Date Published: May 7, 2018, 1:30 p.m.
ity Tech transforms cities into testbeds for new ideas. We remake essential city services and infrastructure using advanced technology, and then expand these solutions to other cities. With our partners, we are diverting rainwater from overloaded sewer systems, easing subway congestion during large events, and launching a digital directory of public health services in Chicago.
The target population for City Tech includes regional innovators from academic, corporate, civic, entrepreneurial, and government organizations. The primary service area affected by City Tech includes the seven counties of the Chicagoland region. Our goal is to have global impact by working with our partners to scale our solutions locally, regionally, and globally.
An estimated 2.7M Chicago residents should be impacted by the project.
Starting date: 24/02/2014
Ending date: ongoing
City Tech builds coalitions across industry, city leaders, academic experts, philanthropy, and residents to co-build urban innovations. City Tech leverages data and technology to develop real, relevant solutions that scale for the marketplace. These cross-sector solutions are designed to be human-centered, to catalyze public and private value, and to be capable of commercialization by City Tech’s consortium of partners.
City Tech is the second program developed by UI LABS, a Chicago-based 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation built on the recognition that the toughest societal and technical challenges are too big for any one organization to solve. With the rapid pace of advancements in big data, the Internet of Things, and supercomputing, technical solutions to grand challenges may be getting closer, but the business models and human capital needs are more complex than ever and require new collaborative relationships.
UI LABS is partnered with 300+ companies, universities, and civic organizations to develop innovative, commercially viable solutions. UI LABS’ first program, the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), was launched in 2014 through a $70M Cooperative Agreement with the support of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). With nearly 70 projects underway across both DMDII and City Tech, UI LABS is a critical anchor of the Midwest tech community, hosting approximately 1,000 individuals monthly from partners and affiliate organizations for project collaborations, workshops, events, and tours.
City Tech innovates at the physical-digital convergence to create smart cities present and future. To achieve a sustainable platform for economic innovation and livability, cities must be smart about how to build, update, and use urban infrastructure and public services, which themselves must become “smart” – combining new ideas in infrastructure design, service deliver, materials, and management, with advances in computing and data analysis. Urban infrastructure, from civic applications to civic spaces, forms the backbone of cities, the economy, and society; however, massive scale and complexity have limited the ability to monitor and improve its performance. From water security to energy burdens, from multi‐modal congestion to first responder deployment, the need for creative new approaches that are effective at a regional scale is greater than ever.
City Tech explores new approaches to improve urban infrastructure and monitor its performance, given the challenges of scale and complexity. Current collaboration areas include public health, digital equity, energy, logistics and waste management. Across all these areas, pilots will expand, improve, and apply the use of sensing technologies, real‐time data collection, geographic information systems, analytics and insight, and prediction algorithms and capabilities.
City Tech runs a unique innovation delivery engine, bringing together diverse stakeholders in a highly structured Solution Development Process. Beginning with a workshop to understand and identify opportunities, City Tech solves urban challenges in key impact areas with the goal of producing new technologies and market-ready solutions. Throughout this Solution Development Process, City Tech strengths scalability by working with partners to test the relevancy and usability of new technologies. Engaging directly with users and city residents who experience these complex urban challenges ensures that any incubated tools and processes will be lasting, welcome, and human-centered.
Past focus areas of the Solution Development Process have included urban flooding, consumer energy management, peak transportation congestion tools, and urban heat impacts. Interested partners across the consortium form multidisciplinary pilot teams to develop a new solution based on the workshop output, oftentimes leveraging a commitment by the City of Chicago to utilize its infrastructure as an innovation testbed.
One example of our work: From initial, high-level partner interest on underground construction coordination, City Tech developed a new Underground Infrastructure Mapping platform that generates, organizes, visualizes, and stores 3D underground infrastructure data, saving cities and utilities millions of dollars in construction and planning processes. Our unique Solution Development Process marshalled complementary work by disparate actors in the Chicago ecosystem to expedite delivery of a market-ready solution to a complex infrastructure challenge.
+ Phase 1, Opportunity Discovery: City Tech convened five City of Chicago departments, two utilities, and a top engineering firm to pinpoint inefficiencies in construction coordination, uncovering the problem to be a lack of accurate data underground.
