Smart Urban Growth Tackles Mobility and Electricity Distribution Concurrently

Cities can get smart taking control of their electrical grid and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure as a means of addressing urban growth.  Boulder, Colorado is making a run at it but few outside Germany have taken a serious move in this direction for it requires a long-term vision.  Seeking this urban planning route is not always initiated for economical reasons.  Boulder, for instance, is driven to engage as a means of increasing renewable energy sources in their electricity generation fuel mix.  Here’s the catch, this approach may not a scalable or sustainable solution for all cities  Mega cities; no way anytime soon.  Rural environments; not likely ever needed.  So, Boulder just happens to sit in the Goldilocks Zone but even with it being “just right” the increasing digitalization of the electric grid and new sources of distributed energy will make this endeavor a tenuous pursuit.

Years ago I was involved in dozens of negotiations with municipalities throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  Many desired to “take control” of and then offer, as a public service, wireless Internet services for their citizens.  The complexities in equipment management and selection, maintenance, and budgeting were often solely regarded in the context of whether to make the WiFi a free or a for a fee amenity to subscribers.  Thing is, that’s not where the root challenge existed.  Even a little bit of education in these matters achieved a stakeholder stalemate for trying to figure out how to convert a privatized service into a public good without causing bias to an ongoing free market was no simple matter.  The concept of a public-private partnership was alien.

Dealing with increasing urbanization today requires a systemic stakeholder analysis and just the right sitting of pilot efforts in advance of any at-scale execution plans.  To date few cities have taken this approach but Toronto, Canada is on the way.

“...We are designing a district in Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront to tackle the challenges of urban growth…Sidewalk Toronto will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centered neighborhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunities” – Sidewalk Labs

To do as Sidewalk Labs proposes there must be an integration of technologies, policies, and financial mechanisms that allow for private and public implementation plans to surface, ones in service of many stakeholders.

  • SAMPLE TECHNOLOGIES AT PLAY
  • IMPLEMENTATION APPROACHES
    • Analyze long-tailpipe electricity generation fuel mixes
    • Promote EVs and pilots ONLY in cities that have clean fuel sources
    • Establish population growth and transport demand metrics
    • Conduct customer interviews to fit future needs
    • Create intelligent city policies to cater to DER and EV microgrids
    • Engage private-sector electric mobility companies
    • Educate citizens on mobility and clean energy options
    • Build neighborhood based pilots
    • Engage citizens via engagement workshops for updates
    • Prepared to pivot for at-scale execution
  • STAKEHOLDERS TO ENGAGE
    • City Planners & Urban Designers
    • Public Entities and Administrators
    • Private Technology Providers
    • EV Manufacturers & Infrastructure Providers
    • Load Balancing Software Solution Providers
    • Private and/or Public Electric Utilities
    • Citizens

 

JMB2408 COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (Leaf Plates):

This is an excellent solution to consumption and in turn waste. If this was a compostable solution that can be put to use in the local houseplant or compost pile then we’re talking about a dream conversion in consumption to waste. The other thing that would be amazing is to see this scale to shipping boxes or other high consumption transport items. Awesome find, thanks for sharing.

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OLLI – the self-driving electric mini bus

1) Sustainability issue: Mass transportation and energy

Flexible solutions for mass transportation is not really an option in today’s society. One is always dependent on the transportation company’s schedule. Ubers are an alternative for transportation, but it does not cater to the masses and it is an expensive alternative for one person. But what if we could merge the bus and the Uber and make a flexible solution for mass transportation that is energy and cost efficient? That is what Olli is.

2) Olli – the electric mini bus

  • In Maryland in June 2016, the mini bus Olli started running. Olli is a driverless bus powered by IBM’s Watson technology. Olli is like Uber in the way that you order a ride with it and pay for it in the app. You don’t need a fixed bus stop, Olli will pick you up where you are.
  • It does not operate on a fixed schedule and is ideal for those short distances between your home and where you need to be. It fills in the gaps in public transportation and covers your entire travel route, without you having to walk an inch.
  • It is also a sustainable alternative to public transport as it is electrically run, and will not release toxic gases on its way. It will be both cost- and energy efficient.
  • It will also work as a smart assistant, and the passengers can ask it for restaurant recommendations or what the weather is like at the destination.

 

3) Stakeholders

  • Engineers
  • Manufacturing companies
  • City transportation planners
  • Utility companies

4) Implementation

  1. Create more of the Olli and test it in other cities
  2. Make the routes it can take as efficient as possible
  3. Market it to the population

 

References:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3645805/Olli-3D-printed-self-driving-minibus-hit-road-US.html

https://localmotors.com/meet-olli/

My comment on another article: https://makeasmartcity.com/2017/10/11/will-drones-end-societys-range-anxiety/#respond

“This will be helpful for so many EV drivers as they will be able to get their charge practically anywhere. In the distant future, this technology could maybe also be expanded to other areas, like electric ships or even just to charge the phone of a poor soul lost in the woods. It could potentially save lives, both in traffic and other places.”

UNI: ms5584

 

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 Cities Can Weather a Storm

Hurricane Harvey drenched Texas in August, Irma wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and Florida during September, and in October the United States also had major fire storms that burned in Northern California.  As usual, the media fills their audience with scenes of flooded streets, shelters crowded with people, and shows devastation to people, places, and things.  Where is this all going?  “We need to recognize it will be a new normal, a new and different normal for this entire region,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbot, when asked what the future of storms for cities looks like it will be in years to come.

Smart cities and the keys are held not by positions of politics, as they used to be in the past, in the years to come those will be held by those with the ability to advance plan for and swiftly recover.  On a practical level this often has ties to restoring electricity for those who’ve lost it are the citizens of the smart cities.  Without power efforts to return to normal are slow and often fail to deliver.  Electricity loss makes it impossible for those hit by a storm to normalize and in turn their economic occupations are also put at risk so this is an essential element of resiliency planning and ensuring sustainable futures for those residing in cities.

The primary sustainability problem is how to best plan for a disaster.  Often the focus is on recovery only and in the best of circumstances there are resources allocated to solve challenges caused by disasters, figuring how to best shelter people, fix power outages, etc..  These are reactive in nature and for some time now the trend has been to be proactive.  This is what a smart cities needs to do and in regards to electricity this means establishing grid resiliency is the place to start.  Creating infrastructure and deploying technology solutions in advance of pending storms or disasters assures optimal functioning of critical infrastructure and enables the city to recover quickly.

TECHNOLOGY ELEMENTS IN GRID RESILIENCY MASTER PLANS:

  • Self-Healing Grids
    • Identifies failing sections of the electric network, isolates, and reroutes power
  • Sensors and “Smart Switches”
    • Monitors the grid system and redirects power where needs are optimal
  • Microgrids
    • Smaller power systems that integrate with the grid or work independently

Technologies such as these involve many stakeholders – municipal planners, electricity utilities, technology providers, manufacturers of smart grid equipment, and of course the consumers or users of the electricity (just to name a few).  Large “top down” and master planned systems and their distribution approach the challenges in a way that causes different players to be involved coming from one direction while microgrids work from the opposite direction – consumers to utility as opposed to utility to consumers.  This is a fundamental issue in advance that a smart city needs to accommodate for and that stakeholder process and engagement in itself demonstrates the core value of the smart city.  The technology and the outcomes are secondary, albeit critical.

In establishing a smart city that is prepared to weather a storm in a sustainable way the first thing that needs to be done is develop a feasibility plan, especially when opting to incorporate microgrid technologies.  The next most important thing to do is establish areas of highest priority for power need (hospitals, fire departments, shelters, etc).  This is not simple nor trivial in importance.  For example, when Hurricane Sandy impacted New York City one community that was lucky and to not become devastated was the Hunts Point Market area, in the Bronx.  This area is home to one of the largest food distribution centers in the world and yet there is no microgrid and integrated planning in place to ensure it remains without fault.

