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How Companies are Transforming our Lives with Smart Cities


By the time of CES 2025, Las Vegas will officially be “smart.” In a $500 million, seven-year plan, the city has begun a massive process involving connected cameras, sensors and big data analytics to manage traffic, environment, crowds, transit, lighting, waste management security and parking. Like many smart cities ventures, the Las Vegas initiative is first focusing on — what else? — traffic that affects its 42 million yearly visitors as well as the 2.2 million residents of the Las Vegas valley. 

Michael Sherwood, the City of Las Vegas chief information officer, expects that the traffic data will be used to prepare for self-driving vehicles, including recommending trucking routes in and out of the city.

But no need to wait seven years. Smart cities were high on the agenda at CES 2018, offering a glimpse of the accelerating movement toward bringing Internet of Things and relatd technologies to the everyday challenges of urban life. Technology developers uniformly agree that public and private partnerships will be needed (and are underway) to achieve the promises of better lifestyles.

Around the world, more than $34 billion will be spent to create smart cities by 2020, according to CTA market research. CTA predicts that there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025. The value of enhanced, efficient services is underscored by a United Nations report which expects that two- thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 (up from half today and one-third 55 years ago).

Since the core technologies for smart cities, like sensors, imaging, lighting, energy generation, vehicle technology and intelligent data management, represent the strengths of CES exhibitors, many of them see a role in creating smart city solutions. The arrival of 5G wireless connectivity also is seen as an invaluable tool in developing hyperlocal services.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett gives his CES 2018 keynote

Numerous CES speakers recognized the value of smart city development in their own corporate agendas. For example, Ford CEO Jim Hackett, in his keynote remarks, said that his company is focused on becoming a smart city systems and mobility provider.

“How do we combine vehicles and technologies so they become more than the sum of their parts and redesign the surface transportation systems so that it’s designed around communities?” Hackett pondered. He says Ford’s vision is an open source, cloud-based, data-driven infrastructure that can be used by city planners, architects, technology companies and citizens to redefine urban space around a concept called “The Living Street.” 

Not surprisingly, much of the CES smart cities discussion focused on transportation — most visibly with the countless driverless vehicles on display — from Olli public transit (see sidebar) to TuSimple’s longhaul unmanned trucks. 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao characterized smart cities as a culmination of “transformative technology.” During her CES on-stage discussion with CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro, Chao cited the major challenge as “integrating the new technology.” She added, “We need to have the infrastructure to support that.”

Reminding the audience that infrastructure is President Trump’s “Number one priority for this year,” Chao explained the goal of finding out “how we embed transformative technology in the future infrastructure.” She focused on developing incentives, “but not direct government dollars,” to insure “that the emphasis on emerging technologies and transformative technologies will be self-sustaining.” Chao said, “That will be very exciting.” 

Where to Build it? Anywhere?

One challenge facing the smart cities movement is retrofitting existing communities with intelligence while also creating smart cities in “greenfield” new construction. Experts see the need for both implementations, hence the value of public and private partnerships and the infrastructure investments that Chao mentioned.

Peter Fannon, Panasonic’s former vice president of corporate and government aff airs, acknowledges that, “Transportation is likely to be the starting point for most communities as they move toward solutions of energy, safety and sustainability.”

Peña Station NEXT, near Denver International Airport, exemplifi es the new town approach: a self-suffi  cient community that embraces smart technology, clean energy and mobility. The developers are working with Panasonic Enterprise Solutions to create a global showcase for smart, sustainable, connected living. Peña Station NEXT uses realtime data from a smart city street network to monitor road conditions, live-testing autonomous mobility, and preparing to launch a fully connected wellness center. It was “inspired” by the Panasonic Smart City development in Fujisawa, Japan, which was built six years ago on the site of an old Matsushita manufacturing plant and is a prototype for Panasonic’s CityNOW technology with other partners in Berlin, Singapore and China. 

