nature-lovah. We asked you to share your fave local breweries, organic cafés, and green hangouts, and compiled your best ideas into a car-free guide to a great green weekend in Portland. Friday night Click to enlargeFrom the Amtrak or Greyhound station, arm yourself with $2.05 and follow these directions to the Portland Hawthorne Hostel (they work if you're coming from the airport …

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Winning ways

Philips wants to reward some innovative urban ideas

A rendering showing how rooftops in Sana'a, Yemen, could be used to collect water.The ideal of smart cities -- technologically advanced, forward-thinking, and green -- is big in corporate circles these days. IBM has its "Smarter Cities" program, Cisco has its "Smart+Connected Communities," and the giant electronics corporation Philips has been promoting the concept of "Livable Cities" lately. (This webcast they put together with participants including urbanism guru Richard Florida and former London mayor Ken Livingstone gives a good overview of what they mean by that.) Philips is currently sponsoring a "Livable Cities Award" ("designed to generate practical, achievable ideas …

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The village green

Are the British building the perfect town?

The U.K.'s greenest, cutest town. Image: Red Tree (2004) LLPCharles, the prince of Wales, is building the U.K.'s greenest town. We know what you're thinking, because we've seen Hot Fuzz too: It's important to be suspicious of British villages that look too good to be true. But Sherford, a planned eco-town that was just approved for construction in southwestern England, has a lot going for it. It won't be finished until 2020, so we don't know yet if it'll be secretly full of armed grannies, but on paper at least it's pretty cool. The activist formerly known as Prince: You'd …

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Salt of rebirth

An arts district brings life to Syracuse — and it’s green, too

Photo: SALT District Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Coauthored by Aaron Welch. Take one part Paducah (arts-driven revitalization), one part Old North Saint Louis (incremental restoration of abandoned historic properties), mix in some serious winter weather, and you might just come out with something a lot like the Syracuse (NY) SALT District, an ambitious and fascinating arts-and-technology-driven revitalization effort. According to the project's web site, the initiative is aimed at nothing less than creating "a new epicenter of artistic and cultural development in the Syracuse and Central Upstate New York area." It is being led by the Near …