Engineering the Cities of the Future

downtown-nySmart Cities use data, information, and communications technology to streamline urban infrastructure activities such as transportation and traffic management, water supply networks, waste and wastewater management, and power plants to improve the lives of their residents. Smart Cities not only present challenges to the A/E industry, but opportunities as well. Smart buildings can utilize building management systems to save energy; transportation systems designed for autonomous vehicles can be designed with a streamlined footprint and more effective flow of traffic; municipal management systems can incorporate sustainable materials and green infrastructure; and affordable and efficient ground transportation can increase convenience and quality of life.

fultontransitcenter-20President Obama launched the Smart Cities Initiative in September 2015 to help communities tackle issues such as traffic congestion, crime, economic growth, climate change, and delivery of city services. There is a lot of money backing this up: grants and proposed investments totaling around $160 million by agencies such as the National Science Foundation; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Energy, and Commerce; and the EPA to build a Smart Cities research infrastructure and unlock new solutions in safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation, health, and more.

Taking the lead in this effort, the National Science Foundation announced more than $60 million in Smart Cities-related grants for FY 2016 with additional investments planned for FY 2017. Previous research supported by the NSF has included advanced networking and connectivity, sensing, real-time data analytics, control, automation, and decision making. The agency has also been instrumental in transitioning these technologies to widespread use.

hudson-yards-park-3The US Department of Transportation called for cities to come up with a plan to reshape their transportation systems as part of a fully integrated city that harnesses the power and potential of technology, data, and creativity to reimagine how people and goods move. The resulting Smart City Challenge awarded the city of Columbus, Ohio $60 million in public and private funds to build a new bus rapid transit system, mobility kiosks, motion-sensitive LED street lights, self-driving shuttles, and a new transit center. Furthermore, the DOT has provided technical assistance to 78 cities to help them identify and apply for approximately $6 billion in federal funding to use for innovative transportation projects such as these.

Other cities that are adopting Smart Cities applications include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Manchester, Stockholm, Singapore, and Santa Cruz. India is implementing its Smart Cities Mission in over 100 cities nationwide.

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