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Share and share alike: Smart cities initiative seeks to share best practices

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The Connected Urban Development initiative will get more inclusive, by encouraging participation from additional cities and business partners who can help scale some of its existing Smart Cities pilots.

The Connected Urban Development initiative (aka CUD) is about to get more inclusive.

Cisco, the networking technology giant, has already kicked in $15 million to CUD projects over the past three years. Now, it has teamed up with the current CUD cities and with the Climate Group to encourage the development of the CUD Alliance, which will open up CUD work to others.

The CUD Alliance hopes to create a framework for sharing and scaling out the work already being done in the seven existing CUD pilots and for offering repeatable best practices for connected buildings, transportation and energy management. Among other things, the Alliance will look to create partnerships that can get pilot and real projects off the ground, to offer suggestions regarding certain common technology standards for "low-carbon urban solutions" and to help scale some of the existing projects to additional cities. We're not just talking about technology, by the way. The CUD Alliance will take on issues of policy and financing.

Nic Villa, global director of the Cisco CUD program, says one big philosophical change that CUD participants will see in the future is a push for urban communities to consider individual sustainability projects in the context of other projects. In other words, to look at the bigger picture, using digital information and technology as the connecting framework.

"We are talking about the equivalent of ERP for a municipal government," Villa says.

You can get a better sense of what he's talking about by skimming some of the information for the existing CUD development projects. One example is the Urban EcoMap project that was codeveloped with the City of San Francisco. The application rolls up information that can have an impact on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, such as transportation routes, waste sites or energy generation facilities. You might imagine about how layering this information with other geographic considerations might inform where smart development projects are located.

Other pilot projects that will be scaled accordingly include the following:

  • Smart transportation pricing systems that are being tested in Seoul, South Korea
  • A personal travel assistant -- being used in Seoul and Amsterdam -- that helps you make a travel decision based on time, cost and carbon impact considerations
  • Smart UrbanEnergy for Schools, an energy-efficiency management system being piloted in Lisbon
  • Urban Energy Management, currently being tested at a multi-dwelling apartment building in Madrid and related to Cisco's Connected Buildings work
  • Smart Work Centers, which are community installations of Cisco TelePresence technology (currently in Almere and Amsterdam)
  • The Connected Bus, which includes intelligent systems to help improve traffic flow

Other cities already involved in the CUD work are Birmingham, England, and Hamburg, Germany.

In a speech made in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, Cisco CEO John Chambers reiterated his company's position that cities are the "best place to address climate change and environmental issues." Urban areas contribute at least 60 percent of global carbon emissions, Chambers contends in prepared remarks shared with me earlier this week. You should be able to pick up a webcast of his speech at this link.

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Heather Clancy

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Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure