The Problem of Privacy

js5079 – Josh Strake
Link: NetworkWorld

Link 2: CityMetric
Sustainability Problem: Civic Engagement, Safety

We often glide right over the fact that technologies – in order to optimize consumptive energy patterns, commutes to work, infrastructure projects, and everything else a ‘smart city’ might take on – must measure millions of individual citizens in some way or another. It may be a simple measurement, or it may be a much more personal and in-depth one, depending on if the technology is meant to serve individuals or to be a pulse for the city’s measurables. However, in either case, we must consider that some people will not want to be measured, and we must be aware that their legal right to privacy is one of two things: it is either at risk, or it is putting smart technology’s future at risk.

Summary

-The 4th amendment affords citizens to protection against unreasonable search – which is often interpreted by the courts to be a protection against an unconsented search: this is what smart cities may have trouble with, as they do not ‘say please’.

-Given the uncertainty about the future of technology, many people are already expressing concern about their eventual loss of privacy as smart technologies become ubiquitous: these feelings could give rise to policy and sentiment that endanger smart city technology.

-In a broad sense, the benefits of a truly integrated smart city would make the cost of privacy loss worth it – but this is at a large scale. At the individual level, some people are guaranteed to oppose the technology as they are not rational actors.

Stakeholders

-Citizens that are being measured by smart city technology

-Policymakers

-Tech producers that could see restrictions put in place

Next Steps

There arent really next steps beyond ‘wait and see’. This post isn’t so much about a technology as it is about the drawbacks and expected reactions to any given smart technology that relies on unconsenting measurement of a city’s citizenry. Sample steps to look for would be:

-Watch development of opposition sentiment to smart cities

-Look for politicians to begin to stump about privacy in a digital age with a specific focus on cities

-Assess what policy impacts may be had, should they be enacted.

Comment on another post: ‘Introducing the Internet of Water’

This is an interesting idea: another thing to add is that this database would act as a sort of ‘clearing house’ for water demand, much like already exists in regional ISOs wholesale electricity markets. It could reduce waste by assessing anticipated regional demand for water and acting to ensure the demand is met (but not overmet).

 

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Repowering Existing Wind Turbines to Achieve Longer Lifespan and Better Performance

Link: EIA
UNI: js5079 (Joshua Strake)

Sustainability Topic: Energy

This article touches on an important principle of ‘smart’ management of capital and resources within a generation blend, best exemplified by the classic saying, “if it ain’t broke… you still might be able to fix it.”

Summary

  • The EIA presents the value to be achieved in ‘repowering’ turbines, which is to say, upgrade them with newer, cheaper and more efficient technology while keeping the same turbine location, foundation, frame, etc.
  • This extends the life of the turbine by up to 20 years and can boost their efficiency by 25% (on average)
  • This is incentivised by the extension of the PTC (Production Tax Credit) for renewables, which applies to not only new renewables construction, but also renewables projects where at least 80% of the value is new construction: repowering often falls into this tranche so companies will elect to upgrade their wind fleet while saving on taxes.
    • GE has repowered up to 300 turbines for clients, and was recently awarded a contract for up to 700 more. Growth in this area is expected.

Stakeholders

-Wind Power Installers and Contractors
-Turbine Owners
-Regions and ISOs with wind power presence
-Consumers of electricity served by repowered turbines

Deployment Steps

1 – Continue to repower turbines with the most efficient modern turbine technology

2 – Look to incentivize all turbine owners to repower and claim PTC benefits, perhaps by raising awareness of the program.

3 – Look into writing specific policy to further incentivize repowering, such as state tax credits and rebates for contractor fees.


Comment on Another Post: Offshore Wind Power
This is a great writeup of the benefits of offshore wind farms compares to onshore. One thing I would add is that there is a two-way street in terms of aesthetics and landscape: while less homeowners may object to the wind turbines being near their homes, there is still strong pushback from ocean life activists regarding sea floor damage, as well as people who oppose the sight of wind turbines in the ocean – this is why the Cape Wind project from a million years ago has still not gotten construction underway.

Dealing With Threatening Seas – What Cities Can Learn From The Netherlands

js5079 – Joshua Strake
Link – NYT
Sustainability Topic: Water

Overview

The Dutch have been dealing with the risks that come with being below sea level for centuries. Now that sea level is rising, more and more cities around the world will find themselves facing the same issues that Dutch cities like Groningen and Rotterdam have been dealing with all along. This Times article gets into what kind of technology Rotterdam implements to prevent damage from flooding – the simple answer is that they embrace it. Summary below.

