Connecting state and local government leaders
But cities need to provide incentives for all players in the energy management ecosystem.
Building smart cities is not about the technology, according to panelists speaking on the future of smart infrastructure.
“I think that’s the challenge when we’re talking about smart cities and smart infrastructure. We have the technology. It’s been invented. It’s been demonstrated. We’ve had pilot projects,” Karen Lightman, executive director of the Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said during the “Smart Infrastructure: Building the Future” session at CES on Jan. 6. “Where it gets complicated is in the people and in the procurement and the policies.”
Fellow panelists Jeff Hendler, chief executive officer of Logical Buildings; Sce Pike, head of multifamily at ADT; and Marco Argenton, vice president of product management at Italy’s Telit IoT Solutions, pointed to examples where smart infrastructure is making a difference already.
“Every day, every moment another utility is putting in a smart meter. Why? They need to,” Hendler said. “It’s giving data access to the end user to enable them to be responsive with the load they’re creating—their digital content of carbon, of energy, and being able to measure it and manage it, that’s the trend.”
But that can be tricky to pull off, depending on the location, Lightman added. She pointed to work she’s doing in Pittsburgh on converting 40,000 streetlights to LED. The public utility owns some lights, the city owns some and neither is sure where all are located. Plus, the city pays a flat rate for each streetlight converted to LED, regardless of its energy consumption, rather than incentivizing providers to use less electricity, she said.
Those incentives for energy monitoring can be monetary. Pike pointed to an ADT customer who built a solar farm in an empty lot that feeds power to the local utility company. In exchange, the customer gets free energy for 10 to 15 years to power their building miles away from the farm. Others monitor energy usage not to save money but to ensure the air conditioning comes on in Houston in the summer and the heat in the Dakotas in the winter.
“Energy management is actually how to use that energy in a smart way and automate and prevent loss,” Pike said. Risk mitigation, solar panels and smart thermostats are all part of “this complete ecosystem that we all should be participating in.”
Hendler and Argenton spoke about the importance of technology integrations and partnerships. For instance, Hendler said Logical Buildings partners with Samsung, whose SmartThings, a mass-market smart home energy management system, became last month the first to earn the Energy STAR SHEMS certification. It also works with LoRaWAN, which supports the internet-of-things (IoT) applications.
“Having partners being interoperable is really key so [an energy management solution] could be bespoke to each building,” Hendler said.
Argenton said that Telit has grown on the foundation of wireless models, including 5G and Wi-Fi, to create smart metering, waste management, lighting and parking. “Maybe the technology underneath is always the same, but the use of it is really making the difference,” he said.
Interoperability is crucial, Lightman concurred. It’s what will break down silos to create scalability. But it must be considered through an equity lens.
“If the end user doesn’t have reliable internet, they don’t have cell service, they don’t have Wi-Fi, how will they take advantage” of energy management programs? she asked. “Where are the policies that are incentivizing to find those opportunities?”
Edge computing that enables smart decision-making on the spot will be a key part of future smart cities, Lightman added. But more than that, public trust will be a main driver.
“If we’re going to effect change using this IoT—sensors everywhere and everything’s connected and the vision that a lot of my colleagues are talking about—we’ve got to have the trust of the community, and you’ve got to earn that trust,” she said. “Right now there’s a lot of ‘techlash,’ and there’s a lot of concern about privacy and who owns [the data] and who has access,” she said. “The monetization of that data has been squandered. The trust has been lost, and so I think we have a really great opportunity with using technologies like edge computing to help address that change.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virgina.