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The Smart City Revolution, Right Here in Pittsburgh

20 Feb 2019 11:06 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

Tom Batroney, PE, ASCE Pittsburgh Sustainability Committee Chair

On Wednesday March 6th, 2019 ASCE Pittsburgh will be hosting it's 10th edition of its Sustainability Conference. This year's theme is Smart Cities: Transforming Cities to a New Era.

When you ask a regular citizen what first pops into their head when they hear the words "smart technology" or "artificial intelligence", the answer you will likely hear back is "driverless vehicles" or "Uber". Autonomous vehicles have certainly grabbed most of the attention recently in the headlines, especially after the tragic accident in Arizona last year. Admittedly, autonomous vehicles themselves are attention grabbing and are prominently visible when seen on the roads. Nowhere is this more evident than right here in Pittsburgh being one of the leading test beds on the planet for their development.

But underneath the surface, "smart technology" goes much deeper than just transportation applications. Entire city operations are beginning to find ways to incorporate smart technology that rely on thousands of sensors and artificial intelligence driven computing power. Cities (and even Nations) are considering it a race to become the "smartest" and most technologically advanced as way to attract investors and drive economic growth.

Needless to say, "smart city" is not some throwaway buzz word catchphrase. This is real and forecasted future investment in 2021 is expected to hit $135 billion. Yes, that's with a B.

I ask that you read (or at least skim) the articles linked above. It will provide you an idea of why this topic is so important and why you as a civil engineer should begin to prepare yourself for this changing future or prepare to be left behind. The implications of these technologies are across all civil engineering disciplines and every engineer will likely need to adapt in some fashion.

You may be asking yourself what does "smart cities" have to do with "sustainability"? And the simple answer is people and efficiency. Research is showing that smart technologies are connecting people in new innovative ways and resulting in more efficient energy systems, more efficient water usage, more efficient waste management, more efficient traffic control, more efficient structural assessments. Increased efficiency means reduced pollution and fewer carbon emissions. During this year's conference we are going to be exploring these technologies with leading experts and learn how smart technologies are at the beginning stages of impacting the Pittsburgh region. ASCE Pittsburgh is once again partnering with Sustainable Pittsburgh and the City of Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto's office. We are also bringing in as a partner Carnegie Mellon's Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, one of the leading research institutes in the world on this highly evolving subject.       

You as an engineer should consider registering and attending the conference to learn about how your profession is on the brink of experiencing a revolutionary sea change in the very near future.

For more information on the conference and how to register please visit:      

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