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What is the Short Answer to the Big Question of Urban Infrastructure?

By Cynthia S. Artin February 08, 2018

Building smarter cities is a vision for some, a business for others, but a mission and a passion for a growing non-profit headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area. The company is bringing emerging technology to bear on connecting the power of IoT with the challenges of sustaining, strengthening and supporting smart cities.

Three partners, Robert Mazer, Gregory Sauter and David Heyman, brought collective decades of industry, government, and technology experience together to launch Smart City Works to address the complex question of how to leverage technology to address the overdue issues that continue to plague the urban landscape and cultural needs.

We are in a period of unprecedented urbanization. More than half of the world’s population now lives in or near a major urban area, global population continues to grow unabated, and over the next two decades the world’s cities will have to accommodate about 70 percent more residents within existing physical footprints.

At the same time, public infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly, and addressing improvements is risky, expensive and inefficient. In the U.S. alone, experts estimate $3.6 trillion in investments will be needed by 2020 to keep pace with current and expanding needs. Over $57 trillion is needed in global infrastructure investment by 2030, just to keep up with world GDP growth.

“Simply adding more physical infrastructure won’t work, given challenges of limited investment and resources, diminishing space, energy use, and the need for more resilient solutions,” Mazer said. “With innovation and investment in technologies, funding mechanisms and ecosystems, we can change the paradigm of how cities grow, operate and succeed in a sustainable way.”

To address the challenges of urbanization, Smart City Works created a program uniquely focused on improving the built environment and on the way we design, build, and operate civil infrastructure. The program is

Smart City Works has brought together people, companies, mentors, and partners from around the world with the common goal of making truly smart cities a serious reality. To achieve success, Smart City Works through its business accelerator has been nurturing new companies developing innovative technologies and enabling them to deliver high-impact solutions to make cities smarter, safer, and more resilient.

The vast Smart City Works eco-system of start-up companies, mature enterprises, research and financial institutions, universities, and governments who have aligned missions and interests, collaborating on designing, building, and operating urban infrastructure smarter has proven invaluable to the companies participating in the acceleration program.

 Whether it is customer discovery, access to commercial companies in the value chain or circum-navigating through various government processes, the Smart City Works cohort companies are provided the capability to tackle the challenges that have inhibited innovation in the past.

“We’ve seen the combination of smaller, larger and even massive companies and agencies working together to drive progress,” said Sauter. “It’s one thing to invent something that can change the course of infrastructure, and another to galvanize innovation and speed commercialization of new products to make cities safer, cleaner and more livable. We intentionally focus on the built world and its potential to change everything from the economics of smart cities to the standards and security required turn what was science fiction into science-based reality.”

This unusual non-profit is taking a leadership role in the public discourse on the emergence of smart cities though its collaboration with the Commonwealth of Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, American Society of Civil Engineers as well as its relationships with numerous Universities and technology labs throughout the United States.

Still the most exciting aspect of Smart City Works are the companies developing new innovative technologies who will be the disruptors of the future. The six companies which participated in the Fall 2017 Cohort who demonstrated their progress at the January 25th Demo Day event included:

  1. Infrashares: the first equity crowdfunding platform for infrastructure projects;
  2. Accure: a cognitive science company using artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance and performance improvements in oil & gas, parking, and healthcare industries and now focused on the larger smart city market;
  3. Urban3D: a company embedding sensors in pre-cast concrete to create efficiencies throughout the supply chain from the pre-cast concrete production facility to installation on the job site.
  4. Matrix Materials: technology solutions enabling the reclaiming of waste as resources for building roads that are environmentally responsible, and that perform better and cost less;
  5. ESI: a real time analytics SaaS tool that helps manage land, resources and investments using “live maps” and other data sources;
  6. Indeco: a “crypto asset” management company using blockchain currencies to finance smart cities using the lowest cost of capital.

“Making sustainable change on a large scale in this economic environment requires us to think different,” Heyman said. “Hundreds of companies apply, but because we are still a small non-profit, we have to be extremely selective to provide a quality experience to the companies we do choose. We go with the ideas that we believe have the potential to impact not just technology, but economics and long-term sustainability.”

The application period for the Fall 2018 cohort recently opened – interested companies can apply here




Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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