Watch the Video: Smart Cities: From Innovation to Reality
On January 25, in celebration of Penn’s Year of Innovation, Penn IUR hosted a series of speakers on the role of innovation in smart cities. The panel commenced with introductory remarks from Penn IUR Co-Director and Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research & Education Eugenie Birch, who emphasized the importance of planning cities through smart and innovative measures. Megan Ryerson, Penn IUR Faculty Fellow and Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning and Engineering, began the event by asking how users in cities can interact with transportation infrastructure more effectively. Ryerson discussed the fact that transportation safety today has been lagging and said road safety for pedestrians and cyclists is a fundamental concern, especially in Philadelphia. Following Mayor Kenny’s recent plan for “Vision Zero,” an effort to make its streets safer, the city has been proactively thinking about infrastructure design that would make roads safer for all users, not only those in automobiles. Reyerson emphasized that significant data collection already exists for automobiles, but very little exists for pedestrians and cyclists. By proposing new technology, such as eye tracking glasses that capture moment by moment glances, of up to 100 glances per second, Ryerson suggested more sophisticated data analysis can be performed in order to examine how cyclists are using the roads. This, in turn, would allow for better recommendations for future improvement and community interventions.
Next, Allison Lassiter, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning, School of Design, introduced the importance of real-time responses to data and described how some cities are reacting to these data streams. Lassiter shared the work that her students undertook last semester in a course entitled “Sensing the City.” In the course, students designed interventions that use sensors at different scales, and in different environments. These interventions ranged in scale from households to city-wide, and addressed a wide range of city issues. Projectes included home energy monitoring devices that wirelessly communicate when you are over your goal energy consumption, improving the problem of car parking in bike lanes with light and weight sensors, and automated trash pickup that use sensors to determine when trashcans are full in order to alert city officials.
Achin Jain, a doctoral student in Electrical and Systems Engineering at Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, presented his work on energy consumption. To mitigate current inefficient and costly manual approaches, Jain presented a data-driven response system that tells building operators exactly how much energy should run through the building in order to achieve the right energy efficiency. Jain suggested that using historical data to generate models could result in up to 20 percent of energy savings.
Following these discussions about technologies, three experts discussed the challenges facing cities, policymakers, and businesses in implementing such innovations. Richard Voith, President and Principal, Econsult Solutions, discussed the plan his organization created to assist businesses in better communicating the benefits of smart cities technologies, explaining public procurement systems, and addressing political and social realities. Ultimately the report investigated nine cities in depth, and developed a cost-benefit analysis to apply to over 100 cities.
Penn IUR Faculty Fellow John Landis, Crossways Professor of City and Regional Planning, School of Design, spoke about his understanding of what we mean when we talk about smart cities technology, and the role of real-time data acquisition. He also discussed how predictive modeling can change city systems such as transportation or energy. Landis elaborated on ways in which currently available smart city applications might be transformative, offering a roadmap for such a transformation. He suggested that only by breaking-down their internal silos and creating incentives for cross-departmental collaboration and experimentation, can cities truly become smarter.
Perry World House Visiting Fellow Kyung-Hwan Kim, Professor of Economics, Sogang University, concluded the presentations by discussing an important case study in smart cities: Seoul, Korea. As Former Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of Korea and Former President of the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, he detailed the challenges of implementing smart cities technologies and the importance of civic investment in successful project implementation.
This event was co-sponsored by Perry World House and supported by the generosity of the Provost’s Office of Research.