A Preview of Sessions: Meeting of the Minds 2013 in Toronto

By Jessie Feller Hahn, Executive Director, Meeting of the Minds

Jessie Feller Hahn is the Executive Director of Meeting of the Minds where she is responsible for identifying global urban sustainability, innovation, technology best practices and thought leadership, developing platforms for city leaders to share lessons learned, and building alliances and partnerships across and within sectors.

May 20, 2013 | Announcements | 2 comments

We are working hard to organize a rich line-up of sessions and speakers at Meeting of the Minds 2013 in Toronto this September. More importantly, we are building-in a lot of discussion and networking time for you to exchange ideas one-on-one with each other.

Not all of our sessions have been finalized yet, but we are well on our way and I wanted to give you a sneak peek at what we have planned.

More sessions and descriptions will be available soon. You can see a sketch of our full Toronto agenda here.

One particularly exciting new session on September 11th is Three Next Gen Leaders – Inventing the Urban Digital Future. For five minutes each, we will hear from three young entrepreneurs working at Ryerson University Digital Media Zone. They will each pitch their start-ups and the audience will have time to question them about their concepts and youngcompanies.

Another exciting session on September 11th includes Smarter Cities Challenge: A Conversation with Four Mayors moderated by Stan Litow, VP of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President at IBM. Stan will lead a panel discussion with four mayors to discuss how these Mayors are implementing smart city strategies through their Smarter Cities Challenge grants. Mayors will be announced soon.

Smart Devices and Embedded Sensing Technology – Impacts on Water and Energy

Digital technology and intelligent infrastructure form the foundation for smart cities. Innovative technologies enable data to be delivered by and through connected devices. How is it actually empowering cities, utilities, businesses and consumers to better manage energy and water? How, in real practice, is the untapped power of smart devices being harnessed to make cities more efficient and conserve resources? What’s driving the rapid adoption of emerging technologies? How are these technologies promoting sustainable economic growth?

Connected Boomers Will Change Mobility – Are We Ready?

How would your life change if you could no longer drive? Baby boomers are an influential generation and significant segment of the population. They will be the first cohort of seniors to be tech savvy; they are also largely car dependent, living in communities with poor access to driving alternatives. How will we move this aging population when our transportation system is catered to commuters in denser communities? Senior mobility may seem an insurmountable challenge, but the sheer force and influence of this generation could turn it into a tremendous opportunity. Join us in reimagining a transportation system that leverages technology and creates seamless networks, enabling a mobile future for seniors.

To learn more: Adapting Urban Mobility to an Aging Baby Boomer Population

Connecting the Dots: Clean Energy Generation – Smart Grid – Electric Vehicle – Efficient Building

New technological innovations are enabling the ‘smart city’ concept to come to fruition through the integration of once isolated and separate functions. Developments in smart grid DC technology are now enabling the electric vehicle revolution. The vehicle is now seen as a battery storage and energy resiliency mechanism for homes. And buildings are increasingly efficient with the advent of energy management software. How are all of these assets communicating with each other?  How do these assets work in tandem and can they work alone? Are we seeing the emergence of a new economy around these assets that promises to make our cities more efficient?

Chaos in Urbanism – Harnessing Uncertainty for Successful Cities

More than ever before, people are fearful that the world is unwinding under the assault of an array of financial, social, cultural and environmental dangers. This session explores and provides insight into cities that experience high uncertainty on a daily basis; surviving and thriving in conditions many would consider untenable to supporting civilized life. Lessons learned will focus on the means for preparing our communities to possess an agile, robust capability of accepting and assimilating seriously significant change as well as designing to embrace and harness chaos.

See also: a related webinar, featuring HOK’s Director of Design, Gordon Stratford.

