Smart Cities of the future, in the United States, as well as globally, would be those that build strong and resilient infrastructure around the four pillars of theboardiQ’s areas of focus – Inclusion, Sustainability, Technology Innovation and Transformation.
The Americas region as a whole is projected to reach 32% of the global smart cities information and communication technologies (ICT) spend by 2023.
Let’s examine the recent $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure fillip in the United States and how that plays through enabling Smart Cities of the future.
Core Areas of Focus
Roads, Bridges, Transportation, Ports, Airports, Major Infrastructure
America’s infrastructure received an overall grade of C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers, according to the group’s 2021 Report Card. While the nation’s overall infrastructure standing improved slightly from the engineers’ last report card in 2017, 11 of 17 categories still received marks in the D range, including aviation, dams, levees, public parks, roads, schools and wastewater. More than 40% of the nation’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. According to the White House, some 20%, or 173,000 miles, of the nation’s highways and major roads are in poor condition, as are 45,000 bridges. Some 15% of wastewater treatment plants have reached or exceeded their design capacity. Among school districts that report data, just over half say they need to update or replace multiple building systems, including heating, air conditioning and ventilation. State and local parks face $5.6 billion and $60 billion deferred maintenance backlogs, respectively. The number of deficient, high-hazard-potential dams is now estimated to exceed 2,300.
Case in point is the I-40 bridge in Memphis. The trails through Memphis are critical to both the region and the entire US economy. The interstate highways make it the third-busiest trucking route, moving $350 billion of goods annually. Barge arrivals on the Mississippi River to the International Port of Memphis make it the fifth-largest inland port. Only one other city — Chicago — is also connected to five of the largest freight railroads. And Memphis International Airport is the FedEx Superhub, making it the world’s busiest airport for air cargo. The acute issue with the I-40 bridge is a crack in a 900 foot steel beam, discovered during a May inspection. The issue was so serious that inspectors called 911 and told dispatchers to close the bridge immediately. The bridge is currently closed to traffic in both directions, and it is unclear when it will reopen. Like this bridge, the American Society of Civil Engineers reports there are 21,000 bridges nationwide that are at risk of a potential disaster in extreme weather, possibly from water flowing over the surface or washing out the foundation.
The deal calls for investing $110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects. Included is $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement and rehabilitation. The package would provide $39 billion to modernize public transit. The deal would also invest $66 billion in passenger and freight rail, according to the bill text. The funds would eliminate Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor line and bring rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Included in the package is $12 billion in partnership grants for intercity rail service, including high-speed rail. The deal would also invest $17 billion in port infrastructure and $25 billion in airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions near ports and airports.
- Technology Innovation
Technology, Cybersecurity and Digital Hub
Getting to a smart city platform that provides a seamless, integrated experience for citizens requires digital ecosystems where multiple players can participate, collaborate and exchange data through low-latency private interconnection. Although North America is the fifth largest continent by land mass, it has the lowest population density. This means that the region has similar economic and technological advantages as other affluent regions without as much geographic risk. History has shown that innovation often sprouts on college campuses in the U.S. and Canada where many of the tech giants of today got their start. Along with other factors, being home to most of the world’s leading universities makes North America an ideal incubator for entrepreneurship and digital innovation. Other factors include active venture capital markets that help fund startups, a mobile workforce unimpeded by excessive government involvement and a decentralized political system that encourages states to compete for businesses and residents.
