Dallas Getting Ready to get 'Smart'

Mitchell Schnurman, Dallas Morning News

December 8, 2015

“We’re at the beginning of a journey,” keynote speaker Mike Zeto told a group of technology experts last month in Irving.

He was talking about the emergence of “smart cities” — communities adopting the latest technologies to cut costs, boost efficiencies and improve the lives of their residents.

As he spoke, a video began to play. A young woman, dressed in shorts and a tank top, was jogging across a city bridge. LED street lamps turned on as she passed below, lighting her way with every stride.

Then the video began to falter and the audio broke up. Within seconds, everything stopped — and the audience laughed.

“Well, that’s not exactly the way I thought it was gonna work,” said Zeto, general manager for AT&T’s smart cities unit.

It was a reminder that technology sometimes disappoints. That’s worth keeping in mind as cities and companies start pushing hard for major investments in sensors and connectivity. This movement is part of the Internet of things, a popular description for connecting billions of objects through the cloud.

Dallas recently created a public-private partnership that plans a smart cities project in downtown’s West End. Expected to launch next year, the project represents the kind of forward thinking that appeals to startups and young talent.

“This ties in with the ethos of the modern entrepreneur,” said Geoffrey Orsak, a leader in academia. “They want to be in environments that are advanced, even experimental. The West End could become a living laboratory.”

The Dallas group is focusing on adding smart technologies in three areas: infrastructure, mobility and connected living. Efforts could include sensors to capture real-time energy and water use; a green/solar roof initiative; smart parking solutions; improving bike lanes; and adding kiosks with data access.

If advocates can prove the concepts work in the West End, others in North Texas will be clamoring to get in the game.

Cities in Asia and Europe are at the forefront of smart cities because their urban centers are growing fast, often straining resources. Their solutions range from more efficient office buildings to apps that let citizens report potholes to dumpsters that indicate when they’re full and ready to be emptied.

Smart parking alone can reduce traffic by 40 percent in congested cities, said Richard Sear, a partner at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

“This is the sensorization of things, where you turn something dumb into something smart,” said Sear, who’s working with Dallas leaders. “This drives up revenue for companies and taxes for government. And it saves time and money for consumers.”

Smart cities represent a trillion-dollar global market over the next decade, Frost estimates. Its potential was one of the factors behind a major partnership between Ericsson and Cisco, unveiled in November.

Cisco pointed to Barcelona, which had 22 major smart programs and 83 separate projects last year. The city saved $58 million annually on water and increased parking revenues by $50 million annually, Cisco said. In addition, smart city projects created 47,000 jobs there.

Barcelona “will be a showcase of how we can bring value to other cities around the world,” Hilton Romanski, Cisco’s chief strategy officer, said in an interview last month.

In September, the White House launched a smart cities initiative, pledging over $160 million in federal research for pilot projects and collaborations. It also gave a shout-out to Dallas for creating an alliance of business, government, academia and civic groups.

The Dallas Innovation Alliance lists 13 charter members, including AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, DART, Downtown Dallas Inc. and the city of Dallas.

“We want Dallas to be on the leading edge, not the trailing edge,” said Orsak, executive director of the Texas Research Alliance, which develops projects between local universities and industry. “We don’t want to wait and try to play catch up.”

Last week, Dallas was among 10 cities selected to participate in Envision America, one of the programs announced at the White House. In January, leaders from the cities will meet to discuss strategies and ways to collaborate with business. And the group includes some progressive places, such as Portland, Ore., New York City, Los Angeles and Cambridge, Mass.

Orsak is helping with grant proposals for North Texas, including about 10 submissions for a $100,000 grant from NEC Corp. Researchers have ideas for parking lot safety, optimizing transportation routes, collecting rain water for home use and managing energy, he said.

Proposals for most federal grants are due in the next few months. The National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, including transportation, energy, commerce and homeland security, will award over $100 million.

Dallas’ effort stands out because it brings together top companies and other leaders. And because the West End, relatively small and diverse, is ideal for seeing how technology can cut traffic, improve security and enhance work and life.

“We look like a city that’s ready to tackle these problems, so I think we’re gonna do well in the first round of funding,” Orsak said.