In fact, to further this concern, Hunts Point is the gateway to nearly 60% of New York City’s food.  Had electricity been cut off, tons of food would have spoiled, distribution would have been crippled, and millions could have gone hungry.  Establishing feasibility is critical and defining, agreeing, and engaging in priorities with public involvement and the stakeholders is needed well in advance.  Also, even if a smart city can decide on priorities for power requirements it doesn’t mean it can address the issues of financing.  Public-private operations in themselves are significantly complex to negotiate and there is a massive difference in solutions solely run through the utility or a private enterprise endeavor.  In fact, more critical to this is the policy and regulation matters that drive these concerns for even those vary greatly throughout the United States and the pricing models established for ratepayers are far from uniform.  Everywhere it makes sense for a city to ponder these matters and aspire to smart but when considering the use of modern technologies to weather the storms that assuredly to come it means there is no better time than the present to get plans in order.

 

JMB2408 COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (Instantly Rechargeable Batteries…a Game-changer for Electric Vehicles!):

You’ve hit most of the big bit bullet points in terms of the inhibitors that stop people from getting into an electric vehicle and buying. There is no doubt the charging infrastructure is an issue and has been used as an excuse for a long time now. If this technology can deliver, then it would be a game changer BUT it won’t address the other big problem – range anxiety – unless it really is nearly as fast as a fill up.

A lot of the “smart city” solutions are hitting the VW settlement funds to roll out chargers (think EVgo – https://www.evgo.com) and that can only work for so long. It’s exciting to see a push for technologies like this but it points to the bigger problem, who pays? If a gas station business model then this works fine as it’s just another pump, but if it’s a whole new set of infrastructure this is an issue that no city is prepared to manage well, especially one as large as New York City.

Thanks for sharing, cool work here!

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.

 

Disaster Planning & Rural Communication Challenges: adhoc networks between mobile devices in the absence of Internet and cellular services

Natural disasters, community events, festivals, and gatherings are increasingly driving the need for hyper-local communications.  The growing high standards of expectation that cellular and Internet technologies will persist, even in the face of such unusual circumstances has been difficult to satisfy.  In fact, in many rural areas of the world there is a lack of this communications infrastructure in the first place.  These village-like social environments are the foundations of sustainable communities for without them chaos rules.  As any city or community planner knows, communications are critical in planning for disaster mitigation, well ahead of solutions based on “hardening” infrastructure (build bigger walls, flood gates, stronger buildings, etc.).

Why?  It’s well documented that the potential for a resilient city to rebound when impacted by natural disaster or a for a community in isolation to become more productive they are tied to the need for improved communications.  Further, the movement to make cities more resilient is well underway and solutions such as FireChat are within a group of new generation mobile apps that allows users to communicate with other nearby iOS devices without Internet or mobile phone coverage.

Download it: iOS and Android

Adhoc mesh networking solutions such as this fall within a set of technologies that can be used in a variety of ways.  Again, most aide those who seek to further enable capacity building at a citywide or community scale.  Recently ranked as a top 10 among social networking apps and already in use within 124 countries, this is a niche solution for sustainable cities seeking to support their communities when in most need.

Use case examples:

  • Floods in Kashmir (April 2015) and Chennai (October 2015), a volcanic eruption at Cotopaxi in Ecuador (August 2015), and in Mexico during hurricane Patricia (October 2015).
  • Event use such as during pro-democracy protests in Taiwan (April 2014) and Hong Kong (September 2014) or the anti-corruption movement within Bersih, Malaysia (August 2015), or the Pope’s visit to the Philippines (January 2015).
  • Elections such as the ones in Venezuela (December 2015) and Republic of the Congo (March 2016).
  • Festivals in India, Canada, and throughout the US; think Burning Man.

Stakeholder analysis is simple here for the requirements to use the technology are minimal; users with mobile devices in need fill the whole bucket.  If a city or a community seeks to scale this technology, then local disaster shelters, hospitals, care centers, event and festival information booths, etc. can weigh in to provide their own wireless WiFi networks and in turn grow their reach of how to communicate with those in need.  Deploying this technology is simple: educate, promote, and as needed support.

