Smart Cities Miami Conference explores what’s on the horizon for digitally connected cities


Leaders from academia, government and industry shared ideas on how cities can use new technologies, from cloud computing and connected devices to smart materials and sustainable construction, to maximize opportunities for data-driven growth.

Tissues that can sense the temperature surrounding a person and contract or expand in response. Massive geometric shapes used to combat beach erosion in the Maldives. And weather balloons that can fly up independently, then merge over an ocean.

These are just a few of the projects Skylar Tibbits and his self-assembly lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on that challenge our current ideas of what “smart” objects really are.

“We’re interested in trying to embed intelligence in simple materials and their relationship to life,” said Tibbits, associate professor of design research in MIT’s Department of Architecture. “We want to take wood, metals, plastics, sand and different rubbers and evolve them into smart systems. The smarter things are, the more devices they have today. We want to create smart things, where smart means less and less simple, but more agency. »

Tibbits was the keynote speaker at the Smart Cities Miami 2022 conference, hosted by the School of Architecture and Institute for Data Science and Computing at the University of Miami last week. The conference focused on how cities are becoming increasingly digitally connected, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a forum for our wider community, not only for academics, but also for entrepreneurs and innovators from the public and private sectors who are building one of the fastest growing cities in North America. said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture, in reference to growing investment in tech startups and real estate development in Miami and South Florida.

During his talk, Tibbits gave examples of projects his lab is exploring, such as seeing how wood could be manipulated based on its physical properties. He also explained how his lab works to guide materials toward self-assembly, reducing reliance on humans or robots to build products, which often adds more layers for error.

“Today we build robots and machines; tomorrow we are building smarter materials and environments,” he added.

In another panel, industry leaders and University faculty members discussed the challenges and opportunities for cities with the growth of new technologies. Laércio Albuquerque, vice president of Cisco Latin America, said that while internet access was the primary concern in the past, now the mindset must shift to how technology is used so that advances, such as telehealth, are accessible to all.

“Now is the time to use technology to include society and care for people,” he said. “We’re heading towards 100 billion connected devices, so we need to use that momentum to improve people’s lives.”

Microsoft chief technical officer Eumar Dias de Assis said the pandemic has forced businesses and cities to embrace cloud computing and connectivity, but with that, these entities need to make sure they secure their technology, as well as the systems that are now connected to it. He also mentioned the importance of analyzing the data that cities collect to help inform decisions.

“We now have sensors in cities, but cities need to be able to manage and turn this data into useful information,” Dias de Assis said, adding that the tech industry must also find ethical ways to collect and transform the data so that it represents all sectors. Population.

Translating data into decisions is something Margaret Brisbane, CIO of Miami-Dade County, is familiar with. During her talk on the evolution of the county’s technology infrastructure, she noted that data drives each of her recommendations.

In a panel on the impact of extended reality (XR) on cities, Denise Mendez, a mixed reality software engineer at Microsoft, mentioned a new platform the company is creating, called Mesh, that could take meetings from 2D to 3D videoconferencing. virtual reality experiences, which people could witness using their avatar or a digital hologram.

“We want to be the model child for collaboration, and this technology is ideal for that,” said Mendez, who leads the environmental understanding and data science team.

Another discussion focused on how the building industry is moving towards smarter ways of operating, such as using 3D printing, so plans can be made more efficiently. Luisel Zayas, an architect and digital fabrication expert who founded his own design company, is exploring 3D printing to make corals that could protect his native Puerto Rico from hurricanes. Matthew Trimble, director of product development at Chattanooga-based Branch Technology, also spoke about reducing construction waste by leveraging data to guide building design.

“We try to create data packages on how to create facades taking into account existing building codes and materials, so that we can understand wind loads, climatic conditions and the like, and not have to customize each project as much,” he said. mentioned.

Emnet Yebeltal, a senior computer engineering student, said he enjoyed learning about all the new ideas at the conference, especially those offered by Tibbits.

“It was cool to see the future of programming hardware and how it’s moving towards building things that adapt to the environment,” he said.

Sophomore Rajvi Shah, who studies geography and sustainability, was particularly struck by economics professor David Kelly’s mention during a panel that many government regulations prohibit cities from experimenting with new technologies during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

“Maybe if we have a more experimental approach to cities, maybe we can go further,” she said.

The second day of the conference was programmed in collaboration with Conconcreto, a Colombian construction and engineering company with a base recently established in Miami. Three panels focused on new technologies and their impact on the construction industry.


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