How the Digital Revolution is Helping Cities Go Circular
Earlier this year, the City of Guelph and the county of Wellington in Ontario set an ambitious goal to transform its local food system and become Canada’s first “Circular Food Economy.” By 2025, Guelph-Wellington aspires to increase access to affordable, nutritious food by 50%; create 50 new circular businesses and collaborations; and increase circular economic revenues by 50% — all with the help of smart and connected technologies.
For those not familiar with the term, a circular economy is one that aims to eliminate the concept of waste, emphasizing principles like durability, renewability, reuse, repair, and reduced material use. The concept seeks to bridge both environmental and economic concerns: according to Accenture, transitioning to a circular economy could unlock $4.5 trillion of economic value, while also making businesses and communities more resilient.
Guelph-Wellington is now a finalist in Canada’s $300 million Smart City Challenge, competing for a $10 million prize to apply innovative technologies to solve food challenges. For example, the community proposes to use the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics to track the flow of food. This will help to uncover new economic opportunities and design evidence-based urban policies and programs. Collaboration platforms and open-data repositories will help researchers, students, entrepreneurs, and government agencies develop new solutions based on shared data. As a member of the stakeholder group championing Guelph-Wellington’s vision, Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities initiative is helping this community explore the art of the possible.
Like Guelph-Wellington, cities across the globe are embracing circularity to tackle their most pressing challenges — not only with food, but also with energy, urban mobility, waste management, and more.
Look closely at any modern city and you will find huge amounts of waste: wasted energy, wasted materials, and wasted assets. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average person in the US generates nearly 4.5 pounds of waste per day, with more than half going to landfill and only 35% being recycled or composted. In Europe, the average car is parked 92% of the time; 31% of food is wasted along the value chain; and the average office is used only 35-50% of the time, even during working hours (based on research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation).
What if we reimagined our economy to capture this lost value? Many cities are doing just that, and the digital revolution is accelerating their progress.
Copenhagen, for instance, entered an innovation partnership with Cisco to transform the city into a green living lab. Intelligent solutions in waste management, parking, air quality, and lighting help drive more efficient and circular city operations. For example, when smart sensors indicated that only 30% of trash pickups encountered full bins, Copenhagen was able to optimize waste collection with better schedules and routes. This helps the city cut fuel costs and carbon emissions.
Recently, Albuquerque announced a 15-year, performance-based contract to convert more than 20,000 streetlights to sensor-enabled, energy-efficient LEDs. Motion detection allows lights to dim automatically when activity is low, and remote monitoring enables improved maintenance. This solution enhances public safety while making street lighting less resource-intensive. The expected cost savings will be put toward the city’s implementation of a smart city data aggregation architecture based on the Cisco Kinetic for Cities IoT platform.
Cisco is committed to advancing the circular economy, not only through the technologies we put on the market, but across every facet of our business. This means thinking differently about how we manage our operations, design and build products, and reuse and recycle assets.
As more and more cities chart their own roadmaps to becoming smarter and more circular, Cisco continues to bring together technologies, thought leadership, and a growing partner ecosystem to support the journey.
To learn more about Cisco’s circular economy initiatives, please click here.
Also, if you are attending this week’s Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, the Cisco team looks forward to meeting you. At 15:15 (CET) on November 14, 2018, I will be at the Cisco Theatre sharing an overview of Cisco’s Circular Economy program. Hope to see you there!