Private companies may pay for much of the costs of the pilot, but eventually cities will have to galvanize public support and find funding. The savings from tech upgrades and creating a sustainable community are key to selling the concept, said AT&T’s Zeto.

That “helps politicians get these programs across the finish line,” Zeto told the tech executives.

But others warn about creating too much hype. While smart cities and the Internet of things have great promise, the market won’t grow 50 percent a year or add many billions of devices by the end of the decade. That’s what some are predicting, said Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO of U.K.-based Beecham Research.

“We need to get real here,” Duke-Woolley wrote last month. “Twenty billion connected devices in 2020 is pie in the sky.”

10 U.S. Cities Selected to Kickoff Envision America Smart Cities Acceleration Initiative

10 U.S. Cities Selected to Kickoff Envision America

Smart Cities Acceleration Initiative

Smart Cities Effort Announced at White House Will Launch in January 2016

Charlotte, North Carolina, Dec. 3, 2015 -- Envision America, a smart cities initiative that was announced at the White House this fall, is proud to select 10 U.S. cities to participate in 2016.  The cities will leverage technology collaborators and businesses to address the challenges of climate change and improve city services. They include Cambridge, MA; Dallas, TX; Greenville, SC; Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; New York City, NY: Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; San Diego, CA and Spokane, WA.

"We appreciate Los Angeles being selected as one of the country's first Envision America cities," said Mayor Eric Garcetti. "L.A. has always been on the cutting edge of innovative technologies that tackle the biggest challenges of our time. This new partnership will help us continue to nurture ideas that can be developed today to better serve residents, businesses, and visitors tomorrow."

Envision America, a program under the nonprofit Envision Charlotte, will host the 10 cities to attend a smart cities workshop from January 12-14th, 2016. The three-day workshop in Charlotte brings city leaders, smart cities experts and corporate partners together to facilitate project planning and implementation.

The Envision America program will help other cities use successes and lessons learned of Envision Charlotte in the City of Charlotte, North Carolina. Envision Charlotte began its smart cities initiative in 2011 with a goal of reducing energy use by 20% over five years in collaboration with companies such as Duke Energy, Cisco, and Itron. The City of Charlotte is also working to produce cleaner air, decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and reduce water use in buildings through the Envision Charlotte effort.

“Envision Charlotte is excited to share our experiences with cities from across the country and to help ignite a smart and sustainable cities revolution in the U.S., “ said Amy Aussieker, Executive Director of Envision Charlotte and Envision America.

Corporate partners for Envision America are Accelerated Innovations, AT&T, Autodesk, Bank of America, Black and Veatch, Cisco, Duke Energy, Esri, GE, IBM, Intel, Itron, Landis+Gyr, Microsoft, Qualcomm, SAS, ThingWorx, and Wells Fargo.

“Itron is proud to be a part of Envision America, and we look forward to helping advance smart cities initiatives both nationally and around the world. For participating cities and communities, this initiative will drive outcomes, including improved city services, enhanced energy and water management and increased economic opportunity, through collaboration and shared technologies,” said Philip Mezey, Itron president and chief executive officer.

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Tech Cocktail: Dallas Wants to Help Build America’s Smart Cities

Will Schmidt, Tech Cocktail -- September 15, 2015

It was only a little over a month ago when the White House hosted their first ever Demo Day, an event that shows the Obama Administration’s commitment to technology and innovation. At the White House Demo Day we saw entrepreneurs form across the US showcase their work, but we also saw top companies and VC firms announce several programs and initiatives.

Obviously the event was successful, so it wasn’t surprising to see that the White House wanted to continue creating opportunities for entrepreneurs. Only, this time they’ll be kicking off an inaugural Smart Cities Initiative, hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

All told, the White House is investing over $160 million in federal research money and leveraging more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities. Specifically, they’re hoping the Smart Cities Initiative will help with key challenges like traffic congestion, crime fighting, economic growth, climate change, and delivery of city services.

There are a host of cities joining in the White House’s initiative, and not to be missed on the list is the ever-present city of Dallas. Leading the charge for the city of Dallas is Trey Bowles, whose name has become almost synonymous with forward thinking and progress.

