Cities Get Smart by Prioritizing Mobility

By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50 percent today.  Planners and designers swiftly get transportation logistics, congestion, and air pollution, but when pushed to make urban life better for their citizens they often fail to deliver.  Some urban areas already rank above average and offer integrated multi-model mobility options but these complex offerings to deploy.  Mobility technologies exist (see below) that ease the pain when prioritizing mobility but this is not merely a “tech fix” situation for it requires collaborative stakeholder engagement and implementation planning as well.

Copenhagen has for a long time now housed parking lots full of bikes, their transport lanes throughout the city prefer pedal pushers, and when I was recently there nearly everyone told me they bike more than they use an automobile.  London is building “cycle superhighways” and New York expects to have 1,800 miles of bike lanes by 2030.  Thus, the challenge of bringing smart mobility solutions to urban dwellers doesn’t require fancy new technologies but instead lies in the requirement to establish collaborative planning processes that educate, iterate, and ultimately are built with flexibility in mind.  When driven by the urban subculture it’s apparent.  I just returned from Boulder, Colorado and when there I saw municipal bicycle storage options integrated with public transportation lines; a natural extension of the daily commuters lifestyle.  Don’t think this is something we’re going to see in Atlanta, Georgia anytime soon!

Don’t get me wrong, municipalities are working hard to solve these mobility issues, this isn’t just about meeting citizen’s demands pushed at planners and designers.  Heterogeneous trends in urban mobility have been slowly coming online and one of the most touted “technology” solutions is the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane.  The start of smart planning to better manage congestion but then that was taken the next step through innovative laws in states like California that now allow HOV access for electric or hydrogen vehicles too.  Right on the heels of HOV lanes came congestion parking in major metros like New York City and the concept of peak demand parking sits at the bleeding edge of urban mobility, despite nobody having worked out the math just yet.  In fact, new business models are continually trying to deal with the needs for increased data collection and logistical management analysis.  This is clearly the direction smart cities are going but in my research this isn’t as far as it will go in the coming decades.  What comes next will seem extreme but population growth and the demands of urbanization on cities will require ultra efficiency.

For a hint into the future just look at Singapore.  Albeit they’re an island, but because of this they’ve been pushed to their mobility limits ahead of other major metros.  They’ve opted to set aside cars all together and this isn’t solely because they can’t build more suburbs for their commuters and cars.  They’re aware of the laden energy in costs in vehicle manufacturing and the significant potential to reduce CO2 by switching from gas powered automobiles to walking, biking, and electrified forms of mass transit.  In fact, as the Singaporean government lowers their transport and mobility energy profile, they’re guaranteeing the citizens will be able to live healthier lifestyles.  This effort paves the way for systemic shifts and opens the door for a sustainable mobility future; one inclusive of drone package delivery drops, self-service mail centers, automated vehicles (passenger, bus, tram, freight, and corporate fleet solutions), and allows for mobility as a service to flourish as well.

Cities wanting to establish integrated mobility plans and capture the full range of transportation and mobility solutions must take assessment of technology options, perform collaborative stakeholder analysis, and comprehensively implementation plans with a citizen centric approach.  Here are a few places to start:

  • SAMPLES OF URBAN MOBILITY “TECHNOLOGIES”
    • Congestion Pricing – HOV driving lanes, street, & parking
    • Urban Redesign – mobility optimization, curb, & intersection plans
    • Coordinated Actions – private & public sector collaboration
    • “Cycle Superhighways” – extra wide lanes dedicated to bicycles
  • ABBREVIATED IMPLEMENTATION STEPS
    • Establish population growth and transport demand metrics
    • Conduct customer interviews to fit future needs
    • Define the city and citizen archetypes
    • Create intelligent city policies
    • Engage private-sector mobility companies
    • Educate citizens on multi-mode mobility values
    • Leverage academic and startup incubators or accelerators
    • Build neighborhood partnership test pilots
    • Schedule citizen updates via engagement workshops
    • Act boldly and prepared for agile adjustments
  • KEY STAKEHOLDERS
    • City Planners & Urban Designers
    • Public Entities and Administrators
    • Academic Institutions
    • Accelerators and Incubators
    • Technology Mobility Solution Providers
    • Citizens

JMB2408 COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (Fast-Charging Busses):

This is conceptually really “smart” but I wonder about what they claim to be able to do vs. what can actually be done. It’s logical to see this sort of quick charging take hold on the public transport lines and it really improves the efficiency of energy use but it’s not a straight forward fossil-fuel free solution until the energy comes from that source. Perhaps in France, with all the nuclear, it makes this ring true but if you put this in Wisconsin it won’t for all you’re doing is displacing the fossil-fuel from the source point at the vehicle to the power generation location. In my analysis there are many instances where the electrification of the transport sector makes things worse for CO2 emissions. Then again, local air quality will always go up so it depends on the objective of the smart city – local solution, regional, or global.

Thanks for sharing, cool tech and more to come I’m sure.

Smart Water Sensing Technologies

The World Wildlife Fund states that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages and ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.  In addition, an excess of 6.5 billion people are projected to live in cities by 2050, according to recent UN estimates.  The sustainability problem of water scarcity is mounting at a global scale but solutions require highly localized implementation.  We are well beyond mere civil engineering matters at this point and pressures are also growing for cities to get “smart.”  This means that looking to improve water and wastewater management, power generation, and urban demands on rural agricultural production are at the top of the list.  The matter of addressing water scarcity involved many stakeholders – householders, residential and commercial property owners, industrial operations, municipalities, water utilities, regulators, policy makers, lawyers, ecosystems, and farming communities.

