In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
Transforming Detroit into a Smarter City
Detroit is at a tipping point. The city’s outmigration has led to city planning and funding challenges, forcing Detroit and its residents to reinvent the city. The challenges Detroit faces also offer an opportunity and a platform for discussion about alternative urban futures that are relevant for all cities. As Detroit explores ways to rebuild a “smarter” city and embed technology into city services, Meeting of the Minds 2014 will convene Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 to share ideas for building smarter cities. In conjunction with Meeting of the Minds, Itron and DTE Energy, one of the nation’s largest diversified energy companies, unveiled a smart cities demonstration project that highlights the important role smart technologies will play in cities of the future.
The smart cities project supports bridging silos of smart technologies – such as sensors, distributed intelligence and communications – by integrating technology and analytics to create cohesive engagement between citizens, businesses and the community. Visitors to the project will learn about the important role that citizens play in creating environments that are more interactive, empowering, efficient, livable and workable. Smart city components of the demonstration project include mobile applications, an educational kiosk, aerial vehicles, electric vehicle charging station, intelligent streetlights, leak detection technology and analytics.
- DTE Insight – DTE Insight is an interactive phone app for customers with advanced meters, allowing them to manage their energy usage and receive details on when, where and how energy is being used.
- Itron City App – The Itron City app allows citizens to report city issues when they spot them, such as graffiti, crime, street lights, plugged storm drains, outages, water leaks, pot holes, abandoned cars and more. This enables cities to be more efficient and save money by deputizing citizens to easily report issues.
- Itron Insights App – Itron collaborated with Microsoft, as a part of its CityNext initiative, to design and deliver Itron Insights, an energy and water analyzer application. The application, based on Windows 8, provides cities with a clear view into energy costs, water revenue and expenses and CO2 impacts.
- Educational Kiosk – The educational kiosk allows employees and visitors to learn about smart cities and why they are important. With the kiosk’s interactive tools, users can test their smart city knowledge and build their own smart city using elements, such as streetlights, EV charging stations, leak sensors and more.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – Commonly referred to as “drones” or “remotely piloted aircrafts,” unmanned aerial vehicles have the ability to visually inspect city- or utility-owned assets, such as downed power lines, solar panels or fires and relay a video feed to control centers on the ground.
- Smart Electric Vehicle Charging Station – The Itron/ClipperCreek electric vehicle (EV) charging station, which combines a revenue-grade meter and WiFi technology, allows drivers to obtain charging data from their smartphones, including estimated cost of full charge, time to full charge, estimate range at current charge and estimated time of full charge.
- Intelligent Streetlights – Intelligent streetlights provide smart cities with the ability to remotely monitor, control and measure the performance of fixtures wirelessly, while maximizing energy and operational cost savings. Using a sensing approach to monitor equipment cycling and control behavior enhances system safety, environmental sustainability and service levels.
- Leak Detection – Globally, an average of more than 30 percent of water pumped through distribution systems is lost to leaks and theft. Leak detection technology provides valuable insights into the health of underground infrastructure and can have an immediate impact on conservation programs, revenue and profitability projections, and overall operational efficiency.
- Big Data Analytics – Big data is instrumental to the success of smart cities, whether applying transportation management, balancing the energy and water nexus, lighting controls, building efficiencies, leak detection, revenue protection, safety measures or other applications. Sensors, smart meters, communications and analytic software render near real-time data to provide unprecedented insights and intuition into the operations and human interactions of smart cities.
The way cities and citizen manage energy and water will shape this century. This requires more creative thinking and collaboration than ever before. Itron and DTE Energy’s smart cities demonstration project will showcase how smart solutions can help cities become more efficient and give citizens the information to engage with their own resource use to make more sustainable choices. By accessing information and data collected from various devices and sensors across a multitude of infrastructures, smart cities are able to manage their systems more efficiently and intelligently. Detroit is an important test-bed for these integrated, smart systems. Itron’s work with DTE, their joint demonstration project and the Meeting of the Minds gathering in Detroit are critical steps in rebuilding a smart city.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.
Urban Planning Today: Perception vs. Reality When the planning profession was still nascent in the 1950’s, well defined social needs and the desire to improve poor living conditions were the dominant basis for policy and regulation. By the time the 1970’s and 80’s...