Smart cities are the future of infrastructure, and those that don’t modernize will be left behind. Martin Powell, head of urban development at Siemens, speaks with CXOTalk about the importance of increased electrification and energy savings as air pollution becomes a growing concern.

“Right now, we’re in a time where cities are really competing with one another for investment, for talent, for just having high-performance infrastructure.,” Powell explains. “This is about the city taking back control and giving them the opportunity to keep everything moving, keep that quality of life really high.”

Powell is the Head of Urban Development within Siemens Global Centre of Competence for Cities. This involves working with mayors and leaders providing advice and support to cities as they strive to meet tough economic, social and environmental targets and looking at economic and technical models of delivering solutions at scale. He is co-author of ‘Our Urban Future’ and ‘Better Cities, Better Life’ and the forthcoming book about ‘The Smart City in the Digital Age.’

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: There's so much talk about smart cities, but the question is, how can a city implement these programs? I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. We're speaking with Martin Powell, who is one of the leading experts on smart cities. Hey, Martin, how are you?

Martin Powell: Very good. How are you?

Michael Krigsman: Why is this so important for cities to act on? What are the forces at play here?

Martin Powell: Cities are inherently inefficient, so we really need to improve the way that this infrastructure operates. Right now, the pressures of urbanization are forcing us to make these changes to our infrastructure by improving, incrementally, the efficiency of everything that we operate across the city. This is actually relatively easy to do.

Michael Krigsman: That's surprising. [Laughter]

Martin Powell: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Tell us about that.

Martin Powell: We don't have to combine our infrastructure anymore. We simply have to extract the data that they generate. The key here is for the city to find an early trusted partner and get good, quality advice before they really embark on this journey.

We get paid from the energy savings that you create from connecting these buildings together. Then we can use that to put in the infrastructure platform and to run the city in this more optimized way for 20, 25 years.

Michael Krigsman: Are there models for cost sharing?

Martin Powell: Not just cost sharing; we have done building retrofit programs across the U.S., across the world. We have guaranteed the energy savings, and we've got paid from the energy savings.

Michael Krigsman: But, it's not a city investment.

Martin Powell: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: And so, why should cities care?

Martin Powell: Cities are going to be the beneficiary of increased electrification and transport. There's no doubt about it. The air pollution levels in every big city in the world is killing in excess of 10,000 people prematurely every year. Right now, people will leave a city if its air pollution gets too poor. Right now, we're in a time where cities are really competing with one another for investment, for talent, for just having high-performance infrastructure.

Michael Krigsman: If you're a municipal leader, the idea of changing quickly, it could seem almost impossible. It's an insurmountable task.

Martin Powell: It's faster and easier than ever to connect infrastructure together, to take those data sets, to combine them, and to improve the underlying performance of that infrastructure. This is about the city taking back control and giving them the opportunity to keep everything moving, keep that quality of life really high.

Michael Krigsman: What about the legacy? You can't just simply replace your bridges and replace your roads. What do we do?

Martin Powell: Yeah, we don't need to replace our bridges and replace our roads. What we need to do is make them work better for us. It's to push information to the very people that are using this infrastructure so that it can be used in a far more optimized way. We can do that in ways that doesn't cost the city anything. We can do it in ways where we work jointly with the city and co-create applications.

The key right now in the next three or four years is to completely optimize this infrastructure. The best way for a city to do it is to find two pieces of infrastructure and simply connect two data streams to our MindSphere platform.

Michael Krigsman: Give us an example of that.

Martin Powell: Well, if you connect the grid to one municipal building and have a look at how you can optimize both the grid and the building, you will immediately find savings.

Michael Krigsman: When you say connect the grid to the building--

Martin Powell: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: --what precisely do you mean?

Martin Powell: You simply take the grid tale, the grid connection, monitor when the building is consuming

Michael Krigsman: There's so much talk about smart cities, but the question is, how can a city implement these programs? I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. We're speaking with Martin Powell, who is one of the leading experts on smart cities. Hey, Martin, how are you?

Martin Powell: Very good. How are you?

Michael Krigsman: Why is this so important for cities to act on? What are the forces at play here?

Martin Powell: Cities are inherently inefficient, so we really need to improve the way that this infrastructure operates. Right now, the pressures of urbanization are forcing us to make these changes to our infrastructure by improving, incrementally, the efficiency of everything that we operate across the city. This is actually relatively easy to do.

Michael Krigsman: That's surprising. [Laughter]

Martin Powell: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Tell us about that.

Martin Powell: We don't have to combine our infrastructure anymore. We simply have to extract the data that they generate. The key here is for the city to find an early trusted partner and get good, quality advice before they really embark on this journey.

We get paid from the energy savings that you create from connecting these buildings together. Then we can use that to put in the infrastructure platform and to run the city in this more optimized way for 20, 25 years.

Michael Krigsman: Are there models for cost sharing?

Martin Powell: Not just cost sharing; we have done building retrofit programs across the U.S., across the world. We have guaranteed the energy savings, and we've got paid from the energy savings.

Michael Krigsman: But, it's not a city investment.

Martin Powell: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: And so, why should cities care?

Martin Powell: Cities are going to be the beneficiary of increased electrification and transport. There's no doubt about it. The air pollution levels in every big city in the world is killing in excess of 10,000 people prematurely every year. Right now, people will leave a city if its air pollution gets too poor. Right now, we're in a time where cities are really competing with one another for investment, for talent, for just having high-performance infrastructure.

Michael Krigsman: If you're a municipal leader, the idea of changing quickly, it could seem almost impossible. It's an insurmountable task.

Martin Powell: It's faster and easier than ever to connect infrastructure together, to take those data sets, to combine them, and to improve the underlying performance of that infrastructure. This is about the city taking back control and giving them the opportunity to keep everything moving, keep that quality of life really high.

Michael Krigsman: What about the legacy? You can't just simply replace your bridges and replace your roads. What do we do?

Martin Powell: Yeah, we don't need to replace our bridges and replace our roads. What we need to do is make them work better for us. It's to push information to the very people that are using this infrastructure so that it can be used in a far more optimized way. We can do that in ways that doesn't cost the city anything. We can do it in ways where we work jointly with the city and co-create applications.

The key right now in the next three or four years is to completely optimize this infrastructure. The best way for a city to do it is to find two pieces of infrastructure and simply connect two data streams to our MindSphere platform.

Michael Krigsman: Give us an example of that.

Martin Powell: Well, if you connect the grid to one municipal building and have a look at how you can optimize both the grid and the building, you will immediately find savings.

Michael Krigsman: When you say connect the grid to the building--

Martin Powell: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: --what precisely do you mean?

Martin Powell: You simply take the grid tale, the grid connection, monitor when the building is consuming energy or when it's exporting back to the grid. Often, the building doesn't need energy all of the time and could offset, offload that energy consumption to another building. They will begin to connect to the next building.

What you'll find is a complete network of buildings across the city that will eventually form all power-sharing, all bringing down their energy bill. Everybody's bill comes down. The amount we draw from the grid goes down. The city gets its target met.

Michael Krigsman: Can you describe the steps that a city should go through to gain buy-in from citizens, gain buy-in from city leaders?

Martin Powell: The key for a city is to ask the public, "What is it you want?" because, by connecting our infrastructure, we can give them nearly everything they want, incrementally, every day, by simply connecting our base infrastructure and making it perform better for us each and every day.

Michael Krigsman: Martin Powell, thank you so much for talking with us.

Martin Powell: You're very welcome. Thank you very much.