‘Smart bus’ startup Zeelo, aimed at employers and schools, secures $14M to scale in the US

Kaleb Hilton

August 21, 2023

Zeelo — a ‘smart buses’ platform providing bus operators, employers and schools with private bus and shuttle transport programs — has secured $14 million in a fresh Series A ‘extension’ round of funding. The new investment was led by FlatzHoffmann (a European growth equity investor) and was joined by IREON Ventures (the CVC arm of Motor Oil Hellas), and an unnamed Boston-based family office.

Zeelo now plans to accelerate sales and U.S. operations on the East and West coasts, as well as work on its tech platform.

A company spokesperson clarified that this round is an equity-based extension rather than a Series B or growth equity round because – based on its growth in the U.S. – the company plans to attract U.S. lead investors for its next stage of funding.

Until this point, Zeelo has ‘been through the wringer’ somewhat, after having to abruptly reverse out of an acquisition by mass transit group Swvl, which itself had fallen foul of the massive devaluations in SPACs. The lauded $100 million buyout was only announced three months prior to that.

Last year, Swvl, an Egyptian-born startup that provides shared transportation services for intercity and intracity trips, laid off 50% of its remaining headcount. The 99% stock tumble it took after a SPAC merger might have had something to do with it.

That said, while Swvl agreed to terminate the acquisition of Zeelo, it had already committed to a $5 million convertible promissory note for Zeelo, which the latter managed to retain.

Prior to all that, Zeelo had raised $19.6 million from investors such as ETF Partners, InMotion Ventures and angels. At pre-seed the company raised $1.6 million and then a seed of $6 million. Its Series A part 1 was $12 million, then the above Series A extension of $14 million. That makes its total Series A $26 million, with the total funds raised standing at $33.6 million.

Outside of the U.K., Zeelo now has a second headquarters in Boston, and co-founders Sam Ryan and Barney Williams have fully relocated to the U.S. It now has contracts with Fidelity and some unnamed large enterprise clients.

After a tumultuous 2022, Ryan, who is also Zeelo’s CEO, told me, the company was “thrilled” when it managed to get the Series A extension, especially in the current market: “But the underlying growth of business even through last year has been really strong.”

I asked him what has been fueling the business. In short, it’s down to both the lack of public transport options in the U.S. and the cost of living crisis: “Our business… works very well in places where there’s limited public transit, where people are car dependent. A lot of our customers are in manufacturing, distribution and warehouses where a lot of workers can’t afford cars. It’s a big issue outside of London, but it’s pretty much an issue everywhere outside of Manhattan.”

He said there was a “big increase in demand when fuel prices increased, because employees were becoming noisier about the cost of their car.”

He added that although there is spotty competition there is a large and ready market in the U.S. for this model: “On a deal by deal basis we rarely bump into anybody. There is some competition but given the size of the market, the whole thing is wide open.”

Christopher Hoffmann, Partner at FlatzHoffmann, added in a statement: “Zeelo is a unique and proven mobility player headquartered in Europe with a strong expansion push to the US. It combines a strong transit-tech platform with a clear sustainability mission.”

Read the article here: ‘Smart bus’ startup Zeelo, aimed at employers and schools, secures $14M to scale in the US

BT adds Gorilla video AI to smart ports tech roster

Kaleb Hilton

July 21, 2023

BT entered into a strategic relationship with artificial intelligence-powered video analytics specialist Gorilla Technology, in order to deliver a container identification and damage detection solution as part of the Group’s growing “smart ports” interest.

Optimising operations and supply chain integrity

The solution is being offered via a video analytics suite, and is designed to reduce operational inefficiencies and, as a result, cut costs for those in the global container shipping industry.

AI and machine learning algorithms analyse video footage, which is captured at various stages throughout the container management process to rapidly identify, track, and inspect containers for signs of damage or tampering. The solution itself was engineered by Gorilla, but leverages BT’s network infrastructure.

Gorilla flagged that the solution is live at the Port of Tyne, near Newcastle, which handles cargo from five continents, and serves a network of sea routes, major roads, and rail. The duo claimed that they are “actively engaging” with logistics providers and shipping companies to integrate the container identification and damage detection solution into their operations.

The deal appears to be of significance to Gorilla, which saw its share price rise 13% after the deal was announced yesterday, albeit on a diminished base after an 80% drop over the past twelve months.

