Meeting of the Minds took a few moments to talk with Herrie Schalekamp about new working relationships between researchers and paratransit operators in South Africa and beyond. Herrie is the ACET Research Officer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies. In addition to his research, teaching and consulting in the fields of paratransit and public transport reform he is involved in specialised educational programmes for paratransit operators and government officials. Herrie’s activities form part of a broader endeavour to investigate and contribute to improved public transport operations and regulation in Sub-Saharan African cities under ACET – the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport.
The Intersection of Smart Cities & Smart State Policy
As homes, businesses, cities and governments continue to migrate to newer, faster technologies, the world is witnessing a seismic shift in how we all live, work, and communicate. Advanced, Internet-based technologies have become the primary mechanism by which cities and communities gather, share, and grow. Today, there are some 15 billion internet connected devices, think Internet of Things (IoT), and that number is estimated to jump to 50 billion by 2020. In order to keep up with this staggering demand, we need public policies that support the shift from outdated networks to modern infrastructure.
Unlike the monopoly era telephone networks still in existence, modern IP networks actually have the capacity to keep up with our changing society by quickly and efficiently transmitting vast amounts of data. These modern networks are vital as cities more fully employ IoT technologies to better manage data and municipal resources. These IoT technologies weave through smart cities creating interoperability between resource agencies, allowing those agencies to serve the public at maximum efficiency. Yet that efficiency requires 21st-century infrastructure which necessitates smart state policies.
In California, a bill currently before the legislature, AB 2395, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low, seeks to transition—starting in 2020—from the outmoded legacy phone system to advanced IP-based technologies and services. The bill recognizes the future needs of California and sets the right policy goals to promote IP networks and services across the state. This policy framework creates the right environment to build out modern infrastructure that can make cities and communities across California smarter and more sustainable.
New communications infrastructure is already leading to energy optimizations, improved resource allocation, and more sustainable urban habitats. This network modernization is critical as urban populations globally are projected to grow by around 60 million people each year. Rapid urbanization strains resources and can deeply impact the environment.
Cities must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and intelligently in order to conserve resources and mitigate risk. For example, it’s not uncommon for a city to lose up to 50 percent of water via leaks. Drought-plagued California as a whole loses more than 220 billion gallons of potable water a year due to leaks. IoT technologies offer cities the ability to recognize these vulnerabilities, and collect and analyze increasingly large amounts of data in order to better manage critical resources.
More than ever it’s important that policymakers support modern network technology infrastructure that will allow for unprecedented information and data sharing. AB 2395 addresses the reality that old phone networks cannot support California’s future needs, and these old networks are diverting significant investment and resources away from modern infrastructure. Only IP-based technologies and services can seamlessly deliver data and information to improve the sustainability of our cities and improve our quality of life. Simple policy changes, like those provided by AB 2395, can be an essential tool to deliver the mechanisms for this valuable and necessary technology shift.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Brownfields are sites that are vacant or underutilized due to environmental contamination, real or imagined. There are brownfields of some kind in virtually every city and town in the U.S., usually related to a gas station, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, car dealership or some other ubiquitous local business that once benefited the community it now burdens with environmental hazards or old buildings.
In addressing this issue, technology has not been effectively deployed to promote redevelopment of these sites and catalyze community revitalization. We find that the question around the use of technology and data in advancing the redevelopment of brownfields is twofold:
How can current and future technology advancements be applied to upgrade existing brownfield modeling tools? And then, how can those modeling tools be used to accelerate transformative, sustainable, and smart redevelopment and community revitalization?
Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.
These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off, improve air quality, and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make.