Roundtable Discussion Featuring Smart Cities

As the image below shows, the size and scale of megacities is growing at a near exponential pace. As cities continue to grow, the importance of connected infrastructure and intelligent building design, i.e. the development of Smart Cities, will become increasingly important. This month the IoTC asked subject matter experts to give us their take on a variety of issues in the Smart Cities space.

Source: Bank of America report on Smart Cities (21st Century Cities: Global Smart Cities Primer)

Source: Bank of America report on Smart Cities (21st Century Cities: Global Smart Cities Primer)

Thomas Walle, CEO & Co-Founder of Unacast

  • How should cities be making the case to its citizens for funding smart city investments?

There is a lot of uncertainty with IoT investments, and now in the early days, it is critical that cities can show projects that provide direct benefits in the short term - rather than 10-15 year projects - if they expect citizens to support the investment. Keeping IoT tangible and real is one of the most important tasks for cities, companies and anyone who wants to build an IoT future.

  • For citizens who are unaware of smart cities, or smart cities initiatives, how can local governments increase public education of the benefits of IoT technology?

The same goes here, build something that is real, tangible and with a short-term benefit, at the same time as the city has to keep its vision and focus on where it wants to be in 10-20 years. It's a challenging balance, but real projects that are being used is key to educate the population. At the same time, to increase education, governments need to look at how different IoT installations can work together in a city. One IoT project alone and in isolation will not release its full potential. It's when the technology is combined that we will see the real results. One example is how IoT sensors in store, cafes, hotels, etc, combined with self-driving cars will make it easier for the car to navigate in the city and find the right venues where people are being dropped off or picked up, rather than using inaccurate GPS signals.

  • What are some early success stories you've seen with smart cities? Any promising results and case studies we should all be aware of?

Singapore has deployed a massive amount of sensors and cameras around the city to analyze traffic congestion and crowd density. This enables the government and officials to reroute buses at rush hour, avert traffic jams and even be able to predict how new buildings may affect wind patterns or communication signals.

Barcelona has also made a lot of investments with their projects. Firstly, they installed wireless LED street lights to reduce energy usage. Secondly, they deployed a network of ground sensors to forecast rainfall estimates and temperature, which the sensors use to adjust the city’s sprinkler systems and fountains for efficiency, saving the city $555,000 annually.

 

Peter Esser, Head of Government Affairs at NXP Semiconductors

  • How should cities make the case to its citizens for funding smart city investments?

Investing in a smart city is not just about technology, it is about improving the lives of citizens. Urban migration has increased the need and demand for public transit options. Transportation connects us to opportunity. Transportation puts people to work and makes us more competitive in the global economy. People want infrastructure that reduces congestion and provides flexibility while protecting the environment. People want high-speed trains that shuttle between cities and light rail systems that connect to jobs. They want bike paths, bike shares, buses, and streetcars that give them the option to leave the car at home. They are looking for flexible car sharing options with less financial and logistical burdens. The proof is in the numbers. People are taking a record number of trips on public transportation. Amtrak ridership has grown more than 40 percent in the last ten years. Over 20 American cities now operate bike shares, and each program has been met with incredible popularity.

Every year, 1.3 million people die in road accidents around the globe. The implementation of V2X and other intelligent transport systems will significantly reduce accidents, hours spent in traffic jams and CO2 emissions.  However, safe and secure mobility can only come to life if there’s a commitment to collaboration, new technology adoption and enhancedinfrastructure.

With the enablement of intelligent traffic systems, roadways will become safer for all of us. It can improve fuel economy for larger vehicles like semis and buses, and allow us to choose routes based on distance, time and environmental impact. Vehicles will communicate with infrastructure to clear a just-in-time path through traffic.  With expanded availability of modern transportation options with bus, light rail, heavy rail, car share, or bike share, that all may be accessed via a common credential, our daily commutes become less tedious and more productive.  ITS and mobility modernization lead to an improved environment for today and tomorrow.

Additionally, our urban environments are populated by more and more connected “Things” equipped with many different sensors for data capture and analytics. A city that invests in smart solutions can kick-start a wider technology ecosystem, enabling innovation in city services to thrive. A simple example like a connected trash dumpster that notifies the city or contractor that it is near full, can enable a city to significantly reduce the number of times dumpsters are emptied simply because that is the routine.  There are also additional examples of intelligent power grids, water, and street lighting that can reduce wasteful resource over-utilization.

  • What role do private partners and businesses play in the realization of smart cities?

