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Innovating the American Metropolis

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Wednesday morning, Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart hosted a series of conversations exploring the role both the private and public sector play in creating cities of the future.

Why it matters: Smart cities are predicted to make America's urban centers cleaner, safer, faster, and more sustainable, but they also raise ethical questions around privacy and inequality. Kim sat down with industry leaders to unpack both of these realities.

Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association

Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro and Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Shapiro discussed the importance of smart cities and the biggest trends he's seeing as they're starting to develop.

  • On why we need smart cities: "By 2050, two-thirds of the people in the world will live in cities and cities are already strained" and the best way to address this is with technology.
  • On 5G: "It is probably one of the pre-requisite installations required for smart cities."
  • On privacy: "Of course there are privacy implications [of smart cities] but we could put up guidelines and guardrails to protect our citizens while giving better service."
  • The biggest area of opportunity: "Transportation."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Mayor Berke spoke to the steps Chattanooga is taking to remain on the frontlines of smart city technology and innovation.

  • On Chattanooga’s city-owned fiber optic network: "It doesn’t miss any home or business … we’ve used it to build out the smartest, cheapest, most pervasive internet in the world."
  • On the 5G hype: "It’s difficult for us. Chattanooga is set up better for 5G because of our fiber backbone, but it's not going to reach some of our residents and we have to grapple with the policy implications of 5G, which we haven't done."
  • "It's not healthy for our country if the only places where innovation occur are New York, Silicon Valley, and Boston. A lot more places look like Chattanooga than look like that."

Go deeper: Chattanooga mayor says 5G hype is "difficult" for his city

Hicham Abdessamad, Hitachi Global Digital Holdings CEO

Hitachi Global Digital Holdings CEO Hicham Abdessamad and Axios Executive Vice President Evan Ryan. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

For our View From the Top segment, Axios Executive Vice President Evan Ryan interviewed Hitachi's Hicham Abdessamad about the role his company plays in bringing smart cities to life and the impact these cities will have on how we live.

  • How industries will be transformed: "It's not about rip and replace, it's about building a digital intelligent layer that will predict and provide better service to our citizens."
  • On whether smart cities will make people safer: "It's very certain. If you can deploy sensors around a city, we have access to thousands of cameras and with the help of A.I. and machine learning you can do deep analytics and make predictions."
  • Why smart city rollouts will take time: "You can't take a [smart city] blueprint and apply it across every city, because each one is different."

South Dakota Senator John Thune

Senator John Thune (R-SD). Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Senator Thune (R-SD), who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, gave his take on what the federal government needs to do to enable smart cities.

  • America's rating. "The U.S. is a solid B” in terms of having the infrastructure necessary to build smart cities: “But we could be an A,” especially with the right investment.
  • “Whoever wins the race to 5G will benefit enormously economically from that.” We at least need to have a federal government that works as a partner and works to ensure that type of technology has the opportunity to succeed.

New York Representative Yvette Clarke

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Rep. Clarke, who is the co-chair of the Smart Cities Caucus, discussed the future she sees for New York City and the importance of spreading smart technology beyond cities like her own.

  • On whether New York is already a smart city: "I think it has the potential to be a smart city. When we talk about mobility, our city is grappling with an aging infrastructure ... If we invest wisely we can build out a 