This matter of water access is an age old one and has made the big screen more than once (think back to 1974 and the movie Chinatown) but today water is increasingly being managed like a commodity (think the documentary Water & Power: A California Heist) and has become a driver of fear to the point of perception that we’re on the bring of a age of water wars.  To date the value of predictive analytics and maintenance of water based assets has been touted as an area of great hope for these concerns but many of these management approaches and their associated methodologies have sought to conserve water, reduce scheduling of repairs costs, maintenance efforts, and eliminate failures without accounting for many “soft” factors.  Worse, these tactics neglect lower hanging fruit that is readily available.  For example, during a period of about 18 months during the years 2013-2015 the largest provider of water and wastewater services in the United Kingdom, Thames Water, worked with Accenture to try to figure out how to best use sensors, analytics, and real-time data to “help the utility company anticipate equipment failures and respond more quickly to critical situations, such as leaks or adverse weather events.”  A good and necessary start but far from systemic when considering the scale of implementation plans needed for the years 2025 to 2050.

Today water management and smart water sensing technologies exist even for the DIY home owner and this is indeed a great place to start.  It’s low hanging fruit like residential consumers that can lead to increasingly addressing other higher volume end points of water consumption.  Installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is nearly a dead ringer for water utilities so they can better mange for otherwise they’re unable to measure and that’s a death spiral nobody can afford these days.  The growing pressures on infrastructure that urbanization will bring with it are well known and so to get a smart city one must prepare for growth in commensurate ways that are also able to process the worldwide urbanization phenomena.  Smart water sensing technologies and in turn the education of water consumers is a logical place to start for at scale impact.

 

JMB2408 COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (Automated Underground Bike Storage):

This concept of storage is pretty amazing in high density environments and of course next to nowhere in the United States will this ever generate enough users to financially justify it but it’s really amazing to think it could be part of a future “smart” city plan. In Boulder, CO there are a lot of bikers and some amazing bike lock options in cage-like structures near the train stations and public transit. A scaled down version of this but one applicable in the United States.

 

Smart Cities & Off-Grid Energy Storage Systems

“Reliable Power Day and Night,” that’s what a Tesla Energy residential energy battery storage solution promises.  For better and worse, the Tesla Powerwall is no longer just for the few seeking off-grid energy storage systems and want to mitigate against utility outages.  In fact, smart energy offerings such as this are well beyond the top branded Tesla EnergySunrun launched their BrightBox solar-plus-storage product offering, Orison audaciously funded a home storage product through a Kickstarter campaign, and even the old school engineering firms such as Lockheed Martin have taken a foray into the energy management and storage market.

From a citywide sustainability perspective these solutions support the growing public desires to reduce dependency on fossil fuel burning energy sources so we should be pleased these technologies have emerged.  Thing is, their capacities to deliver beyond green washing are vast and actually executing this at scale requires sophisticated regulatory and infrastructure coordination, not to mention a whole other set of technologies for load balancing.  Scaling such offering at a citywide level, well, that’s even more complicated.  Yes, this is what a smart cities should be doing to ride the wave of consumer demand that has gone beyond the need to build a bug out shelter for the next Zombie Apocalypse but integrating solar or renewable energy systems such as wind with battery storage is unfortunately a wicked problem.  In executing these CO2 reducing and intelligent energy management solutions there are significant secondary outcomes.  At the top of the list is the challenge of dealing with the historically denoted “consumer,”  that in the process become a producer.  Hands together now, let’s welcome the prosumer to the stage; the true problem child for energy utilities!

How does an electric utility (one only ever known to sell energy) deal with this new bread called a prosumer?  If all producers install off-grid energy storage systems, what is the new role and responsibility for an electric utility?  In this position, can they garner sufficient income to pay for the maintenance of wires and poles?

To solve these challenges there must be significant regulatory involvement in advance of the transition.  Equipment manufacturers and system integrators also need to find ways to make commercially viable solutions that capitalize on consumer demand, but do so in a way so as to not send out a cry and in turn initiate a utility death spiral; ultimately leaving those without an ability to participate in this new energy marketplace footing the bill for the the entire delivery system.  Lastly, through smaller scale pilot projects all the stakeholders can work out best in class methodologies that will take us from where we are to where we clearly are going.

Thankfully, innovative energy marketplaces and regulators are seeing themselves as critical catalysts and the stakeholders in this new world of distributed energy resources (DERs) are stepping up on a global scale.  Pilot projects have begun and successes through public-private partnerships are happening.  The 2016 Southern California Edison and Tesla unveiling of the world’s largest energy storage facility and the New York City program called NY REV have led the way.  Each is but a portion of larger deployment plans for grid-connected storage batteries and both seek to reduce fossil-fuel reliance.  Comprehensive energy strategies initiated in this way will be a win-win for the utilities that want to defray the costs of replacing peakers plants reaching retirement age and for the prosumer wanting to help reduce CO2 emitting fuel in the energy mix.

 

thoughts on “Internet of Trees – When You Give a Tree an Email Address”

  1. Wow, this is really creative! It makes the trees “come alive” and is pretty amazing for potential in many ways to come. I can only begin to imagine how many other things could be categorized and brought into the electronic fold this way. I’m not sure the value of the email as a form of representation and would like to see that stepped up a bit but it’s a start. Surely the more things in cities get tagged the future will show geocaching is not just for those that are high tech in nature.