The private industry plays an important role in the planning and development of smart cities. By way of example, NXP as a technology leader and application solutions provider, provides city planners and traffic engineers overviews of technology, products, and application solutions such as DSRC for V2V and V2I, intelligent roadside units for V2I, with bicyclist and pedestrian detection, and secure mobile transit fare solutions. The private industry provides further benefit to city officials when they combine their technology and product overviews in-concert with selected ecosystem partners that can deliver complete solutions applicable for smart city planning and implementation including product maintenance support during and post implementation phase. The knowledge and product/service support that the private industry in a partnership can provide is invaluable for city departments lacking the technical knowledge and resources to scout, define and execute to implementation complete solutions.

  • How should policy makers approach the planning of smart cities?

Policy makers need to understand the causes to problems faced by citizens of different urban and suburban corridors in a city.  For example, many cities have aggregated shipping hubs that can benefit from implementing intelligent traffic systems by giving increased priority to larger vehicles while also making thoroughfare safer for pedestrians, lower harmful emissions into the environment and reduce traffic. Impoverished areas may be improved with increased access to mobility options to enable workers to move to and from workplaces, healthcare facilities or social service locations without being reliant on owning a car.

Rather than competing for ever scarcer resources, states and, at a more granular level, cities should work together to learn from best practices, seek synergies, and where possible co-develop solutions with industries for the future.

  • Some argue that, since rebuilding infrastructure is costly, retrofitting is where the design of smart city initiatives may truly shine. Do you agree, and if so, how can companies approach "retrofitting?"

Rebuilding infrastructure on municipal, state, and federal levels may become a self-limiting exercise.  Even with the President’s proposed massive investments in the renewal and buildout of the nation’s infrastructure, there is only so much concrete that can be poured, rebar that can be embedded in that concrete, and structural steel that can be readily sourced before significant funding gaps arise.  The incipient decline in federal motor fuels taxes, which are a major source for transportation-related project funding, is just one cause for the anticipated funding shortfalls.  That said, existing roadways can be made smarter to handle traffic more efficiently and safely.  Pavements and bridge spans can be outfitted with sensor technology to help local departments of public works best manage maintenance and prolong infrastructure lifetime.  It will take close cooperation between industry and government and a series of public-private partnerships, as well as educational campaigns to garner the necessary citizen-stakeholder buy-in to make a new era of smart cities a reality.

  • What do you think of the DOT's Smart Cities challenge?

NXP is a proud partner in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The Challenge was a contest for mid-sized cities to demonstrate how advanced data and intelligent transportation technologies can be used to reduce energy consumption and congestion. Our secure connectivity solutions such as smart parking systems and vulnerable road user safety concepts will bring immediate and tangible results to drivers and pedestrians, cyclists, and non-traditional road users alike. As a technology partner to the USDOT for the Smart Cities Challenge we are excited about the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of everyday Columbus residents.  We look forward to the working with existing and partners to enable solutions that exist today and create innovative solutions for tomorrow.

  • For citizens who are unaware of smart cities, or smart cities initiatives, how can local governments increase public education of the benefits of IoT technology?

City government leaders can bring selected private industry partners together or separately to participate in IoT Technology Fairs open to the public. Such city sponsored events allow their citizens to directly engage and learn from industry experts on IoT technologies that are today and will in the future, transform their lives for the better with safer travel, less congestion and greater convenience. NXP has played a leading role in this area by deploying our IoT truck to a number of urban centers. The IoT truck, essentially a mobile lab stuffed to the rafters with a wide array of NXP’s smart cities and IoT technologies, has served to provide a vision of a new tomorrow characterized by safety and efficiency to policymakers.  Just as importantly, the IoT truck – which is open to all – has exposed younger visitors to the possibilities of technology far beyond what so many of them experience in day to day life. 

  • What are some early success stories you've seen with smart cities? Any promising results and case studies we should all be aware of?

In the mobility space, we have international references where cites have enabled their citizens with a common credential that is capable of accessing multiple modes of transportation, social services, cultural resources, tourist locations, venues as well as universities and schools.

August 2016: Biometric cards to Increase National Security and Enhance Social and Economic eServices in Jordan. The new Jordanian citizen card is a multifunctional form of identification which can be used for conventional citizenship while offering an array of new embedded social and economic applications such as storing travel itinerary, providing access to eBanking services, and secure voting and health insurance verification. The personal data and biometric features, such as the card holder’s photo and fingerprints, are stored securely on the SmartMX chip in digital form. These new cards will also help reduce congestion and process time for renewals, as well as decrease fraud and counterfeiting while increasing security and enhancing a number of government applications.

