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Connected technologies: enabling the intersections of smart cities

By Posted on February 4, 2016

Dan RadomskiDan Radomski
Vice President, Industry & Venture Development

Connected technologies…ICT, IoT…what does it all mean? And how is it making our cities smarter, improving mobility, and enabling our lives to be more convenient?

Increasingly innovation is being driven by technologies that connect one physical object to another – whether it’s a vehicle, building, infrastructure, or a person – allowing them to network and interact with each other. And the acronyms you can’t escape these days IoT (Internet of Things) and ICT (Information Communication Technologies) are the connecting systems that add intelligence to these physical objects.

For instance, by adding a few sensors/controls to a streetlight and allowing wireless communications we can create a “smart” streetlight, allowing it to sense, report, communicate, control and respond to its environment. By adding daylight sensors, the streetlight can now control itself to switch “on” when there is no daylight and “off” when the sun rises. By adding occupancy sensors the streetlight can remain off at night until a person approaches the area, triggering illumination. Add wireless communications and we can now centrally control the streetlight to come on or dim during certain times of the day to save energy. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to “value-add” technologies.

One example of more these more advanced technologies is Michigan-based, NextEnergy client company, Illuminating Concepts’ unique product, IntelliStreets, which integrates energy efficient lighting and an array of other benefits into cities, venues and campuses including: radio, audio and visual communications that allow the light to play music; mass communications/notifications that allow central authorities to send a distress signal in the event of any emergency, and digital signage that provides visual wayfinding to reroute traffic or business-to-consumer advertising.

Soon you will see even smarter streetlights equipped with additional functionality to: monitor street parking availability, register traffic flow (vehicle count, speed, dwell time, queue length), sense street conditions (snow, ice, rain), detect unattended objects and pedestrian activity, and provide surveillance with cameras to support safety and security measures.

And the smart cities movement is not just about streetlights or “smart infrastructure”. It’s about making everything intelligent…smart transportation, smart buildings, smart environment, and even smart citizens!

So what’s driving the smart cities movement?

  • The United Nations estimates that the global population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 (7.2 billion today);
  • US population will be 401 million (320 million today)
  • Urban areas are growing more rapidly than the country as a whole (12.1% versus 9.7% between 2000 and 2010 (2010 US Census)
  • Globally, $350 trillion will be spent on urban infrastructure over the next 30 years (Booz & Company).
  • Roughly 60% of the world’s energy consumption and 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions happens in cities (Navigant Research)
  • And the City of Toronto estimates that over 50% of inner city traffic is people just looking for parking places!


Although connected technologies are being driven by many factors, safety is key. The ability to connect vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure (e.g., road signage), and vehicle-to-pedestrian will allow us to reduce accidents thereby reducing fatalities. These same technologies will help us reduce congestion thereby reducing energy consumption and vehicle emissions. Police and other public safety authorities will also adopt smart city technologies for security purposes. Right now, vision systems are being equipped on buildings, roads, phones and cars, which allow for remote monitoring and visual surveillance.


One of the biggest drivers of connected technologies is convenience, making it easier to move through our daily lives, saving us time and frustration. These are the “value add” applications that will give birth to new models for how businesses connect with customers and municipalities connect with their residents. Expect new “premium” services offered by your city to make your life more convenient. Imagine sensors on your garbage cans and recycle containers that will send a signal to the waste hauler to pick it up within an hour after being placed on the curb. Would that be worth paying for? Some municipalities are already driving towards these types of premium paid services as a way to satisfy their resident’s convenience interest, and at the same time secure additional funding for their ever tightening city budgets.

Beyond convenience, these connected technologies can offer more altruistic benefits. Some cities like Detroit are working hard to address how connected technologies can address real urban problems for their citizens including identification of mobility options, improved security in neighborhoods, and access to healthcare and fresh food. It is these real urban city challenges that make these connected technologies so appealing, as they offer real solutions for equitable access to the necessities many of us take for granted.

In the coming months NextEnergy will be announcing the launch of a smart city technology challenge. This is a global crowd-sourcing program where we will seek the most creative ideas in connected technologies that will address needs in urban areas. Financial awards will be given out to the winners who will work directly with NextEnergy to execute real world demonstrations and deployment of connected technologies that allow for smart transportation, smart buildings, smart infrastructure, smart environment, and smart citizens. Our effort is to solve real-world urban problems through the use of technology by improving the lives of our citizens, and at the same time commercializing technology that will generate a positive impact to our economy. We are truly at intersection of something powerful and undeniably compelling.

Contact Dan Radomski: danr@nextenergy.org
Watch for more information coming soon on our smart cities technology challenge.


PlanetM Startup Grants: Informational Session and Webinar

Join us in-person or via webinar from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, December 11 at NextEnergy in Detroit to learn more about the PlanetM Startup Grants. The grants provide access to $1.3 million in funding for global mobility startups to test, validate and prove out new technologies with the goal of making transportation easier, safer and more affordable for Michigan residents.

Learn More and Register