It is the dawn of a new week here throughout our properties.
SXSW 2019 was in full force as @AOC and others leading current personalities were there --and she made news yet again as the right continues to go after her with a vengeance. This is as another member of the Freshman Class, Ilhan Omar, questioned US Policy towards Israel and was accused by President Trump and others on the right to be An Anti-Semite as the House passed a resolution condemning all forms of bigotry--opposed by 22 Republicans including members of the House Leadership. HR1--a commitment by House Democrats for transforming the political process--passed the House but Mitch McConnell promised it will not see the light of day. One of our favorite political cartoonists, Kaltoons, reflected upon it:
The Trump Administration,in the meantime, is slated to present its new budget that has already been deemed dead on arrival as it is calling for steep cuts in domestic discretionary spending. The fight for the wall in the meantime is continuing--as the President has threatened a veto on the resolution to overturn the Emergency Declaration. This is as the Democratic field continue to expand with the biggest name supposedly slated to announce-Joe Biden:
The team at the Bulwark, A Conservative Blog, had what we view as a very cute image of Joe Biden as they released observations on it available here with the following questions that its' Editor, JV Last noted below:
- Is Obama going to endorse him?
- Will he run as an explicit rejection of Sanders and socialism?
- Does "Crazy Uncle Joe" status still give him a pass?
- Does this make Beto more, or less, likely to run?
- Will he say out loud that he's only running for one term?
- Will the dynamics of having an almost-certain one-term president make other Dems in the field less likely to go negative in the hopes of getting the veep/heir-apparent
Beyond the shores of the United States, there is the on-going challenges of Europe as the European Central Bank restarted its' stimulus program to avert a slowdown in the Eurozone. Brexit continues to be quite problematic as it is clear as we went to press that the chances of a hard Brexit by the United Kingdom cannot be ruled out. Our team will continue to assess it as The UK Prime Minister continue her last ditch efforts--saying as much that if the deal she negotiated fails that the United Kingdom may never leave the European Union. The World was also witness to Norway's Sovereign Wealth Fund divesting itself of Oil and Gas Companies.
Meanwhile, Asia continued to be quite challenging. We begin with China as the Two Sessions were going on to put formal stamps on decisions being made--with dark clouds over the horizon. There were reports of tax cuts and other incentives to spur growth. North Korea was reportedly gearing up for a satellite launch in spite of the two summits President Trump and the North Korean leader had. Afghanistan continued to be challenging with reports of bombings and on-going battles in spite of peace negotiations with the Taliban. Assad in Syria seems to have survived as the last pockets of Daesh (referred to as ISIS in US media) are being cleared out and as fighters are surrendering:
We released a Tweet tagging the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, asking them to insure that the children are given an opportunity to begin lives anew. The profound challenges in Iran also continues with reports of a horrific inflation rate, reports of continued strikes and protests as a new Judiciary Chief was named by Iran's Supreme Guide/Leader of Revolution (referred to as the Supreme Leader in Western Media). One of the leading Civil Opposition outlets released this depiction of the reality of Iran right now:
This is as in the Americas, there is the continued migration towards the US border along with the profound challenge of Venezuela as protests continued--and as Venezuela was plunged into darkness this past week.
As our team continues to assess the four corners of the World, we decided to close out this edition of Notations on a hopeful note on a great future that we would be researching and talking about over the ensuing weeks and months courtesy of Peter Diamandis:
Each week alone, an estimated 1.3 million people move into cities, driving urbanization on an unstoppable scale.
By 2040, about two-thirds of the world’s population will be concentrated in urban centers. Over the decades ahead, 90 percent of this urban population growth is predicted to flourish across Asia and Africa.
Already, 1,000 smart city pilots are under construction or in their final urban planning stages across the globe, driving forward countless visions of the future.
As data becomes the gold of the 21st century, centralized databases and hyper-connected infrastructures will enable everything from sentient cities that respond to data inputs in real time, to smart public services that revolutionize modern governance.
Connecting countless industries — real estate, energy, sensors and networks, transportation, among others — tomorrow’s cities pose no end of creative possibilities and stand to completely transform the human experience.
In this blog, we’ll be taking a high-level tour of today’s cutting-edge urban enterprises involved in these three areas:
- Hyperconnected urban ecosystems that respond to your data
- Smart infrastructure and construction
- Self-charging green cities
Let’s dive in!
Smart Cities that Interact with Your Data
Any discussion of smart cities must also involve today’s most indispensable asset: data.
As 5G connection speeds, IoT-linked devices and sophisticated city AIs give birth to trillion-sensor economies, low latencies will soon allow vehicles to talk to each other and infrastructure systems to self-correct.
