Energy & Infrastructure Mash-Up: Where It Gets Real Real

By Chelsea Collier, Editor-At-Large, Smart Cities Connect

What do you get when you host a panel of Chief Sustainability Officers and utility experts followed by a fast pitch from innovation solution providers? The answer is a smart city shark tank.

And even though it “got real”, there was respectful dialogue and a demonstration on how invested everyone is in creating smarter, more sustainable cities.

Sustainability leaders Chris Castro (Orlando), Dennis Gakunga (Chula Vista), Jerry Tinianow (Denver), Robert Phocas (Charlotte) and John Smola (Alabama Power Company) gave presentations on the innovations they are spearheading in their respective cities at the City Spotlights: City Solutions Panel at the Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo in Kansas City, MO.

In Orlando they are experimenting with floating solar installations – charmingly referred to as “floatovoltaics” – to optimize its watery geography. The ground-breaking initiative came about because people at the Orlando Utility Commission were paying attention when students at the University of Central Florida did a test project. Castro and the city stepped in to support.

Chula Vista announced a tremendous commitment to electric vehicles and charging stations, taking advantage of state rebate incentives. There are plans to double the fleet of low and zero-emission vehicles by the end of the year.

EnergizeDenver launched a program to benchmark energy usage for building owners to encourage gamification. With more than 90% compliance the hope is that healthy competition will encourage positive behavior.

Charlotte, well known for their decades-long sustainability leadership, is empowering their most under-served residents to champion energy savings through smart technology. The result is not only decreasing energy usage but also increasing cost savings for vulnerable residents.

In Birmingham, Alabama Power Company is focusing on reliability and security with their fiber to distribution model. They are already seeing major decreases in outage times and bringing great returns for residents and their industry partners.

The big takeaways from the session were the imperative to focus on a specific area, build a diverse ecosystem of partners with formalized processes and benchmarks and communicate constantly to build trust.

Following this insightful 45-minutes, three innovators pitched the panel which included San Leandro CIO Deborah Acosta. The prize was smart questions and feedback on their private sector solutions.

Site 1001 demonstrated how to take learnings from the construction industry and automate and anticipate building maintenance, saving major costs and time.

Ubicquia provided a stackable IoT solution that works with existing lighting structures to increase sensing capability and boost network capacity. For a drastically reduced spend, they provide value for cities and bridge needs from other industry partners, including telcos.

PTC outlined how their services and solutions platform works across solution providers to realize the true potential of their IoT strategies. For cities with a diverse range of departmental priorities and partners, this “bridging” brings real value and helps city leaders forecast future needs.

The city leaders had a chance to sling very direct questions, which ranged from, “how do you educate on data stream literacy?” to pointed inquiries on specific costs. It got real. The session was a public-sector shark tank and a demonstration on how invested everyone is in creating smarter cities.

The conversation was a chance to decrease the divide between public and private sector. City leaders gained greater insight to new solutions and the vendor-partners received a front row seat to the challenges of the public sector.