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Smart America Challenge

By Posted on June 11, 2014

In December of 2013 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched the SmartAmerica Challenge to bring together industry, academia and the government to demonstrate how Cyber-Physical Systems (the “Internet of Things”) can create jobs, new business opportunities and socio-economic benefits for the nation. Since a core value proposition of the NextEnergy charter is to champion new economic opportunities related to “What’s Next” in advanced energy technology, and, as a result of our unique role as a catalyzing technology development intermediary between the public and private sectors, we moved quickly to participate in this important national initiative. As a result, NextEnergy orchestrated two innovative projects that will enable economic development and subsequent job growth, both in Michigan, and nationally.

Cars + Communication = Smart Opportunities
Connected vehicles have the potential to transform the way Americans travel through the creation of a safe, interoperable wireless communications network that includes cars, buses, trucks, trains, traffic signals, cell phones, and other devices. The USDOT’s SE Michigan Connected Vehicle Test Bed provides physical infrastructure and communications framework to further enable the value proposition development of use cases generated by these connections.

The USDOT, NextEnergy and supporting technology partners have joined to highlight one such use case which combines the USDOT’s communication infrastructure and the first third party application written for it. Via an application displayed on an Android tablet, NextEnergy will demonstrate how an electric vehicle would send and receive a message via the USDOT communications framework. Through this process the occupant can request and receive information (from a combination of public and private sector sources) about the location, type and availability of local charging stations including directions to the most appropriate destination.

The demonstration of this application provides a real-world scenario to educate third parties on how to integrate into the US DOT architecture for use cases beyond its current safety applications. The next step is to integrate the application into electric vehicles at NextEnergy Center’s affiliated test bed to demonstrate the technical, security and economic considerations for multi-network infrastructure (i.e. DSRC, Wi-Fi, cellular, etc.), and vehicle modifications to industry and government stakeholders. This will ultimately inform decisions around policy, infrastructure investments and R&D activities related to additional applications such as: traffic lights changing from red to green when no other traffic is present; location based notification open parking spaces, or driving through high-speed toll booths. These policy and investment actions will serve to expand new fields of economic development. Just as the middle of the 20th century saw the birth of the federal highway system and the enormous economic impact it spawned, NextEnergy sees itself as a strong guiding voice in this new era of economic opportunity. The commercialization possibilities of the “Internet of Things” are endless so fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be an exciting ride!

Smart Power. Smart Light. Made in Detroit.
In the United States, lighting accounts for 26% of commercial sector electricity consumption. Less than 10% of commercial buildings have lighting or building automation systems.  NextEnergy joined two Detroit-based technology start-ups, Nextek Power Systems and TOGGLED, who have developed a modular, scalable DC powered lighting system that allows facility managers to rewire and move lights as building needs change – more safely and cost effectively than conventional systems allow.

The system also features a dashboard that integrates with existing building management systems, providing building owners remote and efficient access to manage lighting and motion controls. The integrated power and lighting system will be installed at the Chrysler House, a Bedrock Real Estate Services property in Detroit. Bedrock owns and manages seven million square feet of commercial real estate in Detroit and is a major driver in the city’s revitalization.

Nationally, the demonstration helps validate energy savings, flexible configuration and improved cash flow in a commercial building, providing proof points for scale-up opportunities that may lead to additional projects. Close to home, Nextek and TOGGLED employ over 40 people to design, engineer and manufacture the low voltage power systems and LED lights in Metro Detroit. As this technology scales, there is potential to create more than $12 million in manufacturing activity and $5 million in wages in Detroit over the next three to five years. Turn up the (smart) lights, the show is just beginning!


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