Urban Resilience and Disaster Recovery in Global Cities: How Cities are Using Performance Indicators to Better Prepare

While we strive to build resilient cities, Superstorm Sandy exposed acute urban vulnerabilities. Servers were downed; electrical connections were lost; cell service was disrupted; public transit mostly halted — business and civic leaders were forced to find new ways to maintain the continuity of vital services. This workshop will focus on one of the strategies which leaders are now using in their quest for high-performance. A common set of indicators that are globally standardized within the ISO framework is generating learning across cities globally.  How are performance measurement standards helping some of the smartest urban leaders become resilient?

Harnessing the power of metrics in day-to-day decision-making is not easy for anyone, and perhaps especially so for the public sector; there are not many “How To” books published on this subject.  However, more informed cities can lead to transformative decision-making; the adoption of strategic technology and innovations; cost-effective solutions for infrastructure investments; and, smarter, healthier futures for citizens. This session will reveal some of the lessons-learned in different cities as they embrace indicators to accelerate the transition.

Creative Repurposing – Heritage Districts as Urban Sustainable Communities

This session will explore strategies for moving beyond the concept of heritage resources managed just for the conservation of their historical attributes. This workshop seeks to expand the definition of heritage districts and explore how they might offer a new model for sustainable communities. Participants will explore how heritage sites could be retrofitted into model energy districts and offer communities various environmental benefits including micro-climatic outcomes such as improving the health of mature urban forests and canopies. A focus on accessibility issues in heritage settings will offer participants a chance to see how nodal centers draw communities towards healthy transit options.

What Can Cities Learn? Lessons from 30+ Mega Urban Transport Infrastructure Projects

The London-based OMEGA Centre at the Bartlett at University College London completed a 5-year project aimed at enhancing decision-making for Mega Urban Transport Projects (MUTPs). The focus of this session is on lessons drawn from 30+ case studies of MUTPs in US, Europe, Asia, Australia. Lessons will be in the spotlight from the planning, appraisal and delivery of MUTPs. What constitutes a successful, robust, adaptable MUTP that is sensitive to sustainable development concerns.

The aim is to get beyond the “iron triangle” of traditional project management concerns: completing projects on time, within budget and to specification. The material derived from case studies provides important generic and context-specific insights. This session shares lessons at all three levels, drawing on interviews and narratives about the case studies with 300+ key project stakeholders. These leaders were asked to go over and above the insights provided in public domain materials. In the light of 21st century urban development challenges, what constitutes a successful MUTP?

Building Urban Resiliency through Scenario Planning

The world’s cities are under intense pressure to address accelerating urbanization and find better ways of developing.  At the heart of this challenge is the need to rethink how we design, build and use infrastructure, recognizing our current patterns are inefficient and unsustainable. The decisions we make today lock us in for decades to come. How do we ensure they lead us to success? What shifts are needed to avoid failure?

Evergreen will provide its insights by profiling a major research and scenario planning project it is undertaking in partnership with the Word Bank and others to forecast urban infrastructure investments over the next 50 years and envision alternative futures that lead to greater resiliency.

Big Innovation Idea: Understanding Complex Urban Systems through Agent-based Simulation (ABS)

Agent-based simulation (ABS) is a technique that allows decision makers to test what-if scenarios for a variety of complex problems. Agent-based simulation replicates in software the behavior of individuals and their interactions with the environment, to reveal how overall system behavior emerges from these interactions. In collaboration with Evergreen, Cisco and Schneider Electric, Icosystem has developed BEES (Building Energy Efficiency Simulator), an agent-based simulation that shows how building occupants interact with energy-saving technologies to influence overall energy consumption. A demo of BEES will be available to the public during Meeting of the Minds, and also on the Evergreen and Icosystem websites. The presentation will provide background information on agent-based simulation, it will describe BEES, and it will outline the potential for further applications of this approach in the design and management of building energy systems.

Big Innovation Idea: 3-D Printing and Fabrication Labs: Revitalization Strategies for Sustainable Cities

3D-printing is not just the future of manufacturing. It means that we can bring back a maker’s economy to inner cities. Being able to make, create, hack, and design is at the center of a new economy. Fabrication Labs (FabLabs) will soon pop up all over cities and be fuelled by imaginative design. Together this will represent substantial economical value for cities seeking sustainable ways to revitalize. Certain cities may not be able to compete on labor costs but they can create tremendous value when design is more closely linked with the process of 3-D printing.

