At Silicon Valley Forum, we’re always keeping one eye on the tech trends of the future—and this past June, we presented our first-ever smart cities immersion program “Cities of Tomorrow.” Over three days in June 2019, the program toured through the dynamic possibilities in mobility, sustainability, security and IoT—providing both a glimpse into the future and the next-gen tech that cities are already using.
Program attendees met with experts from around the Bay Area, including city leaders, company founders, and entrepreneurs; we also got an insiders’ look behind the scenes of new generation of innovation.
In case you missed the action, here’s a quick rundown from each day:
Day 1: Mobility
When it comes to personal transportation, the car is still king—more than 90% of all daily commutes have no passengers in the car. In many US cities, it’s more convenient to drive alone than to use public transportation or ridesharing. These days, however, we seem to be entering a transition phase. Smart city initiatives are introducing new, convenient mobility solutions—including autonomous vehicles and micro-mobility services—that just might beat the comfort of a private car one day.
“A mobility product will no longer be your private vehicle, it will be sold as a service” Mark Thomas, Ridecell
It’s a tall order for legacy infrastructure, however. True mobility innovation will require a solid civil ecosystem where startups, governments, and citizens collaborate to create the cities of tomorrow. The relative simplicity of the goal—getting people from point A to point B—has complicated requirements, and will need seamless services that serve both cities and citizens.
“The transportation of tomorrow is not only using scooters and autonomous vehicles, but an ecosystem of different ways to move from one place to another.” Julie Lein, Urban Innovation Fund
Good infrastructure doesn’t build itself—it requires government buy-in, with city leaders providing avenues for collaboration between developers and citizens. Startups can provide new solutions and technology, but they lack the same resources to influence legislation as established companies. The cities of tomorrow might practically build themselves if government officials can find their role in the ecosystem of change.
Our main takeaway from the first day of the program? The future of mobility is here, but we’re still waiting for a breakthrough—and we need mobility solutions that solve real problems.
Day 2: Sustainability
Day two of “Cities of Tomorrow” was a sobering one. “As the temperature on earth increases rapidly,” said program speaker Davida Herzl, CoFounder and CEO of Aclima, “cities are running out of water, and 92% of the world’s population breathes toxic air every day.”
Stonly Baptiste, Partner at Urban Us says that “Human activity is about 3% of the presence on the earth – the cities about 1%. Nevertheless, 80% of the GDP, 93% of the patented innovations and 70% of the global CO2 emissions are generated in the cities.”
Our cities are the engine of our society—they need to be much more efficient to build a better tomorrow for everyone. We need new technology development, and we need it fast—with an eye on reducing overuse and waste across the board. Electric vehicles would drastically reduce both local and global emissions; smart homes would help manage waste and energy; new turbine technology could revolutionize air quality. These are just a few examples out of thousands—everywhere you look, there are potential solutions to turn the traditional into the sustainable.
With a dire need for smarter solutions, opportunities abound for assiduous investors to support the clean-and-green side of venture funding—ideally, as the demand for greener solution increases, the profit in green-tech companies will rise; creating new avenues for sustainable technology and smart city development.
“It does not matter if the investors are in it for the greater good or to earn money. The most important thing is that they put their money into sustainability.” Stonly Baptiste, Urban US
The future isn’t completely dark, but reaching any sustainability goal means we need to act now. There’s a real and pressing need for everyone—citizens, governments, startups, and investors—to embrace new technologies and solutions. Creating the cities of tomorrow requires an ecosystem where every moving part contributes in some way.
Day 3: Internet of Things
Ultimately, the success of smart cities depends on the Internet of Things. A new world of sensors turns cities into super-brains—the more we can measure, the more we can learn, and the better we can build the smart cities of tomorrow. IoT is all about gathering data at the micro level—tiny sensors calculate everything from the traffic on the road to the number of parking spots available to water usage and air quality.
“We can’t manage what we can’t measure” Davida Herzl, Aclima
The act of measuring isn’t a solution on its own, but gathering real-time data enables us to take action and develop new solutions. We learned that Las Vegas uses sensors to gather CO2 levels as well as traffic conditions to determine traffic flow; California’s San Mateo County uses sensors to map the availability of electric vehicle parking.
IoT also incentivizes companies to develop new solutions and products for the B2C market. Ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber used IoT technology to create market maps; smart home technology measures and manages usage and waste– better for our wallets and the environment.
“It’s a big opportunity to fill the gap between what’s possible with IoT and what the governments do” Petter Hauffman, Ucity
One of the biggest issue’s cities are facing are the lack of engagement and connectivity – i.e. why should I care if no one else does? IoT might be the technology that gives cities globally the opportunity to reduce costs of living and transportation. The more we can measure, the more we can manage, and smarter cities can develop. The future of tomorrow depends on the innovations of today—and we all play a part in making it happen.
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International Relations Intern