Milwaukee Ramps Up Smart City Initiative

The City of Milwaukee is creating a detailed smart city plan after deploying several smaller Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives over the last couple of years.

In tandem with the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC), Milwaukee is advancing its smart city initiative, which focuses on buildings, district-scalable projects, and eco-industrial districts. According to Erick Shambarger, environmental sustainability director for Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), the goal is to find the intersection of new technology and positive environmental impact.

“We have lots underway. We’re moving from one-off projects to a comprehensive plan,” Shambarger said. “This technology is starting to come of age.”

Although Shambarger said he wants to accelerate smart city plans, Milwaukee already features several IoT services. The city’s Department of Public Works has automated packing machines. Milwaukee has digitized maps for tree canopies to track the presence of invasive pests. The city is also home to Bublr Bikes, a bike-sharing system, which Shambarger called “a fantastic example of Internet of Things technology.”

In the year ahead, Shambarger said he would like to direct the city’s focus to increasing the number of smart buildings. He said he envisioned structures with smart heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in addition to motion-sensitive lights.

“People think about lighting, but moving air throughout a building is very complicated stuff,” Shambarger said.

To establish these features, Milwaukee is leading the Better Building Challenge. Through this program, which is funded by the Department of Energy, city leaders are attempting to cut down energy use in municipal and downtown private buildings. Shambarger said his goal is to have 200 commercial business owners have some form of smart technology, whether it is LED lights or smart HVAC systems, in three years.

Milwaukee has applied smart city initiatives since January 2015, when it was named a member of Envision: America, a national project that focuses on sharing best practices for smart cities. Envision started as a program for Charlotte, N.C., that was funded through Energy. Envision has since been extended to include 10 cities, which apply for the program.

Shambarger said he shares the Energy Department’s goal of cutting energy use by 20 percent by 2020. Since 2009, Milwaukee municipal buildings have trimmed energy use by 10 percent. He and his team are working with Wisconsin-based companies to provide IT solutions for Milwaukee’s efforts.

“We’re trying to stimulate both sides of the economy,” Shambarger said.

Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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