Summary

  • Rotterdam uses built infrastructure in combination with water-absorbing natural landscape (Polders) to reduce the damage and risk from high seas and flooding.
  • Their most notable built investment is the massive¬†Maeslantkering Flood Gate, which is just outside the city at the mouth of the river, designed to prevent floodwater in an emergency.
  • Public places such as parks, plazas, and garages are all designed to also act as retention pools for flood waters, to contain flooding.
  • Flood awareness and safety are also ingrained into Dutch culture – they have an app that alerts you if you are in a flood risk area, and children are forced to learn how to swim fully clothed in the event of disastrous flooding.
  • Lesson for other cities: walls are not enough. You must integrate water safety and management into your public spaces, your people, and your culture to truly address the risk.

Stakeholders

Coastal City Citizens, Urban Policymakers, Sustainable Infrastructure Construction Firms

Next Steps

Assess what cities could benefit from similar projects
Said cities commission studies and teams to plan appropriate projects
Gain approval and funding to undertake projects

Comment on Bioplastics Post

This is an interesting idea but I wish they went further into cost, quality, scalability, etc. The company website simply says that waste is broken down to become feed-stock for the plastic. What additional resources are required? Chemicals/Energy? Time? Would like to know more about the costs here. All in all a very interesting idea!

How to improve New York’s Subway System? Simplify, simplify.

js5079 – Joshua Strake
Sustainability Topic: Waste (in terms of efficiency), Energy
Link: NYT

I like this article because it gets down to the basic principle of a ‘smart city’ – you use the measurable data of a city to identify where to make improvements, and you go out and make those improvements. You don’t need to improve the ridership of the MTA with some sort of cloud-based ridership benefits app that uses IoT technology to make your blender give you compliments each time you make a smoothie: you can simply fit more people on a subway by making more space. And to make more space you can remove seats. Summary below.

Summary

  • E trains had delay troubles, because of overcrowding on their trains. This manifested primarily in longer loading and unloading times at stations.
  • They determined they could ease the issue of overcrowding by removing some seats from certain E train cars.
    • The seats were removed from the door areas, so more people could fit as well as more easily enter and exit.
  • Each modified train has an increased capacity of around 100 riders.
  • Additional changes to the E line such as equipment replacements are also being accelerated to address the efficiency issues with the service.
  • A result of these changes is: the riders experience less delays, and more are served by the train.
    • Since time can be measured in terms of the opportunity cost of productivity, both of these changes should help the economy.
    • Since the train cars are moving more people per trip, they are increasing their energy efficiency.

Stakeholders:

The MTA

New Yorkers and visitors who use public transit

Businesses whose employees use public transit

Three Next Steps:

1 – Evaluate the impact of the changes. Is the issue of delays being addressed?

2 – Conduct an analysis of other train lines that have similar issues.

3 – Expand the seat removal pilot to these other lines.


Comment on another blog: “Larvae convert food waste”

A very neat idea – another impact the article discusses is that much of conventional fish feed comes from trawling the ocean, a habit that contributes to overfishing. These larvae would help mitigate that effect as well as the food waste.

All-Electric Mining Truck produces more energy than it consumes via Regenerative Breaking

Source Article
Company website
js5079 – Joshua Strake

Sustainability Issue: Energy, Waste (of energy)

Kuhn&Komatsu have developed a massive new all-electric mining vehicle known as the “E-Dumper”. I liked reading about this vehicle because it represents such a simple yet effective idea: heavy thing going downhill can store its energy through breaking (two birds one stone), and use that energy to put the now-lighter truck back up the hill (three birds one stone!).

Summary

-Mining trucks historically are absolute monsters of fossil fuel usage. They need immense power to remove tons and tons of material from mines.

-Much of the time a truck full of materials is going downhill to drop off its load, and then goes back uphill much lighter to be refilled. This downhill phase is very brake-intensive, and the uphill phase is a breeze comparatively.

-This new all electric engine contains a massive battery that charges when the truck moves downhill. Instead of conventional braking, the force of the braking is used to charge a battery.

-With this energy-producing framework, trucks with routes like this (heavy downhill light uphill) can actually generate clean energy that they store per day, effectively using none at all. Of course in actuality one should also expect cases where a heavy truck drives uphill and a light truck goes downhill, like when leaving a quarry, but this doesn’t change the fact that in some mining scenarios this truck consumes no energy and actually produces it.

