The Journey Toward A Smart City

The Journey Toward A Smart City

Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer And Assistant Director, Department Of City Planning, City Of Pittsburgh

Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer And Assistant Director, Department Of City Planning, City Of Pittsburgh

Could you elaborate on the challenges that the organizations will need to address related to Smart City space?

One of the challenges that we have seen in terms of developing smart city projects is the challenge of procurement; part of being a government entity is understanding how to procure some of the services that are becoming available. Many times they are not part of the traditional process of public procurement, so understanding how those new systems fit into traditional procurement methods are some of the challenges that we are up against today. In terms performance contracting it’s often difficult and getting folks on the same page in terms of how to either measure those performance or verify it and then understanding the value that is being established for cost savings and performance improvement is another challenge.

What are the trends defining the state of the Smart City landscape?

One of the big trends that we have started to see in terms of the technology that we have involved with has been in terms of energy efficiency space. For example sensor technology; identifying energy consumption and measurement have been the things that we have been noticing currently. Also, vehicle electrification, charging, and the procurement of electric vehicles are something which we are actively involved in. We are also educating our fleet team and users of vehicles and are working with the department of mobility and infrastructure to put charging points in the right places so that we can have strategically deployed charging. So these are some of the key things in front of us right now.

Could you shed some light on the approach that you follow while choosing the right solution provider?

One of the big things that we have done in terms of partnership development has been casting and deploying technology. So research and development has done small installations and collaborations with local technology firms and the other things were we have worked with some of the large technology firms has been evaluating systems and opportunities and using those evolutions to help guide planning and policy efforts.

What are the strategic points of discussion that goes on in your leadership panel?

I am the Chief Resilience Officer of the city; to serve as an integrator across the city department, outside partners from the university, and other public and private sector partners to develop sustainability and resilience solutions. I deal with operational improvements and sometimes policy improvements often with the guys who are looking at impacts of climate, while developing strategic developments and plans for the city. So I have overseen the resilience of the development strategy, our climate actions plans and district planning efforts around energy and mobility.

"Smart city technology becomes more focused on both human interactions as well as how we improve people’s health and well being"

One of the key things we focus on is developing decision support. So we are looking at both gathering data and technology to help our partners in other departments to enhance their decision making capability. Whether that is related to how we procure energy or how we develop land use planning and design, we bring in the necessary sustainability and resilience to the table.

What does the future hold for Smart City landscape?

Smart city technology becomes more focused on both human interactions and on how we improve people’s health and well being. So one of the challenges that we have seen in the smart city market, is how there is technology in search of a solution versus the ability of a solution to solve the real word problems. Therefore, how we design cities for people is going to require us concentrating on improving the physical form and human experience in our city.

What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to your colleagues to excel in this space?

One of the key things we often use here is the partnership and the leadership and the ability to work across sectors, integrating partners together from all the different assets that make up a city. So it requires us to work with the different departments in order to provide solutions.

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