In 2014, Panasonic opened Fujisawa’s Sustainable Smart Town in Fujisawa City, Japan. Eight years of planning went into the town before they started building it. The town, which was promoted by Fujisawa SST Council, Panasonic, and many other companies wanted to create a functioning, smart sustainable town where community and people were at the center of importance according to Panasonic’s President of Enterprise Solutions Company, Jim Doyle. They looked at lifestyle of the people living there first, then looked at spaces to sustain their lifestyle, then finally looked at technology that could be used to create and support this lifestyle in a sustainable way.
On Sept. 19, 2016, Panasonic’s President of Enterprise Solutions Company, Jim Doyle, and Mayor of Denver, Michael B Hancock spoke at the Daniels College of Business Voices of Experience Event. Together, Panasonic and the City of Denver are working on the first every Smart City in the United States right here in Denver. The Panasonic City NOW project started one year ago and is taking Japanese technology and concepts from Fujisawa’s Sustainable Smart Town to create a Global City that will make residents’ lives better, simpler, and more connected.
According to Doyle, smart cities can shape how we live. Doyle has been living in Denver for 15 months working on this project. Important factors such as population shifts, aging infrastructure, quality of life, climate change, limited resources and economics are all reasons why the City of Denver has agreed and started working with Panasonic to build this Smart City.
City Now, which will be located at Pena Station Next, is the starting point for creating sustainable towns in the United States. This project will be 400 acres of mixed use smart and sustainable transit oriented development. They are planning to use a micro-grid for battery storage and solar power, having community WiFi, autonomous vehicles such as self-driving electric cars like the ones Tesla is working on, smart lighting, smart parking, interactive digital signage and new security measures to make sure the city is safe.
According to Doyle, in order to address sustainability and growth, you must also address transportation. In the United States, there are 223,000 km of railroad tracks that transport 31 million people per year. Countries such as Japan which has 27,000 km of railroad tracks and Germany which has 40,000 km of railroad tracks carry billions of passengers each year. So, along with developing a more sustainable way to live, Panasonic and the City of Denver are also working on ways to get more people to travel more sustainably such as by train or bike, rather than by car.
Mayor Hancock spoke after Jim Doyle about why the City of Denver agreed to be the first city to have a fully sustainable town in the US, and how they are working with Panasonic to make sure the project is being done as it should be.
Right now, Denver is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Starting in 2011, Denver began to grow, and it is currently seeing over 1,000 new residents every month. With Smart Cities such as the one being developed at Pena Station Next, Denver is thinking about the future. Mayor Hancock described it as building something for residents we may never meet.
Mayor Hancock’s initiatives as a leader of this city are to make Denver work smarter not harder.$11 million was invested into teaching city employees how to look at problems differently and how to make data driven decisions that enhance peak performance.Mayor Hancock wants to help identify a better way of doing business that is cheaper, faster, and overall better for the city.
The word Mayor Hancock used to describe his vision of the new smart city is an airtropolis.Denver is securing its place on the global stage, and because DIA is a global transit hub for travelers going all over the world, he wants to leverage the airport and utilize the opportunity the airport presents as well as the land surrounding it to maximize their potential to create a smart sustainable city. In his eyes, this is a multi-generational project that we’ll start, but our children, and our children’s children will finish. When Jim Doyle and Mayor Hancock had finished their presentations, they sat down and answered some questions regarding the Smart City such as what some of the primary challenges they have encountered are. Their answer was thinking about concepts in ways not used today. They are trying to develop this project in ways that are innovative and that look to the future, and that really presents a challenge to them because they are not only trying to do it in a sustainable way, but are trying to do it in a way the people want.
They were also asked how you conceptualize smart cities impacting people in cities.Their answers involved thinking in ways millennials do including trying to make their lives easier and connected as well as helping low income families. Their vision for these smart cities is to have big community centers where you can go to a library to get a book, but also to renew your license, creating a center for one stop shopping.
When asked about what major milestone they wanted Smart Cities to have, their answers were ideas that created sustainable and safer communities. For example, having more transit such as busses and trains, bikes, having smart streets that will make communities safer and having electric vehicles. They want to help reduce congestion and make life faster and easier for its occupants.
As for the investors of this project, while the federal government has pulled back their investments, it has made them think differently and smarter. Because of this, they are able to deliver products for less which means investors do not have to spend as much. Leadership though, is a big part in getting investors for this project. This project has a lot of skeptics including DIA, but having a leader who knows what his vision is and knows how to convey it well so investors believe in can be done may be one of the most important aspects of getting investors to believe in the vision and actually invest.
This Smart City is considered to be the most innovative domestic cities. While Denver is a growing city, it is not on the same level as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, making it much easier to realize bit projects rather than just talking them. When this project is completed, both Jim Doyle and Mayor Hancock believe more people will want to come to Denver just to see what Panasonic is doing. And, while Panasonic does not want to own the data being collected from this project, they believe that they can continue to create these Smart Cities around the US and around the world.
As for DU students getting involved in this project? Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver invite anyone interested to intern with the City of Denver and see what this project is all about. He invites students to suggest ideas because they are going to be the next ones working on this project. They will take over years in the future and help bring sustainability to the rest of the world.