The integration of the solution is being facilitated through BT’s existing relationship with the Port of Tyne. In 2022, the pair signed a contract which would see BT install a 5G private network and “other cutting-edge surveillance and smart technology” at the port.

BT going big on Industry 4.0 R&D

The Gorilla tie-up is yet another indication of BT’s focus on leveraging its connectivity to support smart ports, and more widely, Industry 4.0 solutions. BT unveiled its flagship smart port project at Belfast Harbour in 2020 and flagged developments and partnerships at the site in 2022. It was declared a “platform for innovation”, and BT launched a managed edge cloud offering at the maritime hub (BTwatch, #317, #323, and #336).

Read the article here: BT adds Gorilla video AI to smart ports tech roster

How Ports are Using Technology to Boost Efficiency

Kaleb Hilton

June 26, 2023

Implementing technology can increase the capacity and efficiency of a port – for example, through optimising loading or unloading cargo operations and reducing the number of workers needed to manage such processes. Jenny Eagle investigates.

The ports industry is facing a range of emerging challenges including growing freight traffic, increasing pressure to address environmental concerns, operational challenges and the ongoing pandemicinduced disruption. To overcome these challenges, port operators are increasingly turning to technology.

According to a report by KPMG, Anchored in the New Reality, six technologies are emerging as key enablers of more efficient operations: the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, drones, high-bay storage (HBS) systems, data and analytics applications, and digital exchange platforms.

IoT is considered the cornerstone of the broader technology transformation due to the clear need to digitalise the delivery process for monitoring cargo and deliveries using smart sensors.


The port of Hamburg, one of the busiest ports in Europe (along with Rotterdam and Antwerp), initiated a strategic programme in 2011 to evolve into a ‘smart port’ to optimise capacity and maximise efficiency. It did this through the adoption of IoT technology in the port ecosystem by installing sensors to monitor the use of physical assets (e.g. trucks, cranes, carriers, roads and warehouses), using GPS and georeferencing to monitor movement of traffic.

The port handles a mix of containers and bulk cargo (dry and liquid), both of which see a continuously steady increase in volume. Containers passing through it are expected to rise to 25 million in 2025, and total cargo handled to 296 million tons in the same year.

Sensors monitoring the use of cranes, carriers, roads and infrastructure (parking lots and warehouse storage rooms) identify recurring underused capacity and allow for making adaptations to optimise utilisation by relocating assets or rerouting goods flows. Smart storage systems with temperature, humidity, ventilation and barometric pressure sensing ability in warehouses or containers can detect the needs of the cargo they contain and adjust these factors to increase product quality and decrease cargo damage. Cameras, opening sensors, and heat detection sensors along with alarm systems prevent theft, and provide solid input for planning security improvements.

The life cycles of port assets and infrastructure are extended, and the likelihood of defects that influence normal port activity is drastically reduced due to smart maintenance systems. Smart maintenance systems track the usage and wear and tear of fixed assets, and can pre-emptively detect damages and malfunctions, saving costs on reparation, replacements and mitigation in case of a breakdown. They also extend the life cycles of port assets and infrastructure and reduce the likelihood of defects that would disturb the normal flow of activity in the port.

Smart energy management is also a priority in moving towards a greener port, with Hamburg port accounting for over 40% of Hamburg city’s total energy consumption. As part of this plan, certain infrastructure is equipped with smart meters that can monitor and control energy use by adjusting factors like temperature.

In other news, the port has also introduced the app Port Live (AR) for visitors to access real-time data on ships and terminals. Information on all terminals in the Port of Hamburg and the Metropolitan Region can be found there as well as liner services between Hamburg and ports worldwide. Around 1,000 other ports are connected with the Port of Hamburg. In addition to container cargo, general cargo as well as roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) or heavy lift connections are also offered on the app.


Blockchain technology has the potential to digitalise supply chains, eliminate record-keeping efforts, promote paperless transactions, and streamline supply chains by enabling real-time communication. In 2017, the port of Antwerp announced a pilot project for more efficient and secure container handling leveraging blockchain technology in collaboration with NxtPort, an open data platform in which local application developers can develop their logistic solutions.

NxtPort also provides access to logistics applications and application programming interfaces (APIs) for specific communities within the connected ports. An API is a toolset that programmers can use to create new software for the platform. By sharing data transparently and setting up open global communities, international supply chains can be significantly optimised.

