The Smart City Solution

By John Schulz, AVP of Sustainability Operations
Jun 23, 2016 9:00 PM ET
Campaign: AT&T: Planet

Connect To Good

Today, 80 percent of us live in cities, an explosive growth in urbanization that shows no sign of slowing down. But what are the consequences of this rapid change — for us and for our planet? As our populations condense around cities, we face tremendous challenges and exciting opportunities to make city life better and more sustainable. The key? Make our cities "smart."

A smart city optimizes how we use resources such as energy and water to help improve quality of life, positively affect our planet and open new economic opportunities. Take the problem of carbon emissions: Today, cities worldwide account for 75 percent of carbon emissions on Earth.Enter smart city solutions. For example, connected lights and lampposts: Smart lighting technology that lets utilities remotely manage a city’s entire lighting system, helping to save maintenance crews the time and fuel necessary to find and replace broken bulbs.

Focusing on smart cities is helping AT&T achieve our sustainability goals, such as our goal to enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by 2025 (by both enhancing the efficiency of our network and by delivering solutions that help our customers reduce carbon emissions). We’re developing new applications for our technology, and we’ve created a smart cities framework to help cities better serve their citizens and the environment. The framework — which will be introduced in select spotlight cities and communities including Atlanta, Georgia Institute of Technology, Chicago, Dallas, Miami-Dade County, Chapel Hill (North Carolina) and Montgomery County (Maryland) — is supported by an alliance of key technology leaders and industry organizations.

One of the most exciting aspects of smart cities is the potential for large-scale water savings. Shockingly, some cities lose as much as half of their water supply via leaks. By investing in technology solutions, utilities proactively can monitor water pressure while locating and resolving leaks — making our water distribution infrastructure more secure while reducing unnecessary waste of this critical resource.

Last year AT&T, IBM and Mueller Water Products teamed up to create an enhanced water management solution as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Global City Teams Challenge. The solution collects data about pressure, temperature and leak detection — then wirelessly transmits that data to a smart dashboard that is monitored by a utility to give a complete view of past, present and future performance. We piloted this solution in a desert landscape: The four-mile stretch of pipes underneath the Las Vegas Strip.

This year, we’re taking another step. We teamed up with Ericsson to provide wireless connectivity for IoT devices for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in Atlanta. These devices help with early detection of water contamination in city watersheds.

This is just the beginning. Solutions such as intelligent lighting, water, energy grids and public transportation management can help cities save money, preserve natural resources and build better relationships with their citizens. Working with city officials, industry organizations and other companies, we’re ready to make more "possibilities" a reality.

Learn more about how cities are getting cleaner, safer and stronger as they become smarter here.   

This blog was orginally posted on GreenBiz.