The fastest growing smart city use cases for the Americas are Cybersecurity Resilience, Vehicle to Everything (V2X), Digital Twins, Public Safety Wearables, Intelligent Traffic Management and Water Quality Monitoring. Take the case of data-driven public safety where the police department in Chicago, IL deployed real-time crime centers that leverage gunshot detection data from ShotSpotter and surveillance cameras to help officers pinpoint dangers more quickly. As a result, homicides and shootings were reduced by 40% in Chicago’s deadliest neighborhood, and shootings were reduced in 18 of the city’s 22 police districts. In New York, smart monitoring is helping the city manage resources more effectively and save money. Automated Meter Reading (AMR) units have been installed to give the city better data on actual water consumption and bill its citizens more accurately. When integrated with a with a smartphone application, AMR units notify citizens of their water consumption and provide warnings of potential water leaks when abnormal spikes are detected. Faster detection of water leaks has saved the city more than $73 million. In yet another example, Pittsburgh, PA implemented a network of smart traffic lights to reduce congestion. Traffic is logged in time-sequenced clusters of vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms use that data to build a timing plan that will move all the vehicles through the intersection in the most efficient way possible. Each light communicates the data it gathers to neighboring lights, enabling the system to adapt sequencing to minimize traffic buildup. The city estimates that intersection wait times have fallen by 41%, journey times by 26% and emissions by 21%.
The bill would provide a $65 billion investment in improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure. A total of $11 billion shall be dedicated to a program called “Safe Streets for All” that aims to bring down road accidents and fatalities and enhance the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. Another $50 billion has been set aside to ensure infrastructure withstands the impact of climate change and cyber-attacks. In an increased focus on Public – Private partnership, big tech has partnered with the Biden administration to build cybersecurity resiliency for the nation. Google has committed to invest $10 billion in cybersecurity over the next five years, money aimed at helping secure the software supply chain and expand zero-trust programs.Google also pledged to train 100,000 Americans in tech support and data analytics through its Google Career Certificate program. In addition, the company will train over 10 million Americans in basic to advanced digital skills by 2023. The Biden administration has looked for ways to safeguard the government’s supply chain following a massive Russian government cyber espionage campaign that exploited vulnerabilities and gave hackers access to the networks of US government agencies and private companies. Microsoft, meanwhile, said it would invest $20 billion in cybersecurity over the next five years and make available $150 million in technical services to help local governments improve their defenses. IBM plans to train 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years, and Apple said it would develop a new program to help strengthen the supply chain. Amazon shared two new security initiatives: cybersecurity training materials that’ll be made available to the public starting in October, and a free multi-factor authentication device for qualified AWS customers to further help protect against cyberattacks.
People, Principles of Governance, Prosperity, Planet
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) looks at sustainability around the world. It ranks countries – 180 of them – on environmental health and the vitality of their ecosystems. The United States ranks at 24 with a EPI score of 69.3 with a 2.9 point change over a 10 year period. Over the last 15 years, U.S. cities of all sizes have started developing long-term sustainability plans that identify demographic trends, anticipate their cities’ needs, and set long-term environmental goals. The planning process also often includes a range of input from city residents and other stakeholders, such as civic institutions and the private sector. In addition, the plans are updated regularly and progress is tracked publicly.
In an effort to spur efforts around a sustainable future, it is inevitable to focus on Public Private partnerships around a common set of metrics – the World Economic Forum framework around People, Planet, Principles of Governance and Prosperity.
In a Harvard Study, it was found that 62% of companies in the Fortune 200 incorporate stakeholder metrics – ESG measures – in their executive compensation programs. However, the influence these metrics have on pay outcomes can differ drastically, with many companies using a largely discretionary assessment to determine payouts.
In a United Nations driven blueprint for Sustainable American Cities, with special emphasis on SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities, the goal is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Goal 11 has ten targets
- 11.1 By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.
- 11.2 By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities, and older persons.
- 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated, and sustainable human settlement planning and management in countries.
- 11.4 Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
- 11.5 By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations.
- 11.6 By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.
- 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities.
- 11.A Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban, and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning.
- 11.B By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation, and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels.
- 11.C Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials.