Stakeholders

Mining companies

Truck producers Kuhn & Komatsu

Battery Producers

Electric utilities receiving excess electricity from trucks

Three Steps

1 – Assess feasibility of wide production of these huge batteries / their lifespans (is it worth it?)

2 – Market the truck to other mining outfits

3 – Develop a framework for mass production if one is not already in place.

How Internet-of-Things technology can assist with Urban Rainfall and Stormwater Management Systems

Uni: js5079 (Joshua Strake)

Links: SGIM, SGIM 2, Array of Things, Urban Flooding

Sustainability Problem(s): Water, Safety

A growing challenge as storms become more intensely localized and the adage ‘when it rains it pours’ becomes more literal is the issue of what to do with all that water in an urban space. In nature, the water is efficiently absorbed into soil and supports trees and other flora. However in a city, the lack of these trees and soil is felt in two ways: first, the rain water has nowhere to be absorbed into and can result in flooding and contamination of the city’s water supply, and second, all that water can cause serious damage to ‘gray’ infrastructure that isn’t designed to handle a sudden deluge – things like streets, drainage pipes, and sidewalks.

This is where Chicago’s new initiative, the ‘Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring’ (SGIM) project steps in:

Summary of SGIM

  • Utilizing IoT technology, SGIM looks to track rainfall conditions on Chicago’s streets. In addition to total rain, it also tracks thinks like temperature, moisture, air pressure, and other weather indicators.
  • SGIM is in beta right now, being tested in three locations. It is being tested in conjunction with green infrastructure, such as plant banks, and porous water-absorbing roads.
  • The goal of the sensors would be to best understand where changes are needed in Chicago’s water management infrastructure – sensors don’t absorb water, but they help understand where the problems are and how much infrastructure change is needed.
  • Chicago actually has a strong record of utilizing IoT to make the city ‘smarter’, and SGIM falls within the logic of their larger city-wide ‘Array-of-Things’ plan for a smartly monitored city.

Stakeholders

1 – City Digital, developers of SGIM

2 – City of Chicago policymakers, specifically their wastewater treatment plan executors, and their Array-of-Things project leaders.

3 – Citizens of Chicago who’s businesses and homes would be affected by wastewater

4 – Green Infrastructure and SGIM sensor builders and installers.

Three Deployment Steps

First, continue with the testing phase and make sure the project is working as desired

Second, establish a broader installation plan with the office of the city of Chicago

Third, engage manufacturers, contractors, and wastewater managers to produce, install, and use the data.

Algae and its many uses – The Algae Dome

uni – js5079 (Joshua Strake)

Sustainability Area(s) – Energy, Waste
Specific Issues Addressed – CO2 in the atmosphere, Carbon footprint of food
Links: One, Two, Three

Overview

The Algae Dome represents one way to use algae to address the rising need to curb emissions of CO2, as well as the need to produce food at a low (or in this case zero) carbon cost to the planet. Whether or not the Algae Dome is scalable is another debate that I won’t speculate on, but this Algae Dome does successfully address certain sustainable goals while providing an eco-friendly outdoor space as well.

Summary

  • The Algae Dome is a closed-loop system of hundreds of meters of coiled tubing that contains micro-algae, developed by SPACE10 labs in Copenhagen.
  • Micro-algae grows off of the energy of sunlight, water, and CO2 – the result of this growth is additional micro-algae and Oxygen emitted as a byproduct.
  • Micro-algae itself contains more protein than meat as well as other nutrients, and considering the carbon cost of meat, this makes it an attractive potential substitute in cooking, should it prove to be easy to cook with and manipulate.
  • The micro-algae grows quickly, and due to the closed-loop nature of the system, the Algae Dome could succeed anywhere with sunlight and temperatures above freezing, making it a potentially wide-ranging sustainable option.

Stakeholders

1 – Space10, holders of the IP.

2 – Farmers and Food manufacturers who could adopt micro-algae.

3 – Governments and NGOs looking to use micro-algae to address hunger and CO2-emission reduction needs.

3 Steps for Further Implementation

1 – Discover if the tech is cost efficient and scalable. Is smoke being blown? How much?

2 – Develop contractor relationships to ramp up production

3 – Engage consumers who may be interested in the technology – green farmers, cities, food banks, etc.