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On the Road to SMART Cities: What Can we Learn from Asian City Leaders?

I recently returned from Toronto Canada, where the global Association for Asian Studies (AAS) held its 2012 Annual Conference. This four day gathering brought together thousands of Asia-watchers devoted to the sustainable and prosperous future of Asia. Alongside a rich menu of AAS’s scholarly programs, were roundtable discussions, workshops, and panel sessions, all focused on the full range of issues facing Asian citizens, governments and enterprises.

My presentation, “City-to-City Strategies: How U.S. and Japanese Cities Are Working to Improve Their Sustainability” was part of the panel, ““Climate Change, Toxic Spills, and Eco-Cities: Japanese and American Responses to Environmental Crisis.” Prof. Peter Friederici, of Northern Arizona University chaired our session, which was sponsored by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. Read More »

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Is Network Technology a Key Enabler for Smart Eco-City Development?

Earlier this week, the US-China Green Energy Council convened an impressive seminar on “Smart Eco-City Development Progress: Connecting People in Unique, Innovative and Regenerative Communities.”

Participants came to the discussion from many angles — infrastructure, engineering, architecture, urban design, planning, technology development, energy, to name just a few. That diversity of perspective certainly added a layer of richness to the debate, especially when skeptical voices worried about the longer-term  impacts of the global recession. Clearly, there was a lot of ground to discover in one short event.

Three panelists, including myself, shared our background, experience,  and views,  and  the floor was opened for what turned out to be a vigorous discussion. Our moderator was James T. Caldwell Ph.D., Director of UCGEC and the Chair of UCGEC’s Green Building and Ecocities Task Force. He also serves as a consultant to Heller Manus Architects, based in San Francisco, which is undertaking massive projects in China for their clients.

I laid out the story behind Cisco’s ‘Smart+Connected Communities’ initiative, which is improving the delivery of urban services while strengthening economic development in cities of varying sizes and types. I also explained some of S+CC’s current areas of focus, and presented some of the work now underway in Asia, Europe and North America. For more about IBSG’s perspective on this work be sure to take a look at the blog post, “Innovation in the 21st Century,” written by Nicola Villa, global director of IBSG’s Urban Innovations team.  And for a deeper dive, you may want to review Nic’s white paper, “Connecting Cities: Achieving Sustainability Through Innovation,” which he  co- authored with Shane Mitchell, IBSG Public Sector.

Joining me was Eric Lundquist, an architect, and Managing Director of Heller Manus Architects. Eric’s firm has clients with a total of 7,500 acres of development in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Russia, Mexico, and China, and he said that “we must recognize that each project has a unique geography, culture and its own strategic imperatives for sustainable, healthy and attractive communities.” Eric described “how diverse goals and ecological imperatives are integrated through architectural planning in partnership with key stakeholders.”

Ed Cazalet, Ph.D., and  President and CEO of TeMix, Inc., also weighed in. With  forty years of electric industry experience as a founder and CEO of several companies and as a Board member of the California ISO, Dr. Cazalet described TeMix’s “Smart Transactive Energy Services” as “useful for eco-city smart grids.”  He explained that his company’s technology will “optimally coordinate renewable energy production, storage, grid demand, and traffic among all components and players on the grid.” He included in his presentation a review of renewable energy micro-grids, including one proposed by OSISoft for Hainan Island in China.

As we wrapped up for the day, I found myself reflecting on the initial statement the organizers released about the seminar’s focus:  “The key to human survival and healthy fulfillment is strengthening economic, intellectual and social growth in ways that maintain healthy, resilient eco-systems (global, regional and local). Since all these variables change, we survive and thrive by designing, measuring, connecting and managing our built environments interactively. We adapt, innovate and change in full view of the unique and charming qualities of each city and ecosystem. In smart eco-city development, we connect its diverse natural environments, diverse communities and creative people with flexible, connected built environments. We interactively encourage, preserve and balance the special qualities and contributions of each city, species, community, individual and ecosystem. We cannot measure and manage every variable. This approach optimizes self-management, creative innovation and it minimizes unforeseen consequences.”

A spirited and robust conversation has begun; I look forward to its continuation.

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Show me the Money: the Debate Continues about Financing Urban Innovation

How exactly are companies and cities going to successfully finance dramatic upgrades of urban connectivity? When will the financial engineers develop the tools which, when used, result in smarter and more prosperous communities where efficiencies are realized; where multiple urban systems are integrated; and where the return on investment shows up in improved local economies?

On Feb 1st this blogger took a first look at that conundrum, as part of a panel at The Cities Summit,  —convened by The City of Vancouver. A few weeks later, I joined  another group of leaders assembled at the second annual Conference  on Sustainable Real Estate of NYU Schack Institute’s Center for the Sustainable Built Environment, where  not surprisingly, the topic came up again, at the conference’s conclusion. Read More »

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Innovation in Government? Collaborative Research is Critical to Fuel Breakthroughs

This week I had the opportunity to meet with a research group from the University of Tokyo visiting California to explore the role of technology for intelligent cities of the future.   I prepared for this meeting with a discussion with colleage Dr. Norm Jacknis concerning his collaboration with government leaders and university researchers who are delving deeply into the impact of the Internet on government, politics, and society. 

Three takeaways were clear from these conversations:

1. Critical importance of collaborative research across expertise domains, geographies, and public and private sectors

2. Capability to harness the explosion of information or big data deluge that is being fueled by mobile devices connected to the intelligent network

3. An optimistic point of view about potential for research applications, and I’m an optimist!

Next month, Cisco is hosting a live webcast with Dr. Martin Chalfie, 2008 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry Fueling Innovation:  How Research is Really Done (February 29, 2012 at 9:00 am Pacific Time / 12:00 pm Eastern Time). 

This webcast will explore how the fruits of basic research are critical to fueling applications. Dr. Chalfie will give examples from his own research developing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as a biological marker, as well as from work by others, to demonstrate that the application of basic research into fundamental problems in biology is important for its own sake and, fuels the development of various new applications.

While research is typically focused on one industry, great discoveries generally provide value for multiple industries. 

Dr. Chalfie is a Professor of Biological Sciences and former chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. In 2008 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Tsien for his introduction of GFP as a biological marker.

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A Tale of Two Cities Pursuing One Common Vision: The story of how urban economics, urban energy, urban environment get greener, cleaner, smarter because they’re better connected (Part Two of a two-part series)

Following the conclusion of State of Green Business 2012, I boarded a plane to Vancouver with Stephan Dolezalek, Managing Director, VantagePoint Venture Partners and one of my fellow panelists at the San Francisco conference, to ask that other “greenish city on a bay” similar questions that were pondered in San Francisco. (As some of you already know, these two cities enjoy a friendly rivalry to see who can be more sustainable and prosperous while still being hip and cool).

The Cities Summit, hosted and organized on February 1-2 by Vancouver’s city government, assembled an interesting group comprised of hundreds of international business and urban leaders. They focused on the design of creative, practical solutions for a sustainable urban future. The city invited me to moderate a session entitled, “City Finance 2.0: Next Generation Urban Infrastructure.” The invitation arose for one good reason: the focus of this  Vancouver discussion — the business of city building — closely mirrors the focus of the “2012 Meeting of the Minds,” which Toyota and Cisco and others will convene in San Francisco in October. Read More »

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