This article was published in paid partnership with Siemens. Siemens is only paying for my time, not for my opinions.
Cities are fast becoming the next platforms of technology innovation. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year, when automotive giant Toyota wanted to wow the assembled crowd at its press conference, you would have expected the company to announce a major new electric car, autonomous vehicle design breakthrough or “connected car” innovations.
And while the company did reference those, the overall context for it was the announcement that Toyota was building its prototype “city of the future” at the base of Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji. Toyota calls it Woven City, and it’s being built as a proof-of-concept smart city on a 175-acre site that the company says will initially be home to 2,000 people.
A rich history
While the Toyota idea for a connected smart city with innovative transportation approaches is interesting, it certainly isn’t new. In fact, some of the most exciting ideas underpinning some smart city developments can be traced back to movie industry giant and theme park pioneer Walt Disney.
Disney may be known to many for his work in bringing classic animated movies such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Fantasia to the world – and in founding Disneyland and Disney World, but he was also enthusiastic about finding new ways to use technology in creating ideal cities.
In fact, in 1966, Disney unveiled what he called an “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow” (or EPCOT) designed to showcase how technology could be used to improve every part of city life – from transportation to work to home life. While it became an entertaining part of Disney World, EPCOT never quite delivered in Walt Disney’s dream.
Smart Cities becoming a reality
While Walt Disney’s ideas were visionary, the technologies needed to make them a reality wasn’t available. But it is now – and those technologies now underpin what are often called “Smart Cities.”
They include Internet of Things (IoT) sensor infrastructures, 5G and Edge Computing, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), connected cars, connected, optimized and distributed utility systems, charging stations for electric vehicles, the building-out of infrastructure to support autonomous and semi-autonomous connected vehicles. Also, the collection, analysis, and insights from the mass of data generated through all these technologies will feed into make all cities smarter.
According to a February 2020 forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC), global spending on smart cities initiatives will total nearly $124 billion in 2020, increasing by 18.9% over 2019. The forecast also predicts that the top 100 cities investing in smart initiatives in 2019 represented around 29% of global spending, demonstrating those cities’ commitment.
Good Examples Abound
There are lots of great examples around the world where investments in smart cities are making a difference. Take the work being undertaken by the City of Pittsburgh, Los Angeles or Deerfield Beach, Florida.
The initiatives of all these cities are focusing at planning for a smarter, safer and more sustainable future by broadening the city’s technology ecosystem and adding in new ways to deliver public services, while also helping to build a strong technological foundation for the broad application of IoT, AI, ML and Edge technologies.
Pittsburgh’s initiative, p4 (People, Place, Planet, and Performance) provides a framework for unified action across the city to achieve a sustainable future while addressing social and economic inequality and environmental threats.
Los Angeles’ vision includes environment protection, economy growing, and ways to improve every citizen’s equity. One of LA’s goals is to strengthen resilience and move towards sustainability as the city faces multiple challenges resulting from climate change and related to weather and fire endangerment threats.
Deerfield Beach is also planning for its sustainable future by leveraging Siemens City Performance Tool.
Siemens City Performance Tool – what is it and how does it help cities to achieve their “smart cities” goals
Vince Lombardi, NFL Hall of Fame coach, once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a teamwork, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Siemens acts as one of the technology advisors and partners of Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Deerfield Beach, making available an advanced simulation tool called the City Performance Tool. This tool helps both municipalities to define planning and decision-making scenarios better as they refer to city infrastructure modernization. City leaders from these regions can now better understand which projects can generate the most overall impact or the most impact per dollar spent.
According to a white paper published by Siemens last year, the City of Pittsburgh has used the City Performance Tool to assess the potential impact of its Climate Action Plan and its projects specifically targeted at the some of the poorer neighborhoods. The analysis started with more than 350 data inputs collected from the city’s transport, energy, and buildings sectors, including more general characteristics such as population and growth. Other parameters being measured involve the supply mix of electricity generation, transport modalities, travel patterns, and the city’s CO2 footprint. The model examined the future impact of more than 70 technologies, including renewable energies, gas turbines, LED lighting, and mass transit and EV technologies.
Compared to Pittsburgh, in Los Angeles, Siemens analyzed 19 technologies’ performance and their impact on GHG reductions, air quality, costs, and job creation. According to the same white paper, the top-performing technologies in GHG reductions were identified as electric heat pumps, electric cars, technologies that reduced time between trains on Metro trains, and rooftop PV panels.
To achieve LA’s goals of greenhouse gas reduction between 2035 and 2050, looking at the projections offered by City Performance Tool, success will require transitioning to 100% generation of renewable electricity and 45% of passenger travel by transit and active transport. Half of the heating consumed by buildings in Los Angeles would have to be generated by electric heat pumps instead of natural gas furnaces. The average time between trains on Metro rail lines would have to drop from 11 minutes to just 4 minutes by 2050. Nine new Metro rail lines would have to be constructed.
Statistics gathered through the use of the Siemens City Planning also points to the use of distributed energy to help solve some of Los Angeles’ challenges. Resulting emissions reductions would be accompanied by a 72% improvement in air quality and almost two million local jobs.
Using multiple data points from regional and local agencies in Deerfield Beach, Siemens analysis, based on assumptions of greener electricity and increased use of public and active transit, shows a 17.6% reduction in GHG emissions for 2030 despite a 13% increase in population.
Siemens tool utilizes risk and costs modeling to advise cities on how they can achieve their environmental targets while indicating how each infrastructure-related decision will influence job creation and the infrastructure sector growth.
Each city can customize how the tool is used depending upon the particular city’s goals and infrastructure requirements.
Several examples of smart cities that aim to boost resilience & sustainability across the United States using Siemens’ tools and technology are New York, Thousand Oaks (California), City of Wasco (California), Sterling Ranch (Colorado), Columbus (Ohio), Rhode Island (New York), etc.
To get more information about Siemens Solutions for Small Cities, Medium-Sized Cities or Large Cities, access this link.