Bowles has been working on something called the Dallas Innovation Alliance(DIA), which is a group of dedicated Dallas residents who are invested in the city on some level or another. Banded together, they’ll all focus on building Dallas as a city where social and technological infrastructure guides their economy, resource efficiency, and ultimately improves the quality of life for their citizens.

This public-private partnership operates on a foundational vision that smart cities aren’t, in fact, about technology but rather about people. To that end, the DIA is committed to building and executing smart city plans for the entirety of Dallas.

“Dallas has been a pioneer in driving innovative, entrepreneurial solutions in the US, and many organizations across the city are undertaking creative solutions to address urban challenges,” says Trey Bowles, CEO of the DEC and cofounder of the DIA. “As a major metropolitan area with a strong business climate and 21 Fortune 500 companies located in the region, this is the right time for Dallas to undertake a dedicated, comprehensive smart city plan with the goal of creating the most consumer focused Smart City strategy in the world. We are thrilled to have so many pivotal organizations on board as charter members of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, and are looking forward to executing a smart cities program with the goal of creating the most consumer focused Smart City strategy in the world.”

The initial efforts will be centered in the West End district of downtown, where a confluence of multi-modal transit, historic buildings, and a burgeoning innovation district will be ground zero for the city as a living lab. According to Bowles, the DIA’s three pronged strategy will center on infrastructure, mobility, and connected living to start.

To help along the way, the City of Dallas and the Texas Research Alliance will be participating int he MetroLab Network, a national effort that was also announced at the event today at the White House. In effect, it acts as a consortium of university-city teams focused on sharing solutions to difficult problems in urban infrastructure.

“The MetroLab Network is an opportunity for universities and cities to team up and share solutions to the difficult urban issues that cities are dealing with today. Our regional universities have extraordinary and unique capabilities that will be unleashed on urban challenges across North Texas,” says Geoffrey Orsak, executive director of the Texas Research Alliance and head of North Texas’ MetroLab. “Already, projects are emerging that will benefit significantly from the collaboration of university researchers with our city leaders and planners.”

For both the US and Dallas this is another project in a long line of initiatives that have been implemented to heighten the technological presence as both an international player and local tech ecosystem. As such, an initial goal for the DIA will be to collate and aggregate all of the good work being done by previous initiatives and leverage their results and lessons into a comprehensive plan focused on a single neighborhood that can then be replicated throughout the city.

I think it’s also important to recognize that, while Dallas is a huge player in this initiative, it has implications far bigger than any one city. The Smart Cities Initiative is an embodiment of collaboration on perhaps the most macro level you can get these days – I’m dying to see what amazing technologies are born of this alliance. We’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Dallas Morning News: Headed to Dallas’ West End? AT&T may someday help you find a parking spot

Karen Robinson-Jacobs, Dallas Morning News -- September 14, 2015

If you live, shop or work in Dallas’ historic West End district, telecom giant AT&T may someday help you find a parking spot.

Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is one of about a dozen companies and groups to announce a new public-private partnership Monday that is designed to use communications and data networks to help turn Dallas into a tech-savvy “smart” city.

The partnership, called the Dallas Innovation Alliance, was one of several initiatives across the country announced Monday at the White House Smart Cities Forum.

While the scope of the local project has yet to be determined, backers said it could involve everything from installing more smart meters in housing units to programs that can notify nearby motorists of an available parking place.

There is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. The concept basically involves combining technology and data to improve everything from health care and traffic flow to public safety and energy conservation.

Based on eight criteria, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan lists eight “smart cities” in the U.S. — including Chicago, Boston and San Francisco — but none in Texas. 

The new alliance aims to change that.

The scope of the effort in Dallas will be determined over the next several months by the alliance, a group formed at the impetus of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center. Besides AT&T, the charter membership includes about a dozen corporations and groups such as IBM, Microsoft, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce along with Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas.

The efforts initially will be focused in the West End, which already is a major hub for public transportation. Backers hope that programs put in place there can be replicated elsewhere in the city. The cost of the project — and who pays — will be determined once the scope of the initial project is established.