Even public transit may soon validate your identity with a mere glance in any direction, using facial recognition to charge you for individualized travel packages and distances.
As explained by Deloitte Public Sector Leader Clare Ma, “real-time information serves as the ‘eye’ for urban administration.”
In most cities today, data is fragmented across corporations, SMEs, public institutions, nonprofits, and personal databases, with little standardization.
Yet to identify and respond to urban trends, we need a way of aggregating multiple layers of data, spanning traffic flows, human movement, individual transactions, shifts in energy usage, security activity, and almost any major component of contemporary economies.
Only through real-time analysis of information flows can we leverage exponential technologies to automate public services, streamlined transit, smarter security, optimized urban planning and responsive infrastructure.
And already, cutting-edge cities across the globe are building centralized data platforms to combine different standards and extract actionable insights, from smart parking to waste management.
Take China’s Nanjing, for instance.
With sensors installed in 10,000 taxis, 7,000 buses and over 1 million private vehicles, the city aggregates daily data across both physical and virtual networks. After transmitting it to the Nanjing Information Center, experts can then analyze traffic data, send smartphone updates to commuters and ultimately create new traffic routes.
Replacing the need for capital-intensive road and public transit reconstruction, real-time data from physical transit networks allow governments to maximize value of preexisting assets, saving time and increasing productivity across millions of citizens.
But beyond traffic routing, proliferating sensors and urban IoT are giving rise to real-time monitoring of any infrastructural system.
Italy’s major rail operator Trenitalia has now installed sensors on all its trains, deriving real-time status updates on each train’s mechanical condition. Now capable of calculating maintenance predictions in advance of system failure, transit disruptions are becoming a thing of the past.
Los Angeles has embedded sensors in 4,500 miles worth of new LEDs (replacing previous streetlights). The minute one street bulb malfunctions or runs low, it can be fixed near-immediately, forming part of a proactive city model that detects glitches before they occur.
And Hangzhou, home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, has now launched a “City Brain” project, aiming to build out one of the most data-responsive cities on the planet.
With cameras and other sensors installed across the entire city, a centralized AI hub processes data on everything from road conditions to weather data to vehicular collisions and citizen health emergencies.
Overseeing a population of nearly 8 million residents, Hangzhou’s City Brain then manages traffic signals at 128 intersections (coordinating over 1,000 road signals simultaneously), tracks ambulances en-route and clears their paths to hospitals without risk of collision, directs traffic police to accidents at record rates, and even assists city officials in expedited decision-making. No more wasting time at a red light when there is obviously no cross traffic or pedestrians.
Already, the City Brain has cut ambulance and commuter traveling times by half. And as reported by China’s first AI-partnered traffic policeman Zheng Yijiong, “the City Brain can detect accidents within a second” allowing police to “arrive at [any] site [within] 5 minutes” across an urban area of over 3,000 square miles.
But beyond oversight of roads, traffic flows, collisions and the like, converging sensors and AI are now being used to monitor crowds and analyze human movement.
Companies like SenseTime now offer software to police bureaus that can not only identify live faces, individual gaits and car license plates, but even monitor crowd movement and detect unsafe pedestrian concentrations.
Some researchers have even posited the use of machine learning to predict population-level disease spread through crowd surveillance data, building actionable analyses from social media data, mass geolocation and urban sensors.
Yet aside from self-monitoring cities and urban AI ‘brains,’ what if infrastructure could heal itself on-demand. Forget sensors, connectivity and AI — enter materials science.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a $542.6 billion backlog needed for U.S. infrastructure repairs alone.
And as I’ve often said, the world’s most expensive problems are the world’s most profitable opportunities.
Enter self-healing construction materials.
First up, concrete.
In an effort to multiply the longevity of bridges, roads, and any number of infrastructural fortifications, engineers at Delft University have developed a prototype of bio-concrete that can repair its own cracks.
Mixed in with calcium lactate, the key ingredients of this novel ‘bio-concrete’ are minute capsules of limestone-producing bacteria distributed throughout any concrete structure. Only when the concrete cracks, letting in air and moisture, does the bacteria awaken.
Like clockwork, the bacteria begins feeding on surrounding calcium lactate as it produces a natural limestone sealant that can fill cracks in a mere three weeks — long before small crevices can even threaten structural integrity.
As head researcher Henk Jonkers explains, “What makes this limestone-producing bacteria so special is that they are able to survive in concrete for more than 200 years and come into play when the concrete is damaged. […] If cracks appear as a result of pressure on the concrete, the concrete will heal these cracks itself.”
