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Smart Cities Innovation Summit Recap

smart-cities-logoSmart Cities Innovation Summit Recap

Here is ATI’s Clean Energy Incubator Co-Director, Mitch Jacobson, on highlights from this week’s Smart Cities Innovation Summit in Austin.

Q. So Smart Cities at the Austin Convention Center this week was as success.

A. Absolutely. We had 1,800 people from more than 200 cities from all over America and many foreign countries coming together to learn from each other what can be done using the “internet of things” to improve their communities.

mitch_webBy some estimates, 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban cities by the year 2050. That puts a lot of stress on our cities’ infrastructure. So discussing and inventing new solutions around energy use, water, transportation and mobility, waste, cyber security, and how this all effects our health is why we got together. Adding universities, technology companies (large and small), NGO’s, and others to this mix allows us to have intelligent engagements that can actually lead to solving these challenges.

Q. There were a number of panels and keynotes – on everything from smart lighting to gigabit communities to future of public transit. What was a highlight for you?

A. An MIT professor by the name of Kent Larson did his TED Talk for us. The statistics are that 90 percent of the world’s population growth is happening in cities. Larson spoke about efficient use of space in cities with high population densities. There are electric cars the size of Car 2 Go that can pull into small parking spaces and then turn upright, so the driver walks out of the car standing up, to maximize parking space. He is a proponent of “micro units” — 300-square-foot apartments with robo walls and transformative elements that maximize space usage – turning beds into tables, etc. Hong Kong is apparently the most efficient city in the world with regards to space utilization for population density.

Additionally, there were some great demo’s at the conference, which was co-located with the U.S. Ignite Application Summit. U.S. Ignite is a nonprofit that is all about broadband communications. In a science demo, we saw a professor at the University of Southern California using a high-end microscope while high school biology students in Chattanooga, Tennessee watched and interacted with his investigation in real time, making their learning experience much more hands-on. In a music demo, they had two musicians – one in another state and one in Austin – playing together – in sync – in real time.


From Taipei to Tallahassee, smart cities from all over the globe attended the GCTC Expo at the Austin Convention Center June 13-15.

Q. Tell us again how this summit came about?

A. This was a completely new conference and the most comprehensive showcase and accelerator of smart city innovation world-wide. In June 2015, two Austin teams and a large delegation from Austin — including Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Marc Ott, former Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis, and others – participated in the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) in Washington, D.C. We made a presentation in the National Building Museum, saw many “Smart City” projects from other cities from around the world, and we met the King and Queen of Holland.  Our city management was impressed enough to lean forward with the idea of bringing this same event to Austin one year later and expanding it to three days, adding on two more days of a “Smart Cities Innovation Summit.”

Q. Will there be another one in the future?

A. Yes. Matt Laudon and his team at TechConnect did an amazing job of producing this conference. There are plans in the works to do another one in South Korea in the next several months.

ATI was proud to be a supporting partner. We are very thankful to the City of Austin, Austin Energy, all of our sponsors and supporting organizations, and Bram Reinders and his team at Alliander. It was a great event.