NxtPort recently announced it is partnering with Vopak Ventures in a joint venture led by NxtPort’s Geert De Wilde and Mark Noordhowk Hegt.

“The partnership with Vopak Ventures offers NxtPort an unprecedented opportunity to expand its activities in different locations. In doing so, we are actively contributing to the digital interconnection of maritime clusters across the whole world in a spirit of openness and cooperation,” says De Wilde.

“We are convinced that digitalisation is a critical success factor for the ports of the future. We also know that digital platforms can only be truly successful if they are independent in their role. This means platforms should be open to all logistical players, including those who are each other’s competitor,” adds Leo Brand, chief information officer, Vopak.

Drones are quickly becoming a regular tool in the ports and logistics industry. Ports are using drones in their routine monitoring to improve safety, reduce costs and enhance process efficiency. Around the world, from the Netherlands to Vietnam, ports are using airobotics drones for controlling aerial cargo transport, monitoring ships, cleaning the local environment and tracking the construction of ports.

Earlier this year, the Port of Antwerp- Bruges and its partners DroneMatrix, SkeyDrone and Proximus were given the green light to launch their drone-in-a-box network D-Hive. This means operational authorisation was given for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) automated drone flights to take place on a daily basis in the Antwerp port area, a first in the world.

Following the announcement, representatives from European and national regulatory authorities related to drone aviation (including the likes of Eurocontrol, FPS Mobility and Transport, and Skeyes) witnessed the first authorised flight of a BVLOS drone near the Kieldrecht lock, operated from a command and control centre located in the centre of the port.

The operational authorisation is built around a BVLOS framework built by SkeyDrone and approved by the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency as a legitimate and safe framework for BVLOS flights.


HBS systems are automated container handling systems that stack containers up to 11 floors high, delivering more than three times the capacity of a conventional yard with enhanced performance including significant gains in handling speed, energy efficiency, safety and reduced operating costs.

DP World in Dubai recently started its pilot phase of BoxBay – an HBS system, in collaboration with industrial engineering specialists SMS Group in Germany – to reduce by at least 70% the land area needed to support terminal operations, and increase yearly yard throughput per hectare by more than 300% in comparison with a rubber-tyred gantry crane (RTG) container yard.

Originally created to handle heavy metal coils, the storage system was refined for port logistics after SMS Group proved the technology in the metals industry. DP World and SMS Group built a pilot facility at Jebel Ali’s Terminal 4 in January 2021. By the end of June 2022, 190,000 container movements had been carried out under realistic operating conditions to verify the system’s market maturity.

DP World announced the first commercial use of BoxBay at South Korea’s Pusan container terminal and more recently signed a contract with Pusan Newport Corporation (PNC). PNC already operates one of the highest-performing container terminals in Asia, and the addition of BoxBay’s technology will allow PNC to boost its efficiency even further.

“This is where the future of trade begins. We have taken a technology that has proven its effectiveness in the metals industry in Germany and further transformed it to create BoxBay, an innovative container storage system to enhance global trade,” says Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO, DP World. “Our pilot scheme in Jebel Ali (Dubai) has already shown the advantages of a fully automated, sustainably powered high-bay storage system. I’m proud that DP World has led this innovation that will now be adopted in Pusan. The technology reflects our continuous efforts to embrace technologies that enhance the flow of trade and further enhances Dubai’s position as a global leader in the ports and logistics industry.”

BoxBay will be integrated with the existing automated rail-mounted gantry/ truck operations as a retrofit on an existing empty storage area. The system provides direct access to each container at any time, eliminating 350,000 unproductive moves per year. This will improve overall truck servicing time by 20%, enhancing PNC’s service delivery to its customers.

Tiemen Meester, COO Ports & Terminals, DP World, says: “With the introduction of the BoxBay high-bay storage system, we will be able to better serve our customers while keeping our people safe and cutting carbon emissions from the environment.”


Data and analytics applications are allowing supply chains to adopt a proactive rather than a reactive response to supply chain risks. Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) has established a dataenabled traffic prediction tool to forecast vessel arrival times and estimate potential traffic congestion using predictive analytics.

In 2020, the MPA and tech firm IBM began rolling out an analytics and data scheme aimed at improving maritime and port operations and completed the pilot trial of three modules under the MPA-IBM Safer (Sense-making Analytics For maritime Event Recognition) project, to support Singapore’s growth in vessel traffic.

