By Susan Lee
Driverless vehicles. Sensor-laden street lighting. Smart water.
Cities across the nation are adopting innovative technology, transforming into “smart cities.”
Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley, a bi-annual conference organized by the Smart Cities Council, brings together leaders from government and industry to share best practices about programs and pilots around the country and even the world, that relate to smart technology.
“We’re trying to alert cities on the best practices and allow to meet with other cities who have been there before and share lessons learned, “Jesse Berst, the founder and chair of the Smart Cities Council, which began in 2012. “It’s a really exciting time in the sector as we’re going from the early adopters to early mainstream, and so it’s really important that cities get it right.”
Icons of Infrastructure spoke with five key speakers and panel members that attended the conference, who shared their vision of the smart cities of the future, the trends in smart city technology, the initiatives around the country they’re most excited about, and the challenges of making cities “smart.”
The Evolving Utility-City Partnership
Bob Borzillo, vice president smart cities business development, Itron
The positive momentum I have recently experienced in the Smart Cities Council, is the partnerships forming between the electric utilities and the cities and communities they serve. Itron has been providing solutions to electric, gas, water utilities and cities both large and small, with solutions that help them better manage energy and water. The opportunity we discussed during the panel at Smart Cities Week, is centered around utility-city partnerships and specifically the Urbanova Smart City project in Spokane, WA. The breakthrough from my perspective is that, when it comes to smart cities, utilities are now being viewed as a key contributor in strategic plans for a city and communities.
In the past, the city and utility relationship was focused primarily on providing electricity, gas, or water. Today, the utility industry is going through major transformation. Revenues are flat and not growing and investments are getting scrutinized during utility rate cases. Utilities have historically managed infrastructure and the electric grid in a safe, reliable and cost effective manner and many smart city initiatives involve deploying infrastructure which could be performed and managed by their local utility.
Advances in open and standards based communications networks, whether it’s a smart and connected streetlight solution or a utility advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution, these platforms can now be leveraged for other use cases within the city. This presents other opportunities for utilities to seek new business models where they could potentially garner new revenues through managing streetlight infrastructure or offering other digital services within the city. By having a leadership role in a city/community overall smart city plans, utilities can strengthen their relationships while pursuing new revenues.
Through these strategic utility – city partnerships, cities become more livable, workable and sustainable to the benefit of its citizens.
What ‘Smart’ Means
Don Jacobson, enterprise project manager, City of Las Vegas, Nevada
The term smart city has been around like 26 years now, and if you ask anyone in the room they’re going to have a different opinion of what that means. To me, when a city is smart it’s like the dictionary definition of being smart: quick-witted, intelligent– and getting things done in a quick manner.
And the way that they do that is with sensors. In the past, you would have to send out a person to observe and record. Now a sensor can do that 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And they can go to multiple locations and all come back to a central location and give you the information you need for situational awareness to deploy resources effectively and efficiently.
And that’s exactly what we’re doing in the city of Las Vegas. We’re deploying sensors throughout the city to monitor, collect data, analyze that data and report back on our findings throughout all of the departments, so they can operate more effectively.
Whether you’re an individual or an organization, or you’re a city like Las Vegas, or even the planet, resources are all finite. And economics and science is focused on the efficient use of finite resources.
So simply put, being smart means being sustainable, which in the case of Las Vegas, is very important.
We exist in a desert environment. We have a couple million people that live in the valley, and 44 million a year that fly in or drive into the valley that visit us. All of them are consuming resources, whether it be water, gasoline or other types of energy. And for us to be able to do that, over the long term, we are going to need to be as efficient as possible with managing those resources. So that’s where city government comes in play in that we are the ones best suited to gather data — traffic, people, economic activity — and do something with that data to make wise decisions that will not only enable Las Vegas to thrive economically now but to continue to thrive for decades and generations to come.