Cities around the world are under pressure. Budgets are tight. Growth is necessary. Demands and costs are escalating. Extreme weather is taking its toll. Efficiency and sustainability are priorities, but where should they start to balance the moving pieces? Civic leaders have a new resource in the fight to achieve prosperity and sustainability. More than a dozen top technology firms have formed the Smart Cities Council to provide cities with tools and best practices that can guide them in the right direction and save them time and money.
Operating under the theme “Livability, Workability, Sustainability,” the Council has gathered the world’s foremost firms in areas such as smart energy, water and transportation. These firms, which make up the Council’s Steering Committee, include Alstom, AT&T, Bechtel, Cisco, Electricite de France, General Electric, IBM, Itron, Microsoft, National Grid, Qualcomm, and S&C Electric.
In addition to lead partners, the Council’s associate partners include ABB, Alphinat, Grid2020, Invensys, MaxWest Environmental Systems, Opower, and Zipcar (a division of Avis).
According to Itron, the Smart Cities Council was formed to help address the unprecedented challenges facing the world’s cities, including accelerated population growth and constrained resources. The council aims to equip city leaders with fresh approaches to policy, governance, development and technology that enable long-term livability, workability and sustainability. Of course, resilience is an important part of the equation as well.
“People have built communities around energy and water for ages. Past generations have extracted more energy or more water to accommodate growing populations. This is simply not possible given the scale and urgency of today’s challenges. We must be more strategic, more resourceful and more innovative than ever before,” says Russ Vanos, Itron’s senior vice president of strategy and business development.
Mayors and city leaders can tap into this global hub to develop a comprehensive and collaborative road map for their city, to gain advice on the most effective ways to move forward, and to compare notes with like-minded leaders.
“All over the world, rapid urbanization is putting enormous stress on city resources and infrastructure,” explained founding Chairman Jesse Berst. “Cities are at a crossroads; many are nearing the point at which they could easily become overwhelmed by issues related to crime, congestion, and public health and safety. To prevent this, cities can use smart technologies to not just manage problems, but to usher in a new era of prosperity and sustainability.”
A “smart city” uses digital technology to deliver better, more efficient services to its citizens. It enables access to information via data collected from devices and sensors that are embedded in roadways, energy and water infrastructure, buildings and more. For example, smart power and water grids improve efficiency and reliability, as well as provide customers with detailed information to help them reduce their bills. For another example, a smart transportation network optimizes multi-modal travel throughout the city with real-time bus updates, taxi locations, and the ability to reserve parking spots.
Cities have significant questions and challenges with regard to the four chief barriers of technology, financing, policy, and citizen engagement.
World’s first collaborative smart city guide
The Council was formed to lower these barriers to adoption through education, outreach, and tools for cities. One of the Smart Cities Council’s first initiatives is the development of the Readiness Guide, which will launch as a beta version at the 81st Annual United States Conference of Mayors next month.
The Readiness Guide will be the first collaborative and comprehensive vision of a smart city. It will provide city leaders with a conceptual technology roadmap to address growth strategies in an effective and systemic way, focusing on key issues such as energy, transportation, water, and public safety. The content of the Readiness Guide is greatly influenced by the expertise of the Council’s partners, as well as its Advisory Board, which is made up of independent experts from research, academia, and advocacy.
“Far too many cities are undertaking individual projects without an overall plan, and without considering the ways that different departments can share costs and data,” noted James Whittaker, Executive Director of the Smart Cities Council and a principal in Mercator XXI, a co-founder of the Council. “For the best results, it is essential to have a comprehensive, holistic vision — yet no such help exists today. The Readiness Guide is the first-ever collaborative, comprehensive resource.”
The Council also has initiatives underway to address financing, policy, and citizen engagement. To accomplish these important but challenging tasks, the Council has marshaled the world’s leading authorities. “It takes an ecosystem to build a smart city,” said Berst. “We salute our member organizations. They have demonstrated that they are not just leaders in innovation, but — equally important — in collaboration.”
For more information, visit www.smartcitiescouncil.com.