Altogether, there are seven modules under Project Safer, which offers new capabilities for automating and increasing the accuracy of critical tasks that previously relied on human observation, reporting, very high frequency (VHF) communication, and data entry. The seven modules include: automated movement detection, infringement analytics, pilot boarding detection, bunkering analytics, prohibited area analytics, vessel traffic arrival prediction, and utilisation detection and prediction.

“We will continue to develop our digital strategies through the use of data analytics and machine learning technologies to optimise our port operations and enforcement to meet existing as well as future demands in the areas of next-generation port enforcement and monitoring of vessel movements,” says Andrew Tan, CEO, MPA.

Robert Morris, VP, Global Labs, IBM Research, adds: “AI is transforming every industry and the marine domain is no exception. The Safer solution is an example of how IBM’s AI research for business is supplementing and increasing human capacity by making our waterways and sea lanes safer and more efficient.”

Tuas Port, in Singapore, which opened in September 2022 and is expected to be completed in 2040, will be the world’s largest fully automated terminal, with a handling capacity of 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), almost double the handling volume of 37.3 million TEUs handled in 2022.

To further maritime digitalisation and the development of the future concept of operations, MPA and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in August 2022 to provide full maritime 5G coverage in its anchorages, fairways, terminals and boarding grounds by mid-2025.

A total of 12 maritime 5G base stations will be set up to complement the onshore 5G communication infrastructure. Three of the base stations will be ready this year to support testing and development of new digital applications, such as remotely assisted pilotage advisory, digital bunkering, delivery drones, and telemedicine. The remaining nine base stations will be set up by 2025.

Elsewhere, the port of Hamburg in Germany uses analytics to aggregate various data points (i.e. vessel positions, height and width of bridges, etc.) to optimise internal port operations.

Additionally, smart ports are leveraging other technologies such as AI to enhance predictive insights, and cloud computing, data management and data sharing among various stakeholders. Robotic process automation (RPA) is being leveraged to automate processes across several support functions such as finance, human resources and supply chain management.

Digital exchange platforms are being rapidly deployed by leading ports over the past decade. These platforms digitalise the entire logistics supply chain by creating a marketplace for various sub-segments of the market. In 2020, DP World acquired SeaRates.com, a digital platform that enables customers to transport cargo worldwide at the click of a mouse.

DP World has also created the Digital Freight Alliance, an online association that brings freight forwarders globally onto one platform, giving them access to new tools, routes and services, and enabling them to do more business anytime.

Read the article here: How Ports are Using Technology to Boost Efficiency

Smart city market to reach $300 billion by 2032

Kaleb Hilton

May 3, 2023

The global ‘smart city’ technology market is expected to grow from US$121 billion in annual revenue in 2023 to US$301 billion by 2032, according to a new report from Guidehouse Insights. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7 percent.

Cumulative revenue between 2023 and 2032 is expected to reach just under US$2 trillion.

The research and consulting firm said this growth is driven by the fact that cities are showing a strong commitment to infrastructure investment, digital technologies and increased sustainability, often supported by central government funding.

According to the research: “The smart city is no longer just a visionary idea”.

Eric Woods, research director with Guidehouse Insights, told Cities Today that while the concept of smart cities started out as a techno-centric, vendor-defined idea, it has evolved with cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and others demonstrating a more city-led approach.

“The sheer volume of ‘smart city’ projects in cities, the growing capacity of cities to work with advanced data analysis, digital twins etc., plus the general digitalisation of infrastructure such as smart grids and smart water networks means cities are no longer just exploring but actually implementing advanced technology projects,” he said.

“Therefore, they’re dealing on a day-to-day basis with the practicalities that presents, as well as the big questions around privacy, security and governance of these new technologies. Any reasonably large city or ambitious small city has to be engaged with these issues now – hence my feeling that all cities are in this sense smart cities now, presuming one agrees that the smart city is a journey without an endpoint.”

However, the report also finds that many cities still have a “long way to go” to develop sufficient capacity to manage the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies.

City trends

The pandemic and the climate crisis accelerated technology adoption in cities, the report says.

“These global challenges are amplifying long-standing local issues around the quality of public services, environmental standards and social inequalities,” said Woods. “At the same time technology is transforming how cities work and how they are experienced.”

