Innovation at Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo Fall 2023

At Smart Cities Connect, there is never a shortage of innovative, impactful ideas and the Fall Conference and Expo was no exception. Each session buzzed with interesting exchanges about new technologies designed to support city service delivery. As I bounced from room to room, I heard a familiar and consistent comment from city leaders, “We come to Smart Cities Connect to learn about the latest in smart cities. We come here to see what everyone else is doing.” 

And while there was innovation around every turn, there were a few big ideas that I’d like to generate some buzz about and start some conversations. Each of these concepts is related to problem solving around urban logistics in attempts to get vehicles off of the road and to streamline getting people or things from A to B. The benefits of implementing these solutions include reducing carbon emissions from vehicles, reducing roadway wear and tear, reducing traffic congestion, and increasing pedestrian and driver safety. Take a look at these entrepreneurial approaches to solving city challenges and let us know your thoughts!

Swift Rails

Swift Rails is a common sense approach to cities mired in deadlock traffic. These modernized people movers have 1, 2 and 4-person pods that operate on an elevated track above city roadways. The zero-emission, ultra-light, quiet vehicles on rails promise to radically lower the cost of transit while increasing sustainability measures and making transportation access more equitable and safer. The exchange of space per mile is worth looking into as the Swift Rails solution takes 400ft2 as opposed to 116,000 ft2 for traditional roadways. The end customer can hail their vehicle via mobile app for an on-demand, point-to-point travel solution, removing the hassle of multiple stops, and reducing travel time to about 8 minutes (as opposed to 45 minutes by transit or 25 minutes by vehicle.) For those cities who are challenged to get costly infrastructure projects in motion, Swift Rails may provide a more seamless solution than conventional transit. 

Wing On-demand Drone Delivery

One of the more interesting presentations I saw was the concept of on-demand drone delivery that can offer residential package service of up to 3.3 pounds. The City of Frisco in Northwest Dallas is piloting the concept and early trials show positive results. One of the key questions I had about the drones was if cameras collected visual data on individuals while on route but I was relieved to hear this is not the case. The technology on board is for navigational purposes, all while being commandeered by pilots from a central hub. Drones optimize their flight path as opposed to “highways in the sky” and cruise at about 65 miles per hour at 150 feet above the ground. Beyond the technol;ogy, what is also impressive about this is Wing’s “educate, listen and respond” approach to community engagement. According to first-hand accounts, company representatives engage early and often, hoping to establish a transparent dialogue with residents, retailers, and policy makers. This evolved approach to testing and implementing emerging technology is a great best practice.

Tubular Networks

Moving stuff from A to Z is important for large-scale manufacturers but it is also critically important for cities. Tubular Networks is on their way to establishing the concept of “hyperlogistics” by automating the last-mile of transportation for goods. Imagine an integrated network of tubes that delivers items ten times faster than regular delivery speeds and at lower costs. The company hopes to solve the current system that relies on an inefficient, labor-intensive, costly exchange between suppliers, manufacturers, and end users. In the place of back-breaking work and logistical headaches is a series of self-operating shuttles that drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Hopefully these entrepreneurial ideas give you a glimpse into the future of smart city logistics. Beyond the massive cool factor, these innovations can make a real difference in the promise of creating less congested, greener cities. Our cityscapes need new solutions to solve very traditional challenges so let’s start new conversations!