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GlobeSt- Technology Is Changing The Way Cities Are Designed

By Carrie Rossenfeld 

SAN DIEGO—The San Diego region is leading the country in adopting and integrating “Smart City” technologies into public and private planning efforts, which will affect issues down to individual building performance, experts revealed at a recent ULI event. 

Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles and a host of other technological advances are changing the way we do business, identify market opportunities and even design cities, according to a panel of experts at the ULI San Diego-Tijuana District Council’s recent breakfast event. Panelists said the San Diego region is leading the country in adopting and integrating “Smart City” technologies into public and private planning efforts, which will affect water, energy and food management and transportation and improve individual building performance.  

Moderated by Heather Foley, executive director of ULI San Diego-Tijuana, the event featured panelists Jason Anderson, president of Cleantech San Diego; David Graham, deputy COO of the City of San Diego; and Nancy Sanquist, VP of global strategic marketing at Planon.  

Anderson pointed out that being perceived as a leader in the Smart City space makes the San Diego region a test for other cities. Data and technology advances allow for greater efficiencies across all types of a city’s needs, including possible smart traffic and street lights, parking optimization and more. Along with such advancements, however, comes the huge challenge of cybersecurity and cyber hygiene, said Graham, cautioning that the proper security measures and training must be implemented.  

Anderson pointed out that the open-source concept has gained traction rapidly over the past four years. Many companies will rely on and piggyback off of the efforts municipalities like San Diego, Chula Vista and others are making to create smart cities.  

Interjurisdictional collaboration is essential for technologies to be seamless across jurisdictional lines, stressed Graham. For example, a driverless car can’t stop working once it crosses into another city or county.

Technology will march on, regardless, and “what excites me is that the government side has assets that no other side has and can deploy and open up to innovation,” said Graham.  

Cities are looking to each other to gain insight into how technology is working. Sanquist mentioned that in New York, the city is closely monitoring the integrated technology being incorporated into the Hudson Yards development, a seven-acre community in Manhattan that incorporates cutting-edge art, architecture, culture, fashion, dining and parks.

It isn’t just new development that will be affected by Smart City technology. Sanquist noted that existing buildings using multiple different operational systems will soon be able to integrate those systems into one interface, thereby identifying and gaining potential efficiencies, both for the building and the surrounding city.

Both business and government must be able to prove that any technology they implement is cost effective and has an impact on the environment, greenhouse-gas reduction and the overall bottom line so that everything is mutually beneficial, said Anderson.

Graham pointed out that the Smart City movement is ultimately about the people. The true marker of success will be human-centered design and how citizens interact with the city to improve their quality of life. “This is not a race we can afford to lose,” he said, warning that fear and myopathy could cause San Diego to miss out on the opportunity to remain a Smart City leader.