Energy Snapshot

August 28, 2018

Challenges for the cities of tomorrow

During their International Residency in the USA in September 2017, MBA Energy Management students had the opportunity to visit one of the world's most innovative Cleantech Innovation Hubs in Silicon Valley: ProspectSV has set itself the goal of bringing together start-ups, companies and the public sector to accelerate the introduction of clean technologies for sustainable, intelligent cities.

Skyline of San Francisco
In the Silicon Valley, ProspectSV set itself the goal of promoting the introduction of clean technologies for sustainable, intelligent cities. Photo © CC0 Licence

In an exclusive interview, Karen "KJ" Janowski, Vice President Customer Service at ProspectSV, talks about the biggest challenges of tomorrow's cities and points out possible solution scenarios.

From your point of view as an expert, what are the biggest challenges cities are facing today? What can we do about it?

Cities, especially in Silicon Valley, must prepare for a large increase in population. This will stress the infrastructure of the city and create even greater demand for affordable housing, mobility solutions and communication services. In addition, the public sector must meet the basic needs of its residents and workers for fresh water, wastewater management, waste disposal, and clean, efficient and adequate energy supply. Some cities also face significant changes in the natural environment – flooding, increasingly severe weather systems, extreme heat, drought, etc. – that place an even greater burden on the resources of the city. And in California, we must also be prepared for unpredictable natural events like earthquakes.

The keys to addressing these challenges are cross-sector collaboration and innovation. For example, to successfully address traffic congestion, cities and private sector companies must collaborate. Products from private sector companies must interact with existing infrastructure (e.g. roads, traffic signals, etc.) controlled by the cities and companies must have a thorough understanding of the priorities and concerns of the cities and their citizens (e.g. the types of vehicles or travel that should be prioritized, the need for security).

Picture of a highway junction from above
Traffic, mobility, communication, energy supply - the increase in population will put the infrastructure of cities under pressure. Photo © CC0 Licence

Innovative technologies and business models will be needed to address the unprecedented challenges facing cities as their populations surge. Encouraging innovation and piloting new solutions will enable cities to proactively address issues and opportunities, and not just react when problems become severe.

What is the idea behind ProspectSV and what beneficial services do you offer?

ProspectSV is an innovation hub with a mission to accelerate the adoption of clean technologies for sustainable, smart cities. We bring together startups, corporate enterprises and the public sector to solve some of the biggest challenges faced by cities. For entrepreneurs we provide commercialization support services, including subject matter expertise in advanced mobility and energy, connections to pilot and demonstration capabilities, access to our facilities for the development and testing of products, introductions to funding sources and more. Entrepreneurs become part of a vibrant ecosystem of other startup companies, corporate enterprises, cities, transit agencies, academic institutions, national labs, investors and others that can support the commercialization of their products.

You offer clean tech solutions in 3 main areas? Could you please tell us which areas are involved and why these areas in particular?

We focus primarily on the advanced mobility and energy sectors. In Silicon Valley, some of the most pressing problems are affordable housing and access to viable transportation options. These issues can suppress economic growth and result in stark societal inequities. For example, workers who cannot afford to live near employment centers may reside far away and spend hours driving to and from work. This adds to traffic congestion and air pollution and makes the region less hospitable to businesses. ProspectSV is focused on advanced mobility solutions that move people and goods more safely, cleanly, conveniently and equitably. Solution areas include:

  • electric vehicles (both on-road and off-road work vehicles) and the infrastructure to support charging them with clean energy

  • shared mobility solutions that make transit more attractive and affordable, including connected and automated vehicles

  • mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions to provide a wider array of transportation options for everyone

  • infrastructure solutions, including support for connected and automated vehicles or better traffic signal management, prioritization and coordination

  • technologies that support advanced mobility, including automated driver assistance systems (ADAS), telematics, connected vehicle cybersecurity, data management, etc.

Picture of a plugged in electric car
The electric car is one of the safe, clean and advanced mobility solutions ProspectSV is focused on. Photo © CC0 Licence

Could you give as an example of a successful/well known startup that was supported by ProspectSV?

One example of a successful startup is Visual Threat. The company, founded by experts in computer security, has developed a suite of products and services to test connected vehicle security, detect and block intrusions, create firewalls, and push over-the-air updates. Services include “white hat” hacking of vehicle systems to identify vulnerabilities.

Some markers of its success are: 1) a strategic partnership with TUV Rheinland, whereby TUV will utilize the Visual Threat FUSE framework to offer vehicle cyber security testing services globally for connected vehicles and 2) closing its $5 million Series A equity funding round with Baidu and joining the Baidu Apollo autonomous driving platform. See this recent post on Medium.

For more information about the MBA Energy Management and its international residencies, please click here.

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