5 Technologies That Will Change Cities Forever
The way cities run may be getting a makeover as large companies like IBM, Tesla Motors and Google tap into ways of making cities—and lives—run faster and better. From cloud-based communication to smart water systems, here are five technologies that could change infrastructure forever.
Earlier this year, Google and former Bloomberg CEO Dan Doctoroff announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs, which aims to develop technology for improving city life through products, platforms and infrastructure. Some topics up for innovation are energy and transit. One of the first projects will bring a citywide WiFi network to the Big Apple by the end of 2015, using old phone booths. LinkNYC will be funded by advertising revenues and is expected to earn over $500M in revenue over the next 12 years.
2. IBM Intelligent Water Software
An outdated infrastructure has caused the Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram’s water loss to approach 45%. The Kerala Water Authority is working with IBM to establish a Water Management Center using IBM Intelligent Water Software. It will allow KWA to monitor, manage and analyze the distribution and consumption of water from a central dashboard. For example, smart sensors can alert workers through cellphones or laptops of a disruption of the water supply.
Renewable energy is at the forefront of city innovation, stemming from the need for backups during outages as well as encouraging green living. Rooftop solar power company SolarCity teamed up with Tesla’s Elon Musk to create a clean turnkey microgrid service named GridLogic. The microgrid consists of self-containing nodes that can coordinate for more power. GridLogic can operate with or without the established utility grid. Microgrids are typically used by campuses and medical facilities.
4. Automatic Vacuum-Assisted Collections System
Smelly garbage trucks are banished from the East River’s Roosevelt Island thanks to an underground 1,000 horsepower vacuum, the Automatic Vacuum Assisted Collections System, or Avacs. Activated by just a switch, the system, which was built in 1976, swallows about 10 tons of trash at a rate of 60 miles/hour daily. All 12,000 residents of the two-mile long island have to do is drop their trash down their building’s chute, and it ends up compressed and ready to be taken off the island. The plant is impeccably clean due to the dangers posed by filth in the high-speed tubes. Workers also need to be on the lookout for items like Christmas trees, cardboard boxes and textbooks.
Storms can overflow sewage systems and run off into nearby waterways. On top of environmental damage, the country has paid over $13B trying to manage wastewater. Engineering firm Geosyntec’s solution is to make a smart system that can predict, adjust and alleviate flooded sewers via cloud technology. To ensure accuracy, Geosyntec’s principal water engineer Marcus Quigley says that the system will run on a constantly updated forecast. So far, 50 systems have been implemented nationwide.