What is a ‘smart city’ and what are the steps to plan and become a ‘smart city’? A ‘smart city’ refers to a city that leverages different types of technological advancements to solve issues and manage resources and assets more effectively.

Here are the planning steps to become a ‘smart city’:

  1. Only focus on technology that is most useful to the city and its residents. In this case, Phoenix and its surrounding areas.
    • Identify the issues and needs of the city
  2. Leverage both public and private sectors
  3. Investigate the citizens needs and desires; listen to what they want
  4. Research and know what is already available and decide if it makes sense for your city
  5. Financing!  Without financing there will be no ‘smart city’

What are the needs of the Phoenix Valley and what issues does the Valley face?

  1. Heat – we live in the desert
  2. Electrical Power Grid – is overtaxed and prone to inherent failures (infrastructure failure interdependence)
  3. Water Supply – we live in the desert
  4. Automobiles / Pollution

We know the major issue that face the Valley.  How can technology help address and possibly resolve them?

Heat is a part of living in the desert, but over time we as residents of the Valley have increased the heat exponentially–and it will only continue as the Valley continues to grow and expand.  Before the mass population of the Valley, heat was dissipated overnight.  Now, with the advent of roadways, highways and massive building structures, heat is not as easily or readily dissipated overnight.  Asphalt and buildings hold in the heat.  Whats more, with the population continuing to increase, we will require more asphalt and buildings, which causes further heat buildup and retention.

The electrical grid has inherent deficiencies.  In Arizona we rely on damns and nuclear power to supply our power.  The grid by its very essence is a web of connections sending power throughout the valley.  Webs do, and will continue to, break.

Water supply in any desert is and will always be an issue.  Outside of terraforming the valley, water will continue to be an issue.  The valley relies on Colorado heavily to supply water to its residents.

Automobiles and pollution go hand in hand–at least until alternative energy automobiles become the majority and not the minority.  Pollution will continue to rise as long as the population continues to increase.

Heat however, can be helped. One of the possible technologies for the valley to focus on are cool pavements and building materials.  The materials will not absorb as much heat and will dissipate the heat more rapidly than the current asphalt roadways.  We can also increase the reach of the light rail system to more suburban areas, which in turn will decrease the number of automobiles on the roadways.

Create and maintain high-speed railways from the suburbs to downtown; this will allow residents to travel further to work without using automobiles. This will decrease pollution, lower heat production and increase heat dissipation.

Build a telecommuting infrastructure.  Telecommuting will decrease traffic, decrease pollution and decrease heat production.  Decentralize the workforce; currently the majority of the valley residents work in downtown or the southeast valley.  Creating work zones in more suburbs and leveraging a stronger telecommuting grid, would decrease heat production, traffic, and pollution as well.

Replace current asphalt and pavement with more permeable surfaces that will increase water table replenishment. Gray-water systems will help to stabilize the water tables.

Finally, the valley could and should invest in alternative energy that is cleaner and promotes a stronger grid.  By requiring more solar and wind power generators, the power sources move from centralized power sources (single points of failure) to satellite locations.  Keeping these on the grid creates redundancy in the grid itself and decreases the likelihood of outages.

How can the Phoenix valley become a ‘smart city’?  By addressing their major issues of heat, water supply, electricity and pollution.  The Phoenix valley can leverage technology in some or all the methods outlined above in order to continue to grow and support their residents, without continuing to increase the risks of the issue identified.