IEEE plugs into Smart Cities movement

KC light
Matt Hamblen

Guadalajara, Mexico -- Smart Cities are the best response to the global urban future, according to the IEEE, which bills itself as “the world's largest professional association for the advancement of technology.”

Gilles Betis, IEEE Smart City Initiative Chair, said the population in cities will grow from 3.5 billion today to 7.2 billion by 2050.

“Doubling the number of people in cities is not an adjustment, this is a transition,” he said.

Betis made the remarks in his keynote speech at the first IEEE Smart Cities Conference last week in Guadalajara, “the Silicon Valley of Mexico.”

The city was the first of five “core cities” the association is focusing on for research grants and development projects.

The other four IEEE core cities are Wuxi, China; Trento, Italy; Casablanca, Morocco; and Kansas City, Mo.

As it has broadened its membership to multiple types of professionals working in technology, IEEE no longer generally refers to itself with its formal title, “Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,” except in legal documents.

Preferring today simply to identify itself by its well-known acronym, the organization now has over 430,000 members in 160 countries worldwide.

IEEE is deeply involved in the advancement of electronic technologies of all kinds. The technical demands of urban development—in transportation, energy, communications, security, lighting, and air-quality technologies—has led IEEE to take a multidisciplinary leadership role in smart cities development.

IEEE wants to be the trusted third-party partner in the smart cities movement, the organizers said.

Speakers from all over the world presented 130 peer-reviewed presentations at Guadalajara.

The conference’s tracks outline the state of field: Smart Environment, Smart Health, Internet of Things, Smart Transport, Smart Homes and Buildings, Open Data, Smart Manufacturing and Logistics, Smart Integrated Grid, Smart Citizen.

Topics of technical presentations ranged from operating systems for mass sensor network management, to farm-to-city food supply chain, to hybrid cloud solutions for cancer detection in urban health care. The papers will be available through the IEEE publications center.

Keynote speaker and 2014 IEEE President Roberto de Marca noted key social trends: the global middle class will increase to 4.9 billion by 2030 while their influence swells.

He said life expectancy will increase worldwide to an average of 77 years, from 70 years today. The global demographic “youth bulge” will also have a “gray bulge.”

Smart cities will not just provide connectivity for the young, but aging-in-place and care facilities for elders as well.

Roberto Saracco, President of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology in Italy, said we need to have the view that cities more and more are “softer”—not just a place of hard buildings, but people-centered, and software-centered.

He suggested the intriguing possibility that our experience of cities may be increasingly “downloadable.”

Characterizing the conceptual challenge, Gilles Betis cited a 1997 quote by urban theorist Juval Portugali (1997): “The city is […] a text written by millions of unknown writers […] read by millions of readers, each reading his or her own personal and subjective story in this ever-changing chaotic text,thus changing and recreating and further complicating it.”

Keynote speaker Doris B. Gonzalez from IBM said, “Smart cities are so new, no one is an expert.” That’s why the company has deployed teams of volunteer managers and executives to help cities assess their technological needs through IBM’s “Smarter Cities Challenge” program.

The next IEEE Smart Cities conference will be held in Trento, Italy, in September 2016. The northern Italian city, near the Dolomites Mountains, has already won an award for top quality of life in Italy.

The 2016 IEEE conference in Trento will address further improvements and development models appropriate to cities worldwide.

Jay Gillette is professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State University, director of its Human Factors Institute, and a senior research fellow and officer at the Digital Policy Institute. He also served as Fulbright-Nokia Distinguished Chair in Information and Communications Technologies at the University of Oulu, Finland for 2014-2015.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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