Alberto Leon-Garcia is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, and an accomplished researcher in the field of communications network infrastructures. He also organized the Toronto portion of Smart City 360° Summit 2015 in October last year. We talked with hima to learn where the development in the smart cities area is headed, what progress we are making, and what issues need to be tackled.
This event covered a lot of ground: urban mobility, sustainability, big data, smart grids, and even smart healthcare. Based on what was presented at the conferences, could you give us a general idea of where we are headed in terms of technology impacting our everyday life?
Cities are very large-scale, very complex systems of systems that up to now have been largely uncoordinated. The overall impression from the presentations at the conference is that there is now a major effort across a broad range of disciplines working to address the multiplicity of challenges of cities and urban regions. These efforts remain largely uncoordinated, but we are beginning to see glimpses of the possibility of common solution approaches. This is especially the case for sensing, massive-scale data gathering, and analytics as activities that provide a base for creating awareness and intelligence about urban environments. There is also the possibility that open source approaches can reduce the costs associated with deploying future smart cities, so that the benefits of intelligence will not be limited to wealthy societies. Overall, I believe that there is reason to be optimistic about the prospect that smart city technologies will help address today’s urban challenges.
As the organizer of Innovation Day, the concluding day of the Smart City 360° Summit in Toronto, could you describe its purpose? What was the outcome?
The international participants in the Innovation included Europe, Canada, and the U.S. and most have been drivers in innovation in ICT platforms for cloud computing and advanced networking. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss prospects for the application of these ICT platforms to address smart city challenges. It became apparent that all of the research efforts had already begun a transition to deployments that address urban challenges. This underscored the opportunity for international collaboration to share experiences and best practices, and so the principal outcome was agreement to formalize collaborations, especially as new research initiatives are launched.
What were, in your opinion, the highlights of the event?
The highlight of the event were without a doubt the keynote presentations. Every participating conference secured the participation of global leaders in their disciplines. Every keynote presentation gave an opportunity to learn about the leading edge in each area—mobility, grids, sustainability, big data, and wearable devices—as well as about the remaining challenges. Despite having been a participant in these types of efforts over several decades, I still become excited and inspired when listening about the work of these types of leaders.