Using the SDGs as a “Matrix of Good Reminders” in San José, California is a good example of progress. Seated in the heart of Silicon Valley, San José has long prioritized technology, innovation, and setting big goals. The Climate Smart San José plan reflects the city’s values and its ambition. The plan offers a bold vision that puts San José on a course to achieve the UN’s Paris Agreement reductions in emissions while also integrating the SDGs’ emphasis on equity, economic prosperity, and quality of life. San José was particularly keen to demonstrate how the city’s tech culture can be leveraged to achieve better outcomes on key metrics across the city, particularly in the neighborhoods and communities with traditionally lower economic and political power. Under the leadership of Mayor Sam Liccardo, the city’s Environmental Services Department began to consider the SDG targets as a “matrix of good reminders” for not only the department, but for the city at large. The SDGs also provided a “North Star” for cross-cutting equity issues, such as explicitly planning for gender, race, and economic inclusion from the beginning of program design. The Climate Smart team began to reference the SDGs as a set of common values and mutually reinforcing goals to consider with every policy they put into the plan. The Chief Sustainability Officer appointed a designated senior staffer to head up efforts on the SDGs as part of her role in working across departments to implement the Climate Smart Plan.The integrated housing policy within the Climate Smart San José plan touches on multiple SDGs: Starting with SDG 11 on sustainable urban communities, it considers marginalized communities (SDG 10) in the creation of good economic opportunities (SDG 13) while being sensitive to the environmental impacts of new construction and urban emissions (SDG 12). San José’s housing policy demonstrates how the Climate Smart Plan reinforces policy goals across city agencies.
Housing affordability in San José remains a critical issue, just as it is throughout the broader region of Northern California where San José is located (the San Francisco Bay Area). San José has boomed with the tech industry, though most new land development has skewed toward high-income dwellings. The risk of housing affordability displacing lower income residents has increased, leading the Housing Department to develop programs for communities of all economic levels to continue to live and thrive in the city. A multi-sector approach informed and inspired by SDGs allowed the Climate Smart San José team to explicitly link their plans to the Housing Department’s goals, thereby tackling multiple ambitions at once: increasing affordable housing in the city, increasing transit accessibility, and increasing retail density without causing a large increase in the city’s carbon footprint. Climate Smart San José now permits new, mixed-use development areas along designated transit corridors, with retail and affordable housing requirements. It aims to ensure that more people can live in San José and use public transit to move within the city to new economic opportunity zones. The plan also subsidizes solar panels that increase the energy efficiency of buildings, reduce greenhouse emissions, and provide affordable energy for low-income residents. The Climate Smart Plan reinforced the Housing Department’s plans and connected them to environmentally-focused city partners to ensure that new buildings would be outfitted with affordable solar energy infrastructure.
In a recent development, the California Energy Commission voted unanimously to adopt changes to the state building energy efficiency standards that in part heavily encourage the use of electric heat pumps over gas alternatives. The state updates the code every three years. If later approved by the California Building Standards Commission, the changes will apply to all newly built or renovated residential and nonresidential structures beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
- The vote follows building decarbonization action in dozens of California cities — including Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — some of which have taken even more clear-cut steps to prohibit natural gas infrastructure in certain new buildings and make electric appliances standard.
- The updated code also has provisions for adding solar power and battery storage features to many new structures and establishes “electric-ready” requirements for homes. According to estimates the commission shared, over a 30-year span the revamped code would provide a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction equivalent to taking 2.2 million cars off the road for a year.
In another initiative, as a part of Corporate Activism, a growing coalition of 61 top business leaders across industries announced on January 26, 2021, their commitment to the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics, a set of environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics and disclosures released by the World Economic Forum and it’s International Business Council (IBC) in September 2020, that measure the long-term enterprise value creation for all stakeholders around four key areas – People, Planet, Principles of Governance and Prosperity.
The bill would invest $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid, according to the White House. It calls for building thousands of miles of new power lines and expanding renewable energy.
It would provide $55 billion to upgrade water infrastructure, according to the bill text. It would replace lead service lines and pipes so that communities have access to clean drinking water. Another $50 billion would go toward making the system more resilient — protecting it from drought, floods and cyber attacks. The bill would also provide $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells.
Inclusion, Accessibility, Empowerment and Equality
US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is among those who have spoken out on the history of Black neighborhoods being disproportionately divided by highway projects, and has called for righting those wrongs. The sentiment lingers even decades after the underbelly of urban highways became clear: pollution, noise, racism, displacement and congestion.