Another Colorado project on smart highways is demonstrating intelligence as a substitute for construction. Rather than add two lanes to Interstate 70 near Denver, at a cost of $500 million, the Colorado Department of Transportation opted to install connected technology developed by Panasonic that can inform cars about accidents, road and weather conditions and other features. The original “RoadX” called for intelligent features on a 90-mile stretch of road near Denver, but during the development phase Colorado authorities expanded the project to 400 miles into the state’s western mountains. 

Panasonic sees eventual vehicleto-vehicle connectivity, including using aftermarket installations in current vehicles to speed widespread adoption. “The key for the U.S. is to assure that collaboration between all levels of government and industry can keep us at the forefront,” he says. 

Creating New Connectivity Collaboration

“The smart city currency is data,” says Dr. Brenda Connor of Ericsson. She also agrees that Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are the driver of smart city development and that public and private collaboration is essential for its success.

“With the increased urbanization, cities cannot build roads fast enough,” says Connor, head of Ericsson’s Smart Cities & Intelligent Transport Systems of North America. “While cities must keep growing the transportation infrastructure, they also must more efficiently move people and goods over the existing infrastructure.” 

Ericsson, which was an anchor exhibitor in the Smart Cities Marketplace at CES 2018, pioneered its vision of smart cities more than a decade ago. “Cities may be congested and complex, but they are also among the planet’s most exciting places to live,” Connor says. “We believe that a smart sustainable city makes extensive use of information and communications technologies, including mobile networks, to improve the quality of life of its citizens and visitors by target- ing measurable results with societal, environmental and economic impact.” Connor adds, “Smart Cities are a team sport."

“The biggest challenge and opportunity we see in integrating so many systems from multiple suppliers is the need to maximize the reuse of existing city investments in products that may not have included requirements on openness and interoperability,” he explains. 

Connor is a big believer in publicprivate partnerships, such as the one launched early this year in Dallas, TX, where Ericsson will install and host an advanced traffic management system based on its connected urban transport solution. The city envisions a system that will enable Dallas and adjacent cities the ability to aggregate and analyze diverse, real-time data from traffic sensors.

Connectivity was also at the core of Bosch’s CES exhibit, which featured connected cities that would improve security, energy efficiency and convenience. They also discussed connected mobility, connected homes and “Industry 4.0,” the company’s term for connected manufacturing. Its vision of connected cities includes microgrids for self-sufficient energy management using traditional and renewable fuels, parking solutions (including automated valet parking which involves a smartphone app and a smart garage infrastructure) plus a Bosch Vivatar app that lets people contact friends and family and be digitally “escorted” home via GPS.

Stefan Hartung, member of the Robert Bosch GmbH board of management, explained the drive toward smart city development during his remarks to a Bosch event at CES. 

Bosch's AR solution allow users to see additional information on an iPad city display.

“The arrival of the IoT a few years ago, with its innovations in sensors, artificial intelligence, big data and predictive analytics, means that many smart city initiatives are for the first time not only possible, but also economically viable,” Hartung says. He also tied smart buildings to the value of smart cities.

“In order to unlock the full potential of smart cities, the homes and buildings inside them will need to be intelligent as well,” Hartung says. “Smart home technologies offer countless benefits: they can take care of time-consuming chores for us, enable us to save energy and money, and make our living spaces more secure.”

Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch North America Market, focused on smart cities during his presentation at CES. Emphasizing the “booming” global smart city market, Mansuetti envisioned annual sales growth of 19 percent, “reaching as much as $800 billion worldwide by 2020.” Mansuetti focused on the value of making special buildings especially smart. He cited hospitals, noting that sensor-based video technology, lighting, and motion detectors can be used in hospitals for safety and security. Bosch’s U.S. subsidiary Climatec supplies building automation, security and fire detection equipment for 15 Banner Health Care facilities. 

While all this is going on around the world, future CES attendees can keep an eye on smart city progress year by year in Las Vegas’ “Innovation District” — also knvown as the “digital playground.” 

Gary Arlen

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