The New American City

Washington State University joined over 150 elected, business, civic, and university leaders from around the country at “The New American City” – an event hosted by CityAge on June 10-11 in Seattle.

CityAge is an international media and conference company that looks at the business of city building in the so-called  “urban century.” Founded by Marc Andrew and Miro Cernetig of Canada, the company is encouraging major North American cities to collaborate in building “our 21st-Century’s urban future.” CityAge is a forum that encourages dialogue and information sharing by bringing together thought leaders who can learn from each other about best practices and new ways to develop and improve cities and the quality of life for inhabitants and visitors.

“The New American City” event particularly focuses how to best develop American cities, which are now home to 80% of the U.S. population.

Managing growing populations and strained resources requires expertise beyond city planning. Seattle’s event included government officials from King County, Tacoma, California, and Canada, associations from the state’s core economic areas, and professionals in design, construction, investment, technology and data.

Even if you were not in the room listening to a panel on future-proofing cities or the built environment of 2050, there was a constant buzz during the event as thought leaders connected, swapped ideas and made plans for partnerships and collaboration.

The one and a half day event included presentations and panels on eight major areas of future city development. More than half of those panels featured a representative from another big influencer: universities.

The very first panel discussion about cities needing to stay on the cutting edge prominently featured the importance of partnerships between universities and companies to keep advancing technologies and encouraging entrepreneurship. WSU President Elson S. Floyd was the keynote luncheon speaker whom eloquently shared WSU’s community-first approach to academics and research, inter-university collaboration and the role of universities in drawing talent and companies to cities.

WSU also featured a research room with posters and interactive presentations about the new technology already in the works for the future of American cities.

Below are a few highlights from the WSU academic and research programs that actively engaged with attendees at CityAge, and how the programs link to the big concepts discussed at the main event.

The R&D City What are the models and partnerships that leverage both university and the private sectors’ investments in R&D to drive entrepreneurship and attract the essential human & financial capital to build business?

WSU’s Office of Commercialization had several examples of these kinds of critical partnerships between academic research and business opportunities on display in the research room. The office has helped launch businesses and license technologies that are revolutionizing food safety and preservation, nutrition, agriculture, animal health, and lithium battery safety. Newly formed, the WSU Office of Commercialization helps develop partnerships between researchers, investors, and companies that can use their technologies to better our future.

Re-inventing cities and staying on the cutting edge –

Hydrogen fueling stations
Several panels during the day brought up transportation of the future – what will it look like? How can we make it more environmentally and cost friendly as cities become more congested?

Graduate students Ian Richardson and Jake Fisher answered that question with their team’s international award-winning hydrogen fueling station design.

While some people do own hydrogen-powered cars currently, the lack of fueling stations and cost of installing fueling stations pose a burden to their wide-spread adoption. Given that water is the only waste product of hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars, so getting more of them on the road could help reduce carbon emissions. How do we bridge the gap between economics and environmental protection?

The WSU student’s design lowered building costs by 75% (from about $2M to $500,000) and determined that the price of filling a hydrogen fuel tank is comparable to a gasoline tank.  The design won first place at an international hydrogen competition in May.This could be a gateway to direct foreign investment to our state and cities as several oversees auto manufacturers are well underway producing and distributing these alternative vehicles.

Data in the 21st Century
Session 6 of the CityAge event discussed how “Cloud Cities” will “use new platforms and technologies to improve policing, transportation, citizen-centered government and services.”  

WSU researchers are finding ways to develop many of those technologies, including one that just so happens to focus on policing.

The technology of sleep – Helping police monitor their alertness
Studies show that humans are not great at knowing just how tired they are. This is true for someone who works 9-5, but imagine the impact that has on a police officer who may work 16 hour shifts at a time. Police officers operate in high stress, high emotion situations in addition to driving that can be negatively affected by lack of sleep.

Working with colleagues from industry, Bryan Vila has developed a new smartphone app called BeSharp that monitors an officer’s level of fatigue and provides warnings as he or she gets closer to critical levels of fatigue. The technology measures data from a wristwatch-size device that the officers wear. Vila is working on commercializing this invention that will improve police safety, health and performance.

Lois James of WSU-Spokane also showcased her high-fidelity, multiple-branching video scenarios designed for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training and evaluation geared toward enhancing police safety in crisis situations.

Augmented reality – an interactive future
On the second day of CityAge, WSU Vancouver students and faculty demonstrated just how interactive our future will be. One of the projects on display involved augmented reality, state-of-the art technology that essentially makes physical objects and text clickable. One student engaged CityAge attendees by moving his iPad in front of a poster that triggered 3-D digital robots.

This kind of technology has countless applications, from changing how students learn in the classroom to enabling a car to tell you about its safety ratings and engine performance.

Learn more about WSU Vancouver’s Creative Median & Digital Culture program here.