Trends in cities include innovations in urban design which embed digitalisation and decarbonisation as core principles. Digital transformation is accelerating as local governments tackle social, environmental and economic issues, and cities are showing greater maturity in their use of data analytics and in addressing data privacy and cybersecurity concerns, the report finds.

Cities are also investing in resilient and sustainable infrastructure, using IoT and advanced data capabilities to design, monitor, control and maintain urban infrastructure.

In addition, the report highlights that a focus on equitable outcomes for all communities is becoming a key pillar of many city programmes.

All sectors of the smart city market present significant opportunity, according to Guidehouse.

The digital transformation of city operations and services means that government is the largest sector of the market. Smart mobility is also expanding as advanced solutions for traffic management are deployed alongside low-carbon transport infrastructure and services.

The fastest growing sector is expected to be smart water systems as the impact of climate change forces governments and utilities to address underlying infrastructure issues.


New funding models are expected to help accelerate investment further.

“New partnerships are being established across the public, technology and finance sectors to support smart city investments and overcome the funding gap that has long been a significant drag on the market,” according to the report.

Funding trends highlighted include significant direct city funding, city-backed low-carbon finance schemes, revenue-sharing models, public-private partnerships, and community-backed developments.

Guidehouse notes a growing interest from private equity investors in smart city opportunities. Cities are also taking a ‘platform’ approach to addressing systemic, multisector challenges, as well as exploring ways to generate more value from the assets and infrastructure that they own.

Read the article here: Smart city market to reach $300 billion by 2032

Cybersecurity best practices for smart cities issued by CISA

Kaleb Hilton

April 22, 2023

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Wednesday published a cybersecurity best practices guide for smart cities, warning that municipalities should carefully evaluate and address cybersecurity risks associated with connected public services and infrastructure.

Communities should integrate cybersecurity strategy and risk management in their smart city technology plans and proactively manage supply chain risk to ensure all hardware and software are secure, the guide states.

To ensure that vital public services and infrastructure continue functioning if there’s a cybersecurity event, operational resilience is essential, according to the report. “The organizations responsible for implementing smart city technology should develop, assess, and maintain contingencies for manual operations of all critical infrastructure functions and train staff accordingly,” it says.

Smart cities are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats because they often collect, transmit and store large amounts of “sensitive information from governments, businesses, and private citizens,” the report says. The AI-powered software at the heart of many smart city solutions is also susceptible to attack, the report says.

“The intrinsic value of the large data sets and potential vulnerabilities in digital systems means there is a risk of exploitation for espionage and for financial or political gain by malicious threat actors, including nation-states, cybercriminals, hacktivists, insider threats, and terrorists,” the report says.

The report recommends several strategies to employ in smart city security planning and design:

  • Apply the principle of least privilege, which the National Institute of Standards and Technology defines as “the principle that a security architecture should be designed so that each entity is granted the minimum system resources and authorizations that the entity needs to perform its function,” according to the report.
  • Implement multifactor authentication on local and remote accounts.

Build zero-trust architecture that “requires authentication and authorization for each new connection.”

  • Manage changes to internal architecture, including communications between subnetworks.
  • Quickly apply patches for hardware and software and, as much as possible, enable automatic updates.

Other recommendations include securing vulnerable devices using virtual private networks and protecting smart city assets against theft and unapproved physical changes.

The report calls for localities to develop processes to back up smart city systems and data, train their workforce, and develop and practice incident response and recovery plans to improve operational resilience.

In addition, it provides resources to help smart city leaders proactively manage supply chain risk, including hardware and IoT devices, software, and managed and cloud service providers.

CISA developed the best practices guide in partnership with the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and cybersecurity agencies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Read the article here: Cybersecurity best practices for smart cities issued by CISA

US cities win share of $94 million in smart mobility funding

Kaleb Hilton

March 23, 2023

The US Department of Transportation has announced the first round of grants through the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program, totalling over US$94 million for 59 projects across the country.

The competitive grant programme – established under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – provides state, local and tribal governments with US$500 million over five years to use technology to create safer, more equitable and innovative transportation systems.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the grants will “foster innovations that improve people’s day-to-day lives, making transportation safer, more reliable, more efficient and more sustainable.”

Funding will initially be directed towards projects that boost road safety, improve transit reliability and use technology like drones and sensors for transportation projects.

City projects

The maximum award per project was US$2 million.

Philadelphia received this amount for a digital Right-of-Way (ROW) and Mobility Improvement Project which seeks to address two major city challenges: scarcity of ROW space and inadequate information about ROW users.