Many examples of the makers economy already exist but one particularly exciting example in the lighting industry captures the spirit of this trend. Rogier will share a detailed model of how a 3D-printing based delivery model for luminaires would not only liberate consumers and enable their own creativity, but also boost a local and clean makers economy in cities through jobs, income, and a new urban future.

Big Innovation Idea: Bridging the Gap Between Industry and Cities — New ‘Smart City’ Business Models

The ‘smart city’ is both a nascent concept and an emerging reality. A major gap still exists: the space between city administrations and industry. Smart city technology is available — but new business models are needed to make city-wide transformation. It may require new regulation and new financing models. City leaders are beginning to look at urban systems in more holistic ways. One creative approach involves contracts that are broader in scope and more experimental. This is allowing for city services to integrate more comprehensively, taking advantage of sometimes hidden synergies and interconnections. What elements are necessary to bridge these gaps? What cities are successfully implementing one or more of these new approaches?.

The Last Mile to Unlock Sustainability

Unlocking sustainability in cities requires making transformation practical. How are these entrepreneurs (SMEs and large multinationals) affecting change in their fields and for their clients? What systemic and integrated approaches are working in cities? This workshop will discuss user interface design and behavior modification, smart city integration of services and systems, and new financing models. Are they transferable, scalable and replicable? The discussion will begin with three different approaches that are making splashes in the ‘smart city’ space and then turn to workshop participants to hear reactions, ideas and other case studies from around the world.

Creative Funding Mechanisms for Revitalizing Cities

Even when the demand is strong within cities for greater environmental, economic, and social sustainability, one big barrier seems to be commonplace: the absence of adequate government funding. This is one more obstacle standing in the way of harnessing new solutions and deploying new tech. Who, and what, can provide a better basis for partnership between government executives and technology suppliers, especially those private companies that stand ready to provide the solution-as-a-service? What new business models are being developed and deployed?.

The Internet of Everything: Connecting the Unconnected

The next wave of dramatic change will come through the confluence of people, process, data, and things. The Internet of Everything makes networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before — turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.  Cisco estimates that 99.4 percent of physical objects in the world are still unconnected. With only about 10 billion of the 1.5 trillion things currently connected globally, there is vast potential to connect the unconnected via the IoE. Between 2013 and 2022, $14.4 trillion of value (net profit) will be “up for grabs” for private-sector companies and industries globally — driven by IoE. The IoE Economy is about enabling people to be more productive and effective, make better decisions, and enjoy a better quality of life.

The Economic Development Case for Urban Social Equity

Advancing equity – just and fair inclusion into a society in which everyone can participate and prosper – has often been viewed separate from, or even opposed to, efforts to foster economic competiveness and efficiencies in the marketplace. This panel makes the case that in light of the nation’s demographic transformation, pursuing strategies that create more inclusion are no longer only moral imperatives—they are economic ones. Presenters will share the latest on the demographic shifts changing the country, outline emerging research that makes the case that equity-driven growth and business development are fundamental to the nation’s economic future, and provide concrete examples of how universities, hospitals, and other anchor institutions can catalyze inclusive economic development.

Smarter Cities Challenge: A Conversation with Four Mayors

With an estimated one million people worldwide moving into cities each week, experts predict the global urban population to double by 2050 to 6.4 billion – making up 70% of the total world population. IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge (SCC) grants to 100 cities around the world are enabling cities to make transformational changes which have resulted in many new insights. Hear directly from a panel of Mayors whose cities have won SCC grants. These four Mayors will discuss what they have learned in their own urban laboratories and the changes and improvements they are making as a result of their projects.


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  1. A great mix of topics from big data to smart cities and resiliency all combined with industry leaders and government – fantastic

    • Thanks Darin — good to hear from you and I hope we see you in Toronto!


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