Technology

A broad category of content focused on technology in cities.

Examples: IoT, privacy, software, hardware, innovation, connectivity

The Smart City Starter Set

As with AMI and smart lighting, the core benefit is efficiency, in this case in the form of reduced energy and water consumption. If the building design is extended to include technologies such as roof-top energy generation and water recycling, then it is increasingly possible to create, at reasonable cost, zero net impact buildings. Smart buildings may also incorporate green roofs, both to help manage temperature and heat island effects, and also to delay storm water run-off.

The New Data-Centric Approach to Improving Urban Air Quality

Today, continued advances in low-cost sensors and the Internet of Things have enabled the next-generation of air quality monitoring that can provide decision makers and communities with accurate, high resolution data at costs orders of magnitude lower than traditional monitoring stations. Cloud-based platforms and machine learning can ensure these low-cost solutions are increasingly accurate and remain calibrated. Further, these new solutions are often designed for minimal maintenance to ensure they remain feasible for city budgets (or other operators) over the long term.

Regional Sustainability at the District Level

At the recent Global Cities Team Challenge Expo, Acquanetta Warren, the Mayor of Fontana California, expressed that ‘Technology makes government more accessible.’ Similar to cities, however, district-level organizations face constant challenges associated with financial and human resource constraints. In an environment of competing priorities and limited resources, strategies that depend on upfront investment and long-term returns are difficult to adopt at any level of governance.

Sustainability programs often require such long-term visions and upfront investment. In order for smart districts to become sustainable districts, it is imperative to develop strategies that leverage administrative frameworks, external resources, and novel technologies to minimize costs and facilitate continuous progress.

The Onramp to the Internet is Broken, But Cities Can Fix It

The most glaring flaw in the design of the current ISP model is that it directly contradicts the design and implementation of the internet. The internet is a platform that is open to innovation and competition, and thereby moves control to the customer. Our onramp to the internet, the ISP, is a closed platform that takes control from the customer.

The internet moves power to the consumer and provides a wealth of choices. ISPs control power by controlling infrastructure and, therefore, they constrict choice.

What Would I do With an Earth Scientist?

For too long, science – even Earth science – has been dominated by theoretical work, measured progress in publications aimed at a small number of peers, and assumed a “loading dock” approach (just do the science, and someone will pick it up and use it).  Arguably, this has contributed to the disconnect between Earth scientists and communities and maybe even to skepticism about some Earth science findings. It is, unfortunately, not a truth universally acknowledged that communities seek science, let alone Earth science. This is bad for Earth science, bad for the communities, and bad for the planet.

Neighborhood Knowledge Supports Resilient Communities

Long Island City is a New York City neighborhood on the rise, literally. There is more real estate being built in Long Island City (LIC) than any other neighborhood in the country right now, on a square foot basis. Many local factors drive this growth. To understand these local factors and the impact that this development will have on the neighborhood going forward, the LIC community needed a way to collect and analyze local data from a range of different sources. The Long Island City Partnership, a local development corporation that manages the LIC Business Improvement District, collects and analyzes data related to neighborhood conditions and real estate development. The members of the LIC Partnership know everything there is to know about the area, what makes it perform its best and how to improve the neighborhood.

The Case for “Bottom-Up” Smart City Development

A “bottom-up” approach means being intentional about systematically incorporating citizen voice throughout a smart cities project lifecycle. This is needed to help move urban residents from passive consumers to engaged consumers. And this trend will continue to rise as urban dwellers are demanding more flexible, personalized services. Additionally, building an infrastructure to continuously manage and measure what matters most to advance the economic and social well-being of a city can’t happen in a vacuum; it requires broad-based community engagement.

Where Smart Cities and Utilities Overlap

The concept of Smart Cities offers the promise of urban hubs leveraging connected technologies to become increasingly prosperous, safe, healthy, resilient, and clean. What may not be obvious in achieving these objectives is that many already-existing utility assets can serve as the foundation for a Smart City transition. The following is a broad discussion on the areas of overlap between utilities and smart cities, highlighting working knowledge from experience at PG&E.

The Limits of Data

When the idea of smart cities was born, some ten to fifteen years ago, engineers, including me, saw it primarily as a control system problem with the goal of improving efficiency, specifically the sustainability of the city. Indeed, the source of much of the early technology was the process industry, which was a pioneer in applying intelligent control to chemical plants, oil refineries, and power stations. Such plants superficially resemble cities: spatial scales from meters to kilometers, temporal scales from seconds to days, similar scales of energy and material inputs, and thousands of sensing and control points.

So it seemed quite natural to extend such sophisticated control systems to the management of cities. The ability to collect vast amounts of data – even in those pre-smart phone days – about what goes on in cities and to apply analytics to past, present, and future states of the city seemed to offer significant opportunities for improving efficiency and resilience. Moreover, unlike tightly-integrated process plants, cities seemed to decompose naturally into relatively independent sub-systems: transportation, building management, water supply, electricity supply, waste management, and so forth. Smart meters for electricity, gas, and water were being installed. GPS devices were being imbedded in vehicles and mobile telephones. Building controls were gaining intelligence. Cities were a major source for Big Data. With all this information available, what could go wrong?

The City as an Instrument of Public Health

The concept of urban health is becoming an increasing concern as awareness of the true extent of the issue spreads. Particularly for health services in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), which are already struggling to cope with the burden of infectious diseases, the added pressure of NCDs poses a serious threat.

And yet, this does not need to be the case. There is positive work that can make an enormous difference to the health of city-dwellers. We need to close the gap between awareness and action, recognizing cities’ potential enabling features to address public health issues.

What Does Equity Have To Do With Tech?

Unlocking the tech sector’s potential in Chicago (and beyond) means confronting segregation and inequality.

The tech field suffers from a costly cycle of inequity. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that, compared to other private industries, high-tech companies hire a disproportionate number of white people and men—68.5% and 64% of employees, respectively. Meanwhile, the STEM workforce in the U.S. is projected to grow exponentially; already, in job-rich Cook County and DuPage counties, tech jobs grew 14% and 18% between 2009 and mid-2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the city’s tech sector grows, so might inequality—unless more leaders like Sales-Griffin step up with creative interventions. Today in Chicago, just 12% of Latinos and 20% of African-Americans have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 44% of whites. The diversity talent gap threatens the tech sector’s vitality.

Combining Technologies to Bring Connectivity to the Community

Rhyzome Networks has undertaken a project to upgrade the equipment used for wireless access in order to create stronger connections between the root access points and the repeaters. Our new network does not rely on the original projects wireless mesh and fibre combination, and instead uses wireless point-to-point and fibre for the backhaul of information and the aging 7181 access points will be swapped out in favor of Aruba units.

Our journey into telecommunications began in 2009 as an initiative to provide a backhaul for Festival Hydro’s smart metering system. That project led us down a path to offering wireless and fibre optic connections. It became clear early on in the project that the infrastructure we were putting in place provided us with the opportunity to create a robust backbone that would support the offering of affordable internet and other connectivity options in a community that was, at the time, largely overlooked by the big players in the Canadian telecommunications space.