In the United States, people with disabilities are 20% less likely to have access to broadband connectivity, a PC, or smartphone. In February 2019, WebAIM evaluated for accessibility the top one million web sites. Nearly all of them, 97.8%, had accessibility failures. Research indicates 30% of individuals with disabilities in the United States have difficulty accessing transportation. In addition, people with disabilities travel less frequently and rely on public transportation more than the general population. According to U.S. Federal government estimates, 3.6 million persons with disabilities in the country do not even leave home as a result of travel limiting disabilities.
In terms of Gender Equality, The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to benchmark progress towards gender parity and compare countries’ gender gaps across four dimensions: economic opportunities, education, health and political leadership. The United States ranks 23rd in the 2021 rankings.
Moreover, as per the United Nation’s Sustainability Goal 5, Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. There has been progress over the last decades: More girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership, and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.
Despite these gains, many challenges remain: discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political and corporate leadership, and 1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period.
The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) is working to make Chicago the most accessible city in the nation on behalf of residents and visitors with disabilities. Innovation and technology are key to success. Chicago is leveraging technology to enhance delivery of city services through easy, reliable, cost-effective, and secure access to information. Similarly, the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) is committed to making New York the most accessible city in the world. As part of their efforts, they are leveraging technological advancements to improve accessibility in all facets of life. For example, the fully accessible LinkNYC kiosks have transformed the way the nearly one million New Yorkers with disabilities receive information. The City’s first-ever Digital Accessibility Coordinator reviews agency websites and other digital content to ensure that everything we put out is fully accessible. Technology has the potential to truly change the way people interact with each other and their environment. The needs of people with disabilities are too often left out of new innovations, which is why the disability community needs to be included in every step of the design process.
Some of the best practices for greater Inclusion (not limited to) include:
- Use the city’s datasets to incentivize a greater commitment to inclusion
- In return for access to valuable city datasets, require developers, entrepreneurs, and companies to include a focus on inclusion, attend accessibility training, or attain ICT accessibility certification.
- Use the city’s enormous purchasing power to shift the market. Create market demand – require accessibility in city ICT procurements. It is common practice today for governments to promote ICT privacy and security by including them as part of their procurement process. ICT accessibility can be added as a priority in a similar way.
- Include accessibility as part of discussions with technology and smart solutions vendors (e.g. do vendors have experience making their products accessible? Can they explain what actions they are taking to meet ICT accessibility requirements and are they able to share the roadmaps or process guidelines?)
- Use the city’s unique public policy power and budget to enable inclusive innovation – Fund only those incubators and accelerators that adopt the strategies and make progress toward greater inclusion, provide incentives for startups and incubators that embrace the concept of accessibility and inclusion, i.e. those that apply universal design principles and/or global ICT accessibility standards, Invest in creating the data and business case for startups and companies to design products and solutions that work for all people.
- Support an increased number of trained accessibility professionals available to the city, startups, companies, and the innovation ecosystem.
The bill would provide a $65 billion investment in improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure. It also aims to help lower the price households pay for internet service by requiring federal funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by creating price transparency and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service. It would also create a permanent federal program to help more low-income households access the internet.
The bill also contains $1 billion to reconnect communities, disproportionately Black neighborhoods, that were divided by highways and other infrastructure, according to the White House. It will fund planning, design, demolition and reconstruction of street grids, parks or other infrastructure. Public transport is expected to see a massive overhaul. With $39 billion set to be spent, it will become more modernized and more accessible for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
An increasing number of the world’s citizens – including those in the US – are moving to cities, spurring skyrocketing demand for resources and services in these urban centers. By the year 2025, 34 cities worldwide will have a population of greater than 10 million people. Cities already consume 2/3 of the world’s energy and the majority of other resources. Now imagine the impact on consumption in these cities that have more than 10 million people. The demand for municipal water alone will be staggering and, it is estimated that by 2025, urban dwellers will demand 80 billion additional metric tons of municipal water. Increased demand on other city resources – including the reliability of energy and power, the quality of the air, and the flow of traffic – will impact the quality of living.
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