Smarten up: LI leaders must embrace ‘smart’ tech now

Smarter than your average city: Long Island leaders must introduce "smart city" technologies to keep the region socially and economically competitive, according to Bob Isaksen of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Long Island’s population is on the rise: Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows three of the top-five towns for population growth in New York State are located on the Island.

Although it brings immense opportunity for local communities and businesses, this growth also brings new considerations in urban planning. Long Island communities are facing new challenges with dated infrastructure, and this will have major implications for the local economy. Overcrowded mass transit, taxed energy systems and congested highways are only a few of several issues that need to be addressed today.

One of the most important opportunities for city planners is to create “smart” municipal environments, or smart cities, that use technology to improve quality of life for residents and create better systems and structures that support growth.

Smart city technology enables everyday objects to become smarter and more connected, thus increasing economic, social and environmental efficiency. And the market opportunity in this space is tremendous.

According to a report from Persistence Market Research, the smart cities market – comprised of transportation, utilities, buildings and smart-citizen services – is expected to reach $3.48 trillion by the year 2026.

The digitization of cities will affect everything from energy and housing to education and healthcare. The ultimate objective for a smart city, however, is for these industries to be interconnected under one centralized “brain,” allowing them to work together.

Smart cities will require intelligent infrastructure, public-private partnerships and accessibility for residents to succeed in today’s rapidly growing urban and suburban landscapes.

“Smart” Infrastructure: Until recently, “infrastructure” referred solely to physical assets such as roads, streetlights and sewers. But in the development of modern cities, it is important to consider smart infrastructure as the invisible data networks that connect, enhance and control physical fixtures.

These include:

  • Smart offices: Smart offices can leverage automation systems to monitor and control operations to improve lighting, AC, air quality and employee security.
  • Water monitoring systems: Underground water infrastructure takes preemptive measures to manage maintenance, optimize water distribution and monitor and diagnose problems such as leaks and stoppages. Suffolk County’s water system is in dire need of an update. The majority of the county’s 1.3 million residents are reliant on outdated septic tanks – and smart water monitoring could also extend the quality and longevity of any new sewer systems.
  • Transportation: Autonomous vehicles are already being tested on the streets of New York. The MTA has recently announced a new mobile app that will help Long Island commuters navigate and monitor conditions on the LIRR, public buses going in and out of Nassau and Suffolk and the NYC ferries.
  • Networking: With the advancement of the 5G network, a key smart city enabler, smart infrastructure will be supported by high-speed connections, quicker response times and increased data-storage capacity.

The power of public-private partnership: Putting smart technologies to work in cities will require a new level of partnership among government, corporate and investor stakeholders.

Organizations from a variety of sectors – such as construction, telecommunications and transportation – will play critical roles, as will relatively young industries such as artificial intelligence, cleantech, cybersecurity and renewable energy.

As reported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, various global smart city initiatives are being driven by public-private partnerships:

  • Singapore is undergoing one of the world’s largest smart city rollouts, Smart Nation, with a $2 billion program focused on large-scale data aggregation and transfer. This data network will be used by both government and businesses to offer services such as predictive healthcare and cashless transactions to city residents.
  • London, through partnership with FM Conway Ltd and parking technology specialist Smart Parking Limited, deployed Infrared SmartEye sensors in more than 3,000 parking spaces to determine parking availability and transmit the information to the ParkRight mobile app, which provides drivers with a real-time map of available spaces.
  • Dallas Innovation Alliance, a private-public coalition and registered 501(c)3 including local government, corporations, civic organizations, NGOs and academia, joined forces to transform Dallas into “a forward-thinking, innovative smart global city.” Initiatives include the creation of a connected “living lab” and the installation of Smart LED lightbulbs in the city to capture real-time data on air quality and traffic congestion.

Bob Isaksen: The smart money is on connectivity.

Accessibility and personalization: To create a sustainable environment, city planners must ensure smart city technologies are accessible to residents.

Through smartphones, TVs, tablets and wearable devices, residents must not only be aware of, but also comfortable with the smart infrastructure around them. From individualized temperature and lighting controls to customized retail experiences, no two lives in smart cities will be the same.

Voice assistants, “smart” signage and responsive streets in smart cities will allow people of all ages and abilities to navigate safely and efficiently. Smart cities also have the potential to reduce the negative impact of population growth by using technology to cut energy usage, reduce traffic delays and stem water loss.

By implementing smart technologies, Long Island business leaders and local governments, in public-private partnerships, can reshape metropolitan environments and, in turn, fuel economic growth.

Investment in the modernization of our cities, while crucial in facing short-term planning challenges, will also lay the groundwork for Long Island to be a more sustainable place to live, work and do business for future generations.

Mr. Isaksen is the Long Island market president for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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