Yet other researchers have sought to crack the code (no pun intended) of living concrete, testing everything from hydrogels that expand 10X or even 100X their original size when in contact with moisture, to fungal spores that grow and precipitate calcium carbonate the minute micro-cracks appear.
But bio-concrete is only the beginning of self-healing technologies.
As futurist architecture firms start printing plastic and carbon-fiber houses, engineers are tackling self-healing plastic that could change the game with economies of scale.
Plastic not only holds promise in real estate on Earth; it will also serve as a handy material in space. NASA engineers have pioneered a self-healing plastic that may prove vital in space missions, preventing habitat and ship ruptures in record speed.
The implications of self-healing materials are staggering, offering us resilient structures both on earth and in space.
One additional breakthrough worth noting involves the magic of graphene.
Perhaps among the greatest physics discoveries of the century, graphene is composed of a 2D honeycomb lattice over 200X stronger than steel, yet remains an ultra-thin one atom thick.
While yet to come down in cost, graphene unlocks an unprecedented host of possibilities, from weather-resistant and ultra-strong coatings for existing infrastructure, to multiplied infrastructural lifespans. Some have even posited graphene’s use in the construction of 30 km tall buildings.
And it doesn’t end there.
As biomaterials and novel polymers will soon allow future infrastructure to heal on its own, nano- and micro-materials are ushering in a new era of smart, super-strong and self-charging buildings.
Revolutionizing structural flexibility, carbon nanotubes are already dramatically increasing the strength-to-weight ratio of skyscrapers.
But imagine if we could engineer buildings that could charge themselves… or better yet, produce energy for entire cities, seamlessly feeding energy to the grid.
As exponential technologies across energy and water burst onto the scene, self-charging cities are becoming today’s testing ground for a slew of green infrastructure pilots, promising a future of self-sufficient societies.
In line with new materials, one hot pursuit surrounds the creation of commercializable solar power-generating windows.
In the past several years, several research teams have pioneered silicon nanoparticles to capture everyday light flowing through our windows. Little solar cells at the edges of windows then harvest this energy for ready use.
Scientists at Michigan State, for instance, have developed novel “solar concentrators.” Capable of being layered over any window, these solar concentrators leverage non-visible wavelengths of light — near infrared and ultraviolet — pushing them to those solar cells embedded at the edge of each window panel.
Rendered entirely invisible, such solar cells could generate energy on almost any sun-facing screen, from electronic gadgets to glass patio doors to reflective skyscrapers.
And beyond self-charging windows, countless future city pilots have staked ambitious goals for solar panel farms and renewable energy targets.
Take Dubai’s “Strategic Plan 2021,” for instance.
Touting a multi-decade Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, launched by UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2015, Dubai aims to gradually derive 75 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2050.
With plans to launch the largest single-site solar project on the planet by 2030, boasting a projected capacity of 5,000 megawatts, Dubai further aims to derive 25 percent of its energy needs from solar power in the next decade.
And in the city’s “Strategic Plan 2021,” Dubai aims to soon:
- 3D-print 25 percent of its buildings;
- Make 25 percent of transit automated and driverless;
- Install hundreds of artificial “trees,” all leveraging solar power and providing the city with free WiFi, info-mapping screens, and charging ports;
- Integrate passenger drones capable of carrying individuals to public transit systems;
- And drive forward countless designs of everything from underwater bio-desalination plants to smart meters and grids.
A global leader in green technologies and renewable energy, Dubai stands as a gleaming example that any environmental context can give rise to thriving and self-sufficient eco-powerhouses.
This is one of the reasons on March 26 & 27th, 2019 I’m holding a 2-day Abundance360 program with the leadership and CEOs of Dubai and the region. Find info here if you’re interested.
But Dubai is not alone, and others are quickly following suit.
Leading the pack of China’s 500 smart city pilots, Xiong’an New Area (near Beijing) aims to become a thriving economic zone powered by 100 percent clean electricity.
And just as of this December, 100 U.S. cities are committed and on their way to the same goal.
Cities as Living Organisms
As new materials forge ahead to create pliable and self-healing structures, green infrastructure technologies are exploding into a competitive marketplace.
Aided by plummeting costs, future cities will soon surround us with self-charging buildings, green city ecosystems, and urban residences that generate far more than they consume.
And as 5G communications networks, proliferating sensors and centralized AI hubs monitor and analyze every aspect of our urban environments, cities are fast becoming intelligent organisms, capable of seeing and responding to our data in real time.....
Onward to the new week as we leave you with the wisdom of Colbert: