What Does it Mean to be a Future-Ready City?

Monday, May 20, 2019 2:20 pm EDT

Editor’s Note: This post was co-authored by Mayor of the City of Orlando Buddy Dyer and Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton in advance of Siemens’ flagship U.S. technology and innovation conference, Spotlight on Innovation 2019, which Orlando will host from 1-4 PM ET May 22 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Register for the livestream and join the conversation by following #SiemensInnovates.

Nowhere is the pace of change in our increasingly digital and complex world more apparent – and impactful – than in America’s cities.

Orlando is a prime example of how shifts in the way we travel, work and live can sometimes exacerbate old challenges and create new ones. But, change also brings opportunity, and that’s what we see in this region.  

Take Orlando’s sustainability work. About a decade ago, the city was launching a fledgling sustainability program to give residents more recycling options and the ability to pilot alternative energy like solar power. Now Orlando, along with other U.S. cities, is at the forefront of the national and global efforts to radically reduce harmful emissions across the entire region.

And just a few years ago, expanding mobility options meant a singular focus on mass transit projects. Now the city is managing an evolving transit landscape where everyone has access to ridesharing, bike-sharing and scooter-sharing from the palms of their hands, all while autonomous vehicles and drones are on the horizon.

All this change, and the challenges and opportunities that come with it, raises a question that will come up Wednesday as part of a national innovation and technology forum Siemens USA is hosting in Orlando called Spotlight on Innovation—what does it take to be a future-ready city?

We think being future-ready means embracing technology. It’s the most powerful tool we have to improve infrastructure, help meet sustainability goals, enhance economic opportunity and raise the bar for quality of life.

One of the key strategies we’ll talk about on Wednesday is a willingness for local governments, the private sector and civic community to forge new partnerships that bring technology to bear to meet our toughest challenges. The good news: this is exactly what’s happening now in the City of Orlando. 

This month, Orlando announced the creation of a new smart city focus to better leverage technology and private-sector expertise to address the challenges of our time. The new department expands the city’s long-standing efforts to champion sustainable initiatives. In the last year, they have already reduced their GHG emissions by 18 percent. Orlando was also the first city in Florida to pass a building benchmarking, energy audit, and transparency policy that requires more than 1,000 buildings to monitor and report their energy and water use annually.

One of the first major projects Orlando’s smart city department will focus its attention on is furthering its GHG reduction efforts by pursuing a 90% emissions reduction target by the year 2040. 

Siemens is already a key partner in that initiative. Over the course of the past year, using Siemens City Performance Tool, the City of Orlando’s Office of Sustainability & Resilience and Office of Smart Cities, Orlando Utilities Commission and Siemens have worked together to analyze what infrastructure technologies are needed in order to achieve the Orlando’s 2040 sustainability goals.

Key findings of this exercise will now become an important tool to help Orlando’s city planners leverage technology in the areas of renewable energy, transportation and building technology in order to meet the ambitious 90 x 2040 goal. Orlando now joins the ranks of cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and many others that have leveraged the Siemens virtual city tool as they plan for making these commitments a reality.

What this tool makes clear are a few things. One, there is no one size fits all approach to reducing GHG emissions. Every city is unique, and the approach will need to be as well. Second, this is a bold task that requires significant planning, investment and commitment from the region. And finally, given the breadth of what needs to be done, no city can meet this type of ambitious goal without the right technologies and the willingness to collaborate.

As we strive to achieve goals like 90 x 2040 and make our cities truly future-ready, there must be a dedication to reach across government, industry, university, and the technology sector in order to get there.

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