Smart Cities: Microdosing as a Future Sustainable Technology

CASE EXAMPLE LOCATION: Silicon Valley, California

California and in particular Silicon Valley has long been at the forefront of innovation.  Recent use of a new “technology” is gaining momentum and it may hold the keys to better understand how we can make cities smarter.  Surely GDP isn’t a sole measure of success but Silicon Valley and California have been studied and well documented to be far in excess of what some countries generate.   The fact that Silicon Valley corporations have drawn top talent from around the world and in turn they built a subculture operating on success principals directly tied to a willingness to experiment is unique.  This approach has generated innovations that have many times over changed our planet so surely within are insights on how to make a smart city.

TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION: Microdosing

Increasingly professionals in Silicon Valley are taking small doses of psychedelic drugs in an attempt to increase performance.  The mass media (Huffington PostBBC, and Rolling Stone) is well aware of it and drivers to increase creativity, multi-tasking, and focus are are behind this movement.  This practice, known as “microdosing,” fits all to well with the already pervasive agile software development subculture, venture capital market outputs, and the solution is far from high-tech.  The method is quite straight-forward; minute quantities of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (i.e. magic mushrooms), or mescaline (sourced from a Peyote cactus) are taken regularly, just like most take a morning vitamin.

SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & 2030

People are in denial, time lacks to use education based methodologies as a means to build capacity, and raising awareness is a tedious and long-term challenge.  The World Bank has tried for decades to meet these challenges with hit and miss success.  Insufficient economic support exists to solve at scale infrastructure transformation and even if the means of building capacity  were free through means such as online education it would still lack the human experience based elements required to change human behavior. 

In the period of time we’ve left to work up solutions that can respond to climate change or meet the SDGs we need much more corporate, citywide, regional, state, and federal engagement.  The effort to sync policy for just the 2030 targets is daunting and already many think tanks engaged have concluded we are likely to fail.  There is an increasing number of institutions and experts starting to conduct gap analysis reports and thus we’ve turned the corner, all  evidence transcends wondering if climate change exists.  Science now seeks to determine what the worst and best case scenarios will could like in the years to come.  Earth needs a “quick fix” and societies respond well the belief that simple solutions exist so working toward motivating people to change, finding techniques to catalyze increased awareness, and make people “smarter” to the challenges is critical.  The development of sustainable solutions lies in the challenge of how to best learn from those with a history of sustainable thinking, a methodology to economic success, and who demonstrate the ability to make change at scale.  Manufacturing that recipes they use and distributing them on a global basis just might be the magic bullet, otherwise the world we are about to leave to those who shall live in 2050, especially when accounting for population growth, is frightening to ponder.

IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS: Pilot Science Based Clinical Studies

Clinical research with psychedelics was stopped in the 1960s and many of the substances were scheduled by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as Schedule 1.  This means at present there are no legal routes forward with this microdosing technology but some experiments are surfacing.   In fact, now that we’re past the rush of popular cultures interest in the 1960s psychedelic scene many of these substances have been significantly altered in their use and societal acceptance.  Recent interests are now supported by rigorous scientific research and pharmaceutical scale financial support.  The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a premier solution provider for any implementation plans and can aide in the development of pilot study experiments with this microdosing technology.  Further research can develop understanding how microdosing may impact people’s choices to engage in environmental issues and ultimately reveal what’s behind the making of one of the smartest regions in the world, Silicon Valley.  Take note, no research exists today on microdosing, it’s a newly developing technology.

STAKEHOLDERS: Famous Technologists as Leaders to Market Adoption

Silicon Valley has a history of psychedelic drug use and famous people have attested to the use having direct impact on their ability to become more creative and contribute.  Some of the founding pillars in our technology world today are people such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, famously attributed to their own personal experiments with LSD.  Engaging high-profile supporters in partnership with clinical organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) would be sufficient start to establish case studies that will comply with the standards created by the FDA

From there, based on success in treatment and use studies, the means to further promote and engage stakeholders in the use of this technology as well as how to best apply it to make cities smarter is nearly brainless in effort.  There are hordes of people willing to experiment with these substances at much higher dosages and use them for recreational purposes, garnering interest in microdosing and recruiting subject cities, regions, states, countries, etc. is a matter of presenting science results and signing up participants.