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Denver’s Smart City Vision PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 February 2017 06:07

Autonomous shuttles are set to arrive in Denver as part of the latest stage of developments in the creation of a futuristic smart city project called Pena Station Next. Pena Station is currently a remote and idle rail station south of Denver International Airport - but it has been chosen as the location for one of the most futuristic smart city developments in the world.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock expressed his desire for the innovative project to be much, much more than just a transit hub so Japanese electronics corporation, Panasonic, identified that as an opportunity to make it a thriving community which could be outfitted with all the latest in smart technologies.

Pena Station Next will become a connected neighborhood where autonomous shuttles will one day transport residents to the nearby TRD rail stop, shops and restaurants. The first Easy-Mile EZ10 is expected to arrive next month as the realization of this futuristic city begins to take shape.

However, attendees at CES 2017 were given a glimpse at some of the technologies currently being developed by Panasonic which they plan on implementing at Pena Station Next. George Karayannis, Vice President of CityNow, Panasonic's smart-city arm, said he was excited about some of the technologies in development. He said: "Some technologies are in still in development but others, like the bus shelter, will be 'much more robust'."

“This is the city’s living lab,” Karayannis said. “They can bring new technology in and try it out at Peña Station, make sure the technology works and the vendors make sense and then create the business model for when and where we scale it in the city. Very few cities have this opportunity to try things before they have to make significant capital decisions. And it’s not so much the capital, but if a city decides to implement the technology, they’re making a 10- to 20-year commitment. You’re locked in. To have this living lab for the city is a phenomenal opportunity.”

The futuristic Smart City in Denver began getting smart LED street lights last month. Moving to LED street lights gives cities a 65 to 70 percent decrease in monthly energy bills for street lights, said Ryan Citron, a research analyst with Navigant Research who tracks smart cities. While the initial investment can be hefty, “most of those programs pay for themselves in three years and from then on, they’re saving 65 to 70 percent a year,” he said. “It’s probably at the top of the list for smart-city deployment.”

The connected lights instantly notify cities when a light is out. They strive for “deep energy savings” by dimming themselves further when there is excess ambient light, like from a full moon. They can be regularly dimmed from midnight to 4 a.m. when few people are around so the city can test for maximum energy and economic savings.

A parking area covered with solar panels plus a storage micro-grid is almost complete. The building which is located on site, the Technology and Operations Center division of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co is open for business.

Karayannis said the plan is to add a blanket of Wi-Fi coverage by spring, followed by smart parking and the smart bus stop in summer. Panasonic chose Denver for its smart city in order to create a smart city lad and test different technologies.

Some of the technologies outlined by Panasonic at CES included the following:

  • Smart Kitchen: The smart kitchen has an induction stove top that is built into the counter. A range top above has built-in cameras that trigger an alert to help prevent food from burning or overcooking. The oven and fridge are linked; when you select a recipe, the appliances can set to the appropriate temperatures.
  • Multi-Purpose Smart Table: Panasonic's smart table has a built-in monitor plus wireless induction to charge smartphones or even keep a plate of food warm.
  • Smart street poles: Next to the demo bus stop, a LED street light had all sorts of technology inside - and attached. The poles have security cameras that can collect data like traffic counts and keep an eye on children at a playground.
  • Smart parking meters: Panasonic uses image analysis to make parking meters do more than just take credit cards. The Smart Parking Meter can recognize license plates, detect vacant parking spaces and even offer directions to an open spot. And, of course, the meters accept credit cards and digital payments.