In the pantheon of Next Big Thing trends, the concept of “smart cities” is one of the trendiest, writes Ben Rooney in the Wall Street Journal.

The idea is that by harvesting the incredible amount of data “exhaust” that every one of us generates as we traverse a city, planners can optimize services in the city to make them more efficient, cleaner and cheaper. But there is a fear that such top-down programs may threaten the very vitality that attracts people to cities in the first place.

A very different kind of smart-city initiative has had success in cities as diverse culturally and geographically as San Francisco and Singapore, and is coming to Europe. Called Urban Prototyping, the movement approaches cities from a bottom-up—not top-down—viewpoint.

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