July 2016: NXP Semiconductors, Tönnjes and Kirpestein B.V. collaborated to complete a field trial with over 100 military vehicles. After 12 months of testing in various weather conditions, with over 100 assorted military vehicles and at different speeds, presented the results of the first field trial with IDePLATEs (license plates). The field trial confirmed the secure, robust, effective, and reliable use of RFID technology for vehicle identification. In this collaboration, NXP provided embedded technology in the license plates, Tönnjes integrated the system and Kirpestein manufactured the license plates and provided project management support. The trial started in 2015 and took place at the military base in Oirschot, the Netherlands. Cars and trucks were equipped with IDePLATEs and IDeSTIXs (windshield labels) with integrated passive RFID chips. Authorized reading units, mounted on a gantry, continuously read the privacy protected unique chip IDs on the license plates and windshield labels of passing vehicles. The successful results of the field trial have already led to large scale implementation of the applied chips in electronic license plates projects in South America.

February 2016: Kenya identifies automobiles by using RFID technology. Almost 47 million people are registered citizens of Kenya. However, the government has no backed record on the total number of car owners on Kenya’s streets. As a consequence, the state misses out on tax revenues that are essential to enhance the country’s traffic infrastructure. The Kenyan National Transport & Safety Authority (NTSA) wants to change this situation. Its aim is to create a nationwide vehicle register. For that reason, the German based company TÖNNJES C.A.R.D. supplies Kenya with about 3.3 million windshield labels that entail an integrated UCODE® DNA RAIN RFID chip from NXP® Semiconductors. The technology allows the secure identification and authentication of vehicles.

June 2015 – The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and chip specialist NXP announced the launch of intelligent barriers at the HPA site. The was to process the organization’s vehicles more quickly and to enable modern, convenient, and secure parking lot access for HPA employees. Some of the vehicles in the HPA fleet were fitted with license plates containing RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. These chips are able to communicate wirelessly with a reader in the barriers, thus enabling access to be granted automatically and contactlessly – without the need for any further identification

January 2017: Badge provider ITN, utilizing the latest MIFARE DESFire EV2 chip from NXP Semiconductors, along with CEA and NXP Semiconductors enable the CES2017 badge to be the key to a smart city for both CES and Las Vegas Monorail.  CES2017 attendees could pre-purchase their Las Vegas Monorail pass and pick up their badge with both the CES2017 credentials and Las Vegas Monorail pass, or use the AppXplorer application to add their Las Vegas Monorail pass to their CES2017 badge after picking it up.  These options enabled greater flexibility for the more than 170,000 attendees to CES2017 to choose the Las Vegas Monorail, the most convenient and time efficient way to travel to and from the Las Vegas Convention Center.

 

Chris Rezendes, Founder, Managing Director at IoT IMPACT LABS

  • How should policy makers approach the planning of smart cities? 

There are so many good and different approaches that it is hard to define one above others. And when one thinks about how different cities can be based on geography, geopolitics, solvency, population, and more … this question becomes more challenging than the others.

At LABS, through our work with Sponsors and Partners, we are testing this framework as a way to drive to ‘primitives’ – the fundamentals of what would make a city ‘smarter’ or a community more ‘resilient’.

Start at the top, with the people, and work your way around.

At each step in this progression, we have multiple layers of additional, more detailed alternatives. In Step 2 – Resilient Infrastructure – for example, we elevate these five systems. As you might imagine, each of these 5 systems may have 2/3/5/10 layers within each … it is complicated, but, you have to drive down to something that is specific enough to be actionable.

(a)  Energy

(b)  Communications

(c)  Water/ wastewater/ sanitation

(d)  Public safety

(e)  Transportation

LABS Approach to Planning Developing Resilient Communities

 

  • Some argue that, since rebuilding infrastructure is costly, retrofitting is where the design of smart city initiatives may truly shine. Do you agree, and if so, how can companies approach "retrofitting?"

Increasingly, LABS and its Sponsors and Partners are being called into to help communities with limited resources, and acute/ urgent as well as strategic needs, conceive of steps forward in resilience that are mostly about instrumentation, not concrete/ steel/ asphalt.

The average mid-sized city in the United States has hundreds of miles of pipe. We are not about to rip and replace all that wood, lead, concrete, steel and pvc. But we are in position to layer in additional instrumentation-enabled remote/ real-time monitoring.

Achieving resilience often begins with a conservative approach to capex… and in many cases that means adding intelligence to asset optimization.  

  • What do you think of the DOT's Smart Cities challenge?

Really bright people at all levels of government. Powerful public-private partnerships. Legitimate intentionally disruptive ideas all around.

