We’ve been bringing you a lot of green news from New York City recently. From newly funded initiatives to improve the efficiency of state-owned buildings to a big push to add more solar generation to plans for renewable energy on brownfield sites — not to mention the addition of new bicycle paths, and this whole green roof thing that seems to be going around — it seems safe to say that one of the world’s largest cities has both the will and the wherewithal to improve its relationship to the natural environment.
Fast Company recently compiled its first-ever ranking of smart cities worldwide, and the Big Apple made the list. (It was, in fact, the sole U.S. representative on the list, coming in fourth, after Vienna, Toronto and Paris.) This ranking was based on not just how cities use information and communication technologies (ICT) to deliver services to their citizens (the conventional definition of ‘smart’ within this context) but how those cities use ICT to be more intelligent and efficient in their use of resources. This definition of the term prioritizes the use of technology in delivering cost and energy savings, improved service delivery, quality of life, and a reduced environmental footprint, supporting both innovation and the low-carbon economy.
(This truly ‘smart’ use of smart tech seems to be a concept that’s gaining some traction right now, as a website platform designed to put such tools in the hands of the general populace, the City 2.0 project, recently took the TED Prize. This project, which the TED Prize judges deemed “a platform designed to empower citizens to connect with each other to help reshape their own cities,” has actually already helped to inform the development of a new city in Portugal that will make use of smart, efficient ICT from the ground up.)
New York scored higher than most other cities in the rankings for all of the categories other than quality of life (where, sadly, it came in 47th). It took smart city props, in particular, for having the foresight to get together with IBM to launch the IBM Business Analytics Solution Center back in 2009. The goal of this center is to address “the growing demand for the complex capabilities needed to build smarter cities and help clients optimize all manner of business processes and business decisions.” Among the results of this partnership is the fact that IBM has helped the city prevent fires and protect first responders as well as identify questionable tax refund claims.
And lest you think this last may a bit tangential to the low carbon economy, consider the fact that this move alone is expected to save the city a cool $100 million over just five years. That’s $100 million in public funds freed up to pursue the lofty goals of PlaNYC 2030, which seeks to prepare the city to accommodate one million more residents, strengthen its economy and combat climate change while (yes) enhancing the quality of life for all New Yorkers by 2030.
Another fine example of tech at work in New York is the New York Energy Map. This effort — a collaboration between Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability — offers an unprecedented level of information concerning energy use in New York City across the five boroughs. The statistical model it employs makes use of ZIP code-level energy consumption data to estimate the average annual energy use for every tax lot at practically the level of the building throughout the city, with the goal of identifying opportunities for increased efficiency.
Smart efforts such as this may give the world even more reasons to love NYC.