+ Phase 2, Pilot Definition: City Tech tapped lead partner Accenture to scope the buildout of a new data verification system; recruited HBK Engineering to execute data collection; engaged startup Cityzenith for data visualization; brought in startup Reconstruct, out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for their cutting-edge technology for site scanning; and recruited ESRI as Pilot Affiliate for the geographic information systems (GIS)/mapping component.
+ Phase 3, Execution: City Tech created a Statement of Work and innovative Pilot Legal Agreement to launch the pilot. During the pilot, City Tech orchestrated in-flight tech demos and provided ongoing troubleshooting (e.g. City of Chicago legal, permitting roadblocks).
+ Phase 4, Solution Scaling: City Tech worked with partner Accenture on commercialization opportunities, including designing a first of its kind public-private partnership business model with the City of Chicago. City Tech also continues to work with potential utility/city customers to discuss implementation beyond Chicago.
At an organizational level, City Tech is supported by member companies, such as Microsoft and Mastercard, and philanthropic organizations, such as the MacArthur Foundation. Initial funding to launch the program was ~$5M USD with annual program costs averaging $1M USD. Individual pilot projects are supported by partners through the contribution of in-kind and/or financial resources. City Tech industry partners are interested in participating in these pilots because they view them as a unique avenue to develop transformational solutions that have an associated business case due to their ability to be scaled on a national and global basis. As a result, they are willing to invest in pilot deployments in Chicago, understanding that the definition of a successful pilot is the development of a solution that is fundamentally transformative and valuable in ways that will result in rapid scaling and broad-based adoption. City Tech community and philanthropy partners see value in the City Tech methodology which strives to catalyze inclusive, human-centered innovations to Chicago and the world. All of these partners also see enhanced value in creating a successful solution through collaboration with one another that would otherwise be nonexistent.
Two examples of how City Tech-driven solutions have addressed economic costs associated with compromised infrastructure:
+ Flooding in Chicagoland due to excess stormwater led to more than 181,000 claims of property damage between 2007 and 2011, costing an estimated $773 million, per the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Nationally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says total flood insurance claims average more than $1.9 billion per year. Cities are investing in green infrastructure techniques – like permeable pavements, landscaped elements, rain gardens, and more – to better manage stormwater collection and prevent flooding, but few tools have existed to evaluate the effectiveness of these methods. City Tech’s Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring solution is a significant opportunity to curtail Chicago’s flood damage through prioritized impact investment. The solution’s data analytics platform is informing the City of Chicago’s $50M commitment to utilize green infrastructure to divert stormwater and damages.
+ Because of inaccurate or obsolete data on below-ground infrastructure, an underground utility line is hit on average every 60 seconds in the United States, per the American Public Works Association. The result is inefficient and delayed construction projects, dangerous accidents, and interruptions of services to citizens – utility hits have been estimated by the Common Ground Alliance to have resulted in $1.7 billion in property damage, 1,906 injuries, and 421 deaths in the U.S. over the past 20 years. City Tech’s Underground Infrastructure Mapping solution will curtail these coordination and damage issues in Chicago and beyond.
Initial challenges included: building a legal framework with the City of Chicago to utilize the city as a testbed; building a standard Terms and Conditions document to allow partner organizations to share IP and govern the use of IP created through the consortium; identifying initial private funders and developing a mutual value proposition; identifying initial projects that aligned with multiple partner interests; onboarding a team of Subject Matter Experts.
City Tech will continue filling its innovation pipeline by developing pilot concepts through its Solution Development Process. A solution, at a minimum, is a combination of (1) a user (who or what will be changed) and (2) an outcome that is supported by at least two organizations that have a technology or service idea to realize that outcome (solutions are generated during a collaborative pilot development workshop). City Tech will convene consortium members aligned around a topic on a quarterly basis to pursue opportunities with real market potential. On average, more than 200 stakeholders from throughout the region are engaged annually as part of the Solution Development Process. These diverse participants include experts and leaders in urban infrastructure, solution providers, community members, as well as entrepreneurs, focused on regional challenges and quality of life. Finally, City Tech will focus on phased expansion of successful solutions, taking successful pilot use cases and scaling regionally, nationally, and globally. City Tech initially focuses on developing the requirements and detailed design for commercialization, using the City of Chicago as a testbed. While this effort will be built upon the feedback received from regional stakeholders and residents, the solution designs will be focused on a framework that can be applied globally.
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