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Smart Cities, Smart Buildings, Smart People

Insights from industry leaders on Smart Cities, 5G and the future of technology

The Smart Cities Innovation Summit in Austin, Texas brought together a broad spectrum of professionals, each with their own experiences and perspectives. The result was a fascinating menagerie of conversations that spanned lessons from the past and provided speculation on the future of Smart Cities.

On the first evening of the Summit, a smaller dialogue took place offsite at RCR atx Studios between a unique group of people with one thing in common: a deep knowledge about what it takes to make things “Smart.” Present were:

  • Darlene Pope who was instrumental in adding Internet connectivity to thousands of commercial buildings in New York City. She is currently Senior Vice President, Energy and Sustainability Services for JLL.
  • Mark Parr who was the technical architect (CTO) on a project to bring Internet to the New York City Subway along with many other wireless smart building and city wide wireless network projects. He is currently President and CEO of Bandwidth Logic.
  • Brandon Knicely who helped fund the deal and did intensive due diligence on the technology. He is currently Co-Founder of Third Drive, a business development and marketing company located in Austin.

Here are a few videos from that evening which highlight lessons from the past applied to the modern challenges of connected cities, city wireless networks and public/private infrastructure.

Let’s Just Admit That It’s Complicated  

Early in the conversation, it became pretty clear that while the origin of wiring a city is not a new one, it is still one with considerable challenges. Darlene Pope makes the excellent point that whenever there is an intersection between the public and private sector, it can get… well, complicated.

Key Elements to Help a City get “Smart”?

The conversation quickly shifted with Brandon Knicely asking the question, “How can a city be smarter when it comes to implementing the right infrastructure to support the required technology?” Mark Parr provides some practical and very real-world insight as he describes three important steps that need to take place to create the right foundation to enable smart city innovation.

  • Creating alignment between the city manager/staff/directors and private sector providers so they can “move forward and move forward fast”
  • Securing rights of way
  • Securing attachment rights

The Impact of 5G

Obviously network speeds and capabilities have improved since the New York City project was funded in 2009 and has been running since 2010. Keep in mind that demands on the network were much lower then as well. For starters, there was no video sharing through social media and no live streaming. These are all things that place tremendous strain on existing networks. Looking forward to 2020, it is predicted that there will be more than 20.8 billion connected devices. With all of this activity, we will need much greater capacity. Mark Parr provides some excitement about 5G and what we can expect from next-generation infrastructure.

Smart Cities Don’t Just “Happen”

Many municipalities understand the challenges that face their city. These can include things like traffic, pollution or lack of access to civic services. Often this is where the Smart Cities conversation begins. As the solutions begin to unfold, it is important to realize that creating the infrastructure that powers the technology that makes a smart city isn’t automatic. Bolstering networks requires an intense level of cooperation from all areas of government and immense investment from private sector companies. Both of these entities must then work together to create cities that are well wired, well equipped and well positioned to address existing challenges and prepare for the future.

Wrapping Up

As Brandon Knicely wisely states towards the end of the segment, this is the beginning of a continued conversation. These pioneers of Smart Cities bring amazing expertise and experience from the earliest days of connecting the New York City community. It will be exciting to stay in touch and continue to learn about how more cities around the U.S. are advancing in their adoption and implementation of Smart City technology. And even though this is a complicated subject, it’s clear that having alignment amongst city leadership is essential to realize the promise of Smart Cities and all of their benefits.

(Photocredit: Anthony Quintano)

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