Developing the Smart City of the Future: SXSW Eco 2013

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In less than 40 years, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. This rapid migration will mean an enormous strain on cities’ existing infrastructure and resources and will require creative thinking and intelligent solutions for efficiency and sustainability.

What emerges from this urban future is the need for smarter cities, and according to Navigant Research, cities around the world will invest $108 billion in smart city infrastructure this decade.

The conversations around smart cities have historically (that means since the invention of the term “smart city”, around 2009!) been focused around how large IT players will impact the future of urban living. These companies are focusing on giving devices intelligence and networking capabilities – taking a top down, software-centric approach. However, when it comes to the modernization of sometimes hundred year old systems like the electric grid and water distribution, advanced software and networking capabilities are many times not enough to make a lasting impact.

At Schneider Electric, we have historically taken a bottom up approach to “smart” cities (before smart cities were “cool”), where we apply our in-depth understanding of infrastructure to challenges in energy, public services, water and mobility. We are currently employing this approach in over 200 cities around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Grenoble, Beijing and Dallas.

Of course, we use hardware systems, software, data intelligence, smart technology and networking to do this! There are systems of systems at the domain level that require integration. For example in smart water management, most cities have multiple water processing facilities and waste water treatment plants. Information from weather data systems, from access control and video surveillance systems, from water scada, and asset management systems and more all must be leveraged in order to deliver safe, clean water, to address storm water management, to detect leaks and know where to find the most expensive water leaks, etc…

To present a clearer picture of how both energy companies (like us) and IT players will work together to create livable, sustainable cities of the future, we’re teaming up with experts from IBM and Boston University on a panel at this year’s SXSW Eco.

Today, October 7, I will be speaking on IT vs Infrastructure in Developing the Smart City of the Future, a panel dedicated to these strides in smart cities, as well as challenges in deployment and the future of collaboration between technology and energy leaders.

I hope that you will join in the conversation with us, whether it’s dropping in on the panel in Austin, or following the discussion on Twitter using the hashtags #smartcity and #SXSWEco. And check back here for a recap of all of the great learnings from the festival after the fact.

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