The world is full of smart things these days: smart-phones, smart-meters, smart-grid, smart cities. I am drawn to these smart concepts. They’re flashy and I like flashy things, but they often integrate, or aspire to integrate, across seeming unrelated aspects of life, and I love integration. The smartphone integrated our email with our telephone. The Smartgrid aims to integrate all the homes, businesses and electrical loads across the entire grid into one digital system of supply and demand. Smart cities aim to integrate all these smart technologies and people in a web of connection to promote efficiency, equity, stability, and resilience.
There are a lot of definitions floating around regarding what encompasses a smart city. On one side of the spectrum the smart city concept is a philosophical one, “a city well performing in a forward looking way.” On the other end of the spectrum, the concept is wholly tied to technology, a city “connecting the physical infrastructure, the IT infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and the business infrastructure to leverage the collective intelligence of the city.” In the context of my field – energy – it is this latter definition that compels me. In their recent report, “Technology and the Future of Cities,” the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology calls for the federal government to “take a more integrated approach to supporting new technologies that can improve the lives of people in cities.” Their report goes on to make four policy recommendations and to describe current and future opportunities in six urban sectors: transportation, energy, building and housing, water, urban manufacturing, and urban farming.
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