Design ‘smart cities’ around people, Tech Day panelists suggest

Daniel J. Munoz//November 9, 2018//

Design ‘smart cities’ around people, Tech Day panelists suggest

Daniel J. Munoz//November 9, 2018//

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In New Jersey’s cities of tomorrow, kitchen appliances could alert homeowners they need to be replaced. Smart meters could tell them how to lower their electric bill. Commuters would be able to use ride-sharing apps to connect them from home or work to the nearest train station — via bicycles or electric scooters rather than cars.That was the vision laid out by panelists at the New Jersey Tech Council’s Tech Day event Thursday at the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.

Joe Colangelo, CEO of the ride-sharing company Boxcar, said that many New Jersey cities that have lost out to larger metros elsewhere could ultimately come out ahead over the next decade.

“Cities that have not had these amazing tailwinds … Camden, New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton — these are the cities that had to fight for their survival,” Colangelo said. “They’ve become laboratories of municipal best practices rather than the megacities, which are captured by regulatory interest.”

Brian Sabina, senior vice president of economic transformation for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said state governments can utilize economic incentives to boost these kinds of smart cities.

New Jersey already has programs that offer such perks as rent subsidization for startups at incubators and other collaborative workspaces, as well as the newly enacted federal Opportunity Zones, where investments can offset capital gains taxes if they invest in one of 169 zones in the state.

Smart cities would be more connected to ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, according to Ann Ferracane, Lyft’s general manager for New York and New Jersey.

And these connections, she said, would work toward an “ultimate goal of designing our cities around people, rather than transportation and cars.”

“They’ll be more much integrated into that app, such as connecting with transit, connecting with other types of transportation such as scooters or bikes,” Ferracane said.

Ferracane said that the application of ride-sharing bikes and scooters could replace cars as the main mode of travel between the home and mass transit, thereby reducing congestion and eliminating the need for potentially costly parking garages.

Amy McIlvaine, business development manager for AT&T’s Smart Cities program, said with any smart technology, large-scale data collection about town’s residents is inevitable. Used properly, she said, it could be an enormous advantage to the community.

“The suggestions that we proposed for various cities are working with their own information technology organizations,” McIlvaine said. “Just having a facilitation of conversations in specific neighborhoods about how this data can be leveraged to the city’s advantage or to the citizen’s advantage or the neighborhood’s advantage.”

Ferracane and Kristin Larew, business development manager for PSE&G Renewables & Energy Solutions, suggested towns and tech companies would have to cooperate to ensure protecting and anonymizing the data they collect.

“We see it as the customer’s choice to the extent that we can use the customer data to improve their lives and give each one the benefit that ‘you’re OK with that,’” Larew said.