“By bringing together these groups we’ve taken the first step to develop and launch a concerted, cohesive ‘smart cities’ initiative in a specific area of Dallas,” said Trey Bowles, a co-founder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, along with Jennifer Sanders, managing director at Perry Street Communications.

Bowles, who also is chief executive of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, said the “goal of this group is going to be to come up with a plan … so that we can launch and build and point to something that would make us a globally recognized ‘smart city.’”

For AT&T, the allure of the project is obvious. Tons of data carried across the communications company’s network could mean a windfall.

“Corporations put money in because they’re investing in a long-term … revenue-generating opportunity,” said Bowles.

The central thread that runs through the elements of the smart cities technology is the ability to transmit information, through fiber, a cellular network or Wi-Fi. That’s where AT&T comes in, potentially.

Michael Zeto, general manager for AT&T’s Smarter Cities Business unit, notes that a “smart city” has the potential to have “thousands of sensors, millions of sensors that are connected that pass data back and allow decisions to be made based on that data.

“The more things that are connected the greater the opportunity is for us to make money,” he said

From a public safety standpoint, sensors could control traffic lights and streetlights based on traffic patterns, he said. Or could notify police if gunshots ring out.

Bowles noted that some consumers may find this all a bit too Big Brother-ish.

He said consumers would have to volunteer to participate in any aspect of the program that involves data about a home or person.

“That sort of information is made available by choice of the consumer,” he said. “Nobody’s going to Big Brother you or spy on you.”

Dallas Business Journal: The DEC, AT&T, city of Dallas link up for Dallas Innovation Alliance's Smart Cities initiative

Danielle Abril, Dallas Business Journal -- September 14, 2015

The Dallas Entrepreneur Center is teaming up with AT&T (NYSE: T) along with other organizations, companies and the city of Dallas to create the Dallas Innovation Alliance, which will focus on a smart city initiative in Dallas.

The announcement, made in conjunction with the inaugural Smart Cities Week, was released at the White House Smart Cities Forum on Monday.

“The goal is to really be able to drive the adoption of smart-city solutions,” said Michael Zeto, general manager of AT&T’s Smart Cities organization. “We really want to be able to create a partner framework to provide data back to the cities so we can understand how to best move forward.”

The Dallas Innovation Alliance, a public-private partnership, will be lead by the DEC and include founding charter members like the city of Dallas, IBM, Microsoft, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the Dallas Regional Chamber and Downtown Dallas Inc.

“Dallas has been a pioneer in driving innovative, entrepreneurial solutions in the US, and many organizations across the city are undertaking creative solutions to address urban challenges,” Trey Bowles, CEO of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, said in a released statement. “As a major metropolitan area with a strong business climate and 21 Fortune 500 companies located in the region, this is the right time for Dallas to undertake a dedicated, comprehensive smart city plan with the goal of creating the most consumer focused smart city strategy in the world.”

The alliance intends to deploy smart cities solutions in the West End Historic District in downtown Dallas.

AT&T has played in the Internet of Things space for 10 years, and plans to leverage its experience and knowledge to deploy solutions. New offerings could include smart lighting, which would allow maintenance crews to easily locate and replace broken bulbs; smart parking, which could save energy by only lighting up when cars approach; smart transportation, which could organize traffic flow based on the number of vehicles and pedestrians present and also let commuters know when the next bus or train will arrive; public safety, which could include things like gun-fire technology; and smart buildings, which could include a number of sensors to save energy and resources. The alliance’s work will be complemented by the city of Dallas and Texas Research Alliance’s participation in the MetroLab Network. The national effort, also announced Monday at the White House, is a consortium of university-city teams focused on sharing solutions to problems in urban infrastructure.

The alliance plans to leverage insights from recent initiatives including the 2014 New Cities Summit, Downtown Dallas 360 Plan and Dallas’ IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant.

Dallas is the first city in which AT&T plans to launch the initiative.

“The plan over the next several months is to stand up resources and the team,” Zeto said, adding that the timing for the alliance matched up with AT&T’s timing to start a smart cities organization. “We have the opportunity to pitch in and help. It can be a model for other cities.”