Funding will support digitising street, sidewalk and kerbside space within the project area and developing an online application to communicate ROW information to users.

It will build on ongoing schemes, including SmartCityPHL’s “Smart Loading Zones” Pilot project launched in autumn 2022, which focuses on safe and efficient kerb space solutions for delivery drivers.

Lessons from the demonstration are expected to promote a greater understanding of how data can be “operationally institutionalised” and used to improve kerb usage on a national scale.

“This funding will allow the city more capacity to improve ROW management through data and technology,” said Akshay Malik, Philadelphia’s Smart Cities Director.

“This project will help develop new data standards to map ROW in more detail and test new ways to digitally manage the ROW through a pilot in Center City, improving safety for drivers and pedestrians.”

Several other projects received the maximum funding allocation.

Detroit will use sensors to create smart intersections by using existing traffic cameras to deploy artificial intelligence software to “predict and prevent traffic accidents” in the city.

Los Angeles is integrating transit trip planning with event ticketing for major activities, including the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

New Jersey’s Department of Transportation will use the funding for sensors to address wrong-way driving, while New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to launch an app to allow visually impaired subway and bus customers to safely navigate their transit trips.

Harris County, Texas received funding for sensors for a new flood warning system and Cleveland, Ohio was awarded US$1.8 million for smart traffic signals to provide the right of way to emergency vehicles.


Three tribal nations in North Dakota and a project in Virginia’s Eastern Shore are using drone technology for medical care and equipment deliveries.

Massachusetts is also using drones and sensors to monitor and analyse railroad infrastructure threatened by ground water variability, while New York State will use US$1.5 million for drones to inspect infrastructure along a major highway.

USDOT said that the first year of the programme was oversubscribed with US$6 of applications for every US$1 available for grants.

The next round of funding is expected to be released in autumn 2023, with US$100 million allocated.

Buttigieg told The Verge this week that not every project funded under the SMART grant programme “is going to prove out”.

“But that’s okay,” he said. “That’s part of the process.”

Read the article here: US cities win share of $94 million in smart mobility funding

Adaptive cities: The next phase for smart cities

Kaleb Hilton

February 14, 2023

Adaptive cities allow municipalities to balance political, economic, social, technological, and environmental conditions, continuously analyzing and acting on them.

Cities are incredibly dynamic. And while smart cities are being used and considered globally to help improve operations, the delivery of services, and the quality of life, some believe more is needed. Specifically, smart city planners and designers must begin thinking along the lines of adaptive cities.

Let’s put the scope of the issues into perspective. Many cities are already facing problems dealing with traffic, waste management, water, sustainability issues, and more. And the situation will only get worse in the years to come. Currently, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with 68% projected to live in urban areas by 2050. In the United States, the number is already at 83% and is projected to reach 89% by 2050.

Smart cities have long been eyed as a way to deal with many of the challenges municipalities face on a day-to-day basis. Such cities collect vast amounts of data, which is collected and analyzed via edge devices. But according to the World Economic Forum, “the city of the future needs to go one critical step further. It needs to become an adaptive city able to respond dynamically to continuous change and disruption.”

It further noted that developments and events in recent years show just how disruptive things can be. On the new technologies front, the forum points to things like 3D printing, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, digital twins, and more. On the disruptive side, there has been the pandemic, extreme weather events, and geopolitical conflicts.

Enter adaptive cities

The forum noted that “the smart city concept worked well for steady-state conditions, but in a world of continuous disruption, a key requirement for the city is to be able to respond to change and do so with intrinsic agility across both digital and physical aspects of its operating model. Agility in the digital ecosystem is nothing if the city remains brittle in its physical infrastructure.”

That’s where adaptive cities come in. They must balance all the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental conditions, continuously analyzing and acting on them.

One area that highlights the nuanced difference between a smart city and an adaptive city is parking. There are many applications of smart parking that share empty spot availability gathered via distributed sensors with drivers seeking a place to park. Such apps aim to reduce congestion caused by drivers endlessly circling the block to find a parking spot.

In some cases, the municipality has taken the approach to a higher level by combining more than one technology. One example was a pilot program at the Stuttgart airport that combined an intelligent infrastructure, a digital parking garage operations platform, and autonomous vehicles into an automated valet parking service.