And yet, I think the Challenge might have been too vehicle transportation focused. Not enough on other modes of transporation. Not enough emphasis on security, resilience and other critical elements of public and private sector responses to the broader challenge and opportunity set we are sifting and sorting.

We collaborated with a number of cities and were most impressed with the middle-market cities and the WORK that they have done – the truly innovative approaches to bringing multistakeholder groups together, and the simple ‘get it done’ approach to experimenting. Deploying.

And yet … there is SO much more that needs to be done in technical commercial kitting, last mile deployment M&O training, best practices, DRM, and of course, verifiable impact and accessible private capital markets.

That’s a lot in there … any singular topic could warrant a 3-day workshop.

SCC needs a second life. I know a lot of smart people are working on it. We are making some small contributions. I would look for material announcements, if not progress before the year-end.

And more than anything … look beyond the ‘traditional’ top 10 cities …some of the most innovative work we are doing is coming out of the most disadvantaged/ marginalized communities in the US.  

 

Brian Seitz, VP of Marketing and Communications at Buddy Platform, Inc.

  • How should cities be making the case to its citizens for funding smart city investments?

Governments are starting to realize that just implementing IoT technology is not the ultimate objective for smart city initiatives. Rather, the success of a smart city initiative should be measured by the positive impact it makes on citizens’ quality of life. Whether projects underneath the smart city initiative are designed to improve efficiency of utility services, reduce streetlight power consumption and increase capability within streetlight networks, or provide civic-oriented information, nothing will be perceived as a success unless the benefits become clear to the citizens they serve.

  • What role do private partners and businesses play in the realization of smart cities?

Private/public partnerships can help to accelerate implementation of smart city projects, and help to ensure the right technology is matched with the desired outcome for the citizens. Also, with the rise of government funded open data projects, private business can provide compelling experiences and real innovation utilizing the anonymous data from smart city infrastructure like streets, lighting and environmental sensors.

  • How should policy makers approach the planning of smart cities?

Building smarter cities really comes down to the integration of legacy, and newly installed sensor and device networks that are quantifying a city’s critical infrastructure. Today many of those systems operate independently and in siloes, which makes gaining insights from those systems, let alone automating them, extremely difficult. Therefore, policy makers should take a long-term view when it comes to their city’s data infrastructure, to ensure the backbone of the system is flexible, scalable and secure. With this core piece in place, state of the art sensors and devices can be added to the system as they are approved and procured by civic agencies.

  • Some argue that, since rebuilding infrastructure is costly, retrofitting is where the design of smart city initiatives may truly shine. Do you agree, and if so, how can companies approach "retrofitting?"

Retrofitting is indeed a key piece of the smart cities mix, but the focus should really be on the data ingestion and output. It’s the data from these devices that will bring value to government workers, allow business to build and add new services, and ultimately positively impact the residents of the city. The power of IoT class hardware means Things are getting smaller, cheaper and more connected. That means for retrofits, and new builds measuring systems and events is easier. The big question then quickly shifts to, where is the data going, how is it being managed, and how do I get it into the systems I depend on? Again, devices are important, open data infrastructure is critical.

  • What do you think of the DOT's Smart Cities challenge?

The more formal support government can throw behind smart cities initiatives the better. We have seen in a number cases around the world, when the mandate from government is to innovate to benefit the citizenry, great outcomes can result. In April 2016 the Australian government released a national Smart Cities Plan, which included a Smart Cities and Smart Suburbs Program. The Amsterdam Smart City Plan is driving smart city development in several key areas including Infrastructure and Technology, Energy Water and Waste, Mobility, Circular City, Governance and Education, and Citizens and Living. Formal programs and initiatives from government can help fuel the positive outcomes and benefits for all. 

  • For citizens who are unaware of smart cities, or smart cities initiatives, how can local governments increase public education of the benefits of IoT technology?

Citizen engagement and participation early in the process of developing smart city plans is a crucial element for success. Ultimately, the success of the programs will be determined by how citizens feel their tax dollars were spent, and if it had a positive impact on their lives. Hosting community forums throughout the planning and implementation process, building engaging web and mobile experiences to solicit feedback and ideas, and focusing on the outcomes these projects are expected to achieve will ultimately increase the likelihood these projects will be well received and successful.  

  • What are some early success stories you've seen with smart cities? Any promising results and case studies we should all be aware of?

Around the world smart city projects are moving forward with purpose. The Smart Dubai initiative is a key part of city’s Happiness Agenda, the City Government of Buenos Aries is focused on fielding citizen complaints, smart lighting and flood control, and in Dublin, Ireland they are using public/private partnerships to improve air quality, access to parking and tracking bike theft. A broader look at these and other projects around the world can be found here at Buddy.com.