Chicago consortium taps industry brainpower to make cities work better

Fri, 2015-03-27 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

A Chicago-based consortium is tapping the brainpower of Microsoft, Siemens and other industry leaders to turn the city into a big urban lab for developing and testing solutions to infrastructure challenges.

CityWorks is a project of UI Labs, which is bringing together companies, research institutions, civic organizations and city government together in a public-private partnership to address solutions that can make cities more efficient. They're focusing on four key areas:

  • Energy management
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Water and sanitation systems
  • Transportation and logistics systems

CityWorks expects to curate six to eight demonstration projects in 2015.

Chicago an ideal test bed
“Chicago is particularly suited to the development and validation of innovative ideas in this space, due to the commitment of local government, business and research leaders to urban tech experimentation – exploring how technology can help make the city a safe and rewarding place for residents to live, work, learn and innovate,” said Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president, Technology and Civic Engagement at Microsoft, a Council Lead Partner.

“Chicago is composed of neighborhoods that vary across many of the systems described above. That variability contributes to it being an ideal test bed for how new innovations can impact different environments and communities and be adopted into existing economic and social systems.”

The challenges are so big
“Infrastructure forms the backbone of our cities, our economy and our society,” said UI LABS Executive Director Caralynn Nowinski. She added that the challenges involved are so big that solutions require the combined efforts of the best and brightest.

Council Associate Partner Siemens is expanding its existing partnership with UI Labs with formation of CityWorks. Siemens has more than 3,000 employees in the Chicago area.

"We’re excited to collaborate with UI LABS on CityWorks," said Dave Hopping, President and CEO of Siemens’ North American-based Building Technologies Division. "This project embodies the key focus of our company around digitalization, automation and electrification for our cities and will help ensure that our cities remain at the forefront of technology and innovation."

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