These programs and initiatives are innovative. But the World Economic Forum points to more dynamic systems that would deliver greater benefits that might be implemented in the future. One example is a dynamic curb management solution that enables city planners to smoothen the flow of traffic and deliveries at the curbside. Such a solution could turn two-hour parking spots into three-minute loading zones at times when deliveries are commonly made. In fact, several U.S. cities are working on versions of this where they offer dynamically-priced delivery zones, with rates and availability based on time of day and other factors. Such a service could be proactively managed on a minute-by-minute basis.

In general, a dynamic curb management solution is quite a different beast than a smart app that helps people park. The latter saves residents time, reduces traffic congestion, and most likely helps the city reduce the carbon emissions that would have come from cars circling blocks. The former does similar things but also helps delivery services get goods into the hands of merchants, maximizes the use of precious real estate (curbside parking), and brings additional revenue to the city.

Read the article here: Adaptive cities: The next phase for smart cities

Chattanooga building out ‘smart intersection network’

Kaleb Hilton

January 6, 2023

Chattanooga, Tennessee, will add dozens of “smart city intersections” through an ongoing partnership supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Chattanooga Department of Innovation Delivery and Performance, working with Seoul Robotics and the Center of Urban Informatics and Progress at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, are installing sensing technology in 86 downtown intersections, building on a testbed established in 2019. The Federal Highway Administration is funding the $4.5 million initiative through the ATTAIN program, said CUIP Founding Director Mina Sartipi, and installations will happen this year and next.

The intersections will be equipped with tools, namely lidar sensing technology, to gain real-time traffic insights and monitor infrastructure usage. That data can inform future traffic management, alleviate congestion, and map ideal locations for EV charging stations, among other potential benefits, partners say.


Chattanooga, the southeastern Tennessee city with about 182,000 people, has embraced smart city research and implementation. This week’s announcement builds on a 2019 testbed known as the MLK Smart Corridor. There, sensors track and predict the movement of pedestrians and vehicles, which partners say allows them to better understand traffic flow and road user interactions, and identify potentially unsafe incidents.

The expansion is expected to result in over 100 tech-equipped intersections across downtown. “Our work in Chattanooga will deliver more than insights into the city,” said William Muller, vice president of business development at Seoul Robotics, in the company’s announcement. The “scalable network of smart intersections” will allow partners to generate “a real world, data-informed testing environment for emissions management, pedestrian safety, electric vehicles and more,” Muller said.

Sartipi also explained that the partners have a digital twin that simulates intersections using those data inputs. The digital twin allows them to test and see how a change in traffic light timing, for example, could affect traffic flow.

Seoul Robotics said the expansion will be “the largest urban Internet of Things deployment of its kind in the United States.” While the earlier focus of the testbed largely centered on understanding safety issues surrounding vulnerable road users, Sartipi said this next phase of the testbed and its growing footprint will allow researchers to focus on “next-generation transportation,” including electrification, connected vehicles, and potentially automated vehicles.

Read the article here: Chattanooga building out ‘smart intersection network’

Israel targets 'smart' cities with new 5G mobile auction

Kaleb Hilton

December 8, 2022

Israel urged mobile firms to expand the deployment of fifth-generation sites to allow for ‘smart’ stadiums and hospitals on Wednesday, as the country launched its second 5G tender.

Communications Ministry director general Liran Avisar Ben Horin said in a statement that smart traffic lights using 5G would prevent congestion and accidents, while patients will be able to receive immediate medical care remotely.

“I call on the cellular companies to deploy 5G sites all over the country to improve the quality of life of their customers and place Israel at the forefront of global innovation,” she said.

Fifth-generation technology is 10 times faster than widespread 4G and the ministry said rolling it out would improve Internet access in dense city centers.

It said cellular operators that share a network will be allowed to participate in the tender alone or by submitting a joint offer, but did not say how much the new frequencies would cost mobile companies.

The ministry said it will allocate advanced frequencies to mobile operators in the ultra-fast 26 GHz range “to respond to the various needs of cellular communication in Israel.”

Israel allocated three 5G frequencies – 700 MHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz – in an auction in 2019 which have since been deployed by mobile operators and are all marginally profitable.

In its previous tender, heavy incentives such as government grants were be provided to cash-strapped mobile firms to participate and the amounts raised were a fraction of the hundreds of millions of euros seen in Europe.

Read the article here: Israel targets ‘smart’ cities with new 5G mobile auction

What an AI-powered World Cup obscures

Kaleb Hilton

November 21, 2022

Things with which this World Cup is laden so far: Geopolitical intrigue and controversy. Messy soccer-world drama. Improbable first-half England goals.

And, of course: A slate of hyped-up artificial intelligence applications.

Wait, what?

FIFA is touting an AI-powered decision-making system that will use sensors in the actual soccer ball to help determine calls. A vast network of facial recognition-enabled cameras will track the crowd, with technology in the same family as that deployed by the controversial firm Clearview AI. AI-powered sensors in the stadiums will even help control the climate.

Which all sounds very cool. But it also raises the question — is all that really “AI”? And if it is, how is it possible that the same technology is powering such a disparate slate of applications, not to mention generating surreal art, or prefab legal documents?

In one sense, the AI hype around this World Cup is just a marketing push by the host country and organization. Qatar prides itself on having used its (relatively) newfound natural-gas fortune to power it into the ranks of other wealthy gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and FIFA has aggressively played up its high-tech additions to the game.

This buzzy invocation of AI is the flip side of the anxiety that has been rising around the technology among industry watchdogs. Both ways of thinking about AI tend to conflate different issues into one big topic. And they all both point to a larger question: How is the public supposed to think about AI?

One reason that matters, a lot, right now: Politics have finally discovered AI. The Biden administration is attempting to nudge the field toward its preferred values and practices with the AI Bill of Rights. Europe is doing the same, but with statutory teeth. Governments are moving to regulate AI at a pace that’s slower than the technology itself is developing, but faster than the layperson’s understanding of it. That poses a political problem, as the marketing “wow factor” around AI increasingly obscures how it actually works and impacts our lives, leaving the public relatively clueless in the face of the regulatory decisions being made.

“If the yellow first-down line in football appeared today rather than in 1998, they’d say it was generated by AI,” said Ben Recht, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley who has written extensively on AI and machine learning. “AI has become nothing more than a marketing term to mean ‘things we do automatically with computers.’”

The history of what artificial intelligence actually is might be beyond the scope of this afternoon newsletter. The mathematics and computing historian Stephanie Dick described the term’s long semantic drift in a 2019 essay for the Harvard Data Science Review that focused on the field’s roots in computer-powered attempts to model human intelligence. As the field drifted away from that effort and toward powerful machine-learning systems like those that power DALL-E or GPT-3, the initial branding has stuck, obscuring those systems’ actual functions behind a fog of hype and sci-fi speculation about sentient machines or human-like “general artificial intelligence.”

We’ve now come to use AI as a basket term for, as computer scientist Louis Rosenberg put it when I talked to him, “processing massive datasets, finding patterns in those datasets, and then using those patterns to make predictions or draw insights.”

When you put it that way, AI’s application to a soccer ball or an AC system is (slightly) demystified. But that only scratches the surface of how those machine-learning systems are insinuating themselves into our lives. The policy discourse around AI right now focuses on much more high-stakes issues like systemic bias creeping into decision-making systems, or unchecked facial-recognition surveillance like that being deployed in Qatar right now, or data harvesting without consent.

Those are the kinds of issues that show up in the Biden administration’s new AI policy, but there’s still a massive gulf in understanding between policymakers and the public on the issue. A Stanford report written last year noted that “accurate scientific communication has not engaged a sufficiently broad range of publics in gaining a realistic understanding of AI’s limitations, strengths, social risks, and benefits,” and that “Given the historical boom/bust pattern in public support for AI, it is important that the AI community not overhype specific approaches or products and create unrealistic expectations” — a dynamic likely not helped by the World Cup hype machine.

And while guidelines like the Biden administration’s might be useful, they’re still… just guidelines. There are still few, if any, laws in place to prevent the kind of AI-induced harms that might be perpetuated under the radar amid a general haze of curiosity and misunderstanding — which makes public understanding of the tech far more important than one might at first think.

“First, AI isn’t some form of magic and, second, that we aren’t on a predetermined path with regard to where the technology is headed and what we do with it,” Maximilian Gahntz, senior policy researcher at the Mozilla Foundation, told me. “As consumers, people get to vote with their feet if they have the necessary information to make informed choices about products and services that use AI. And as voters, people can push for tech companies and those deploying AI to be held accountable.”

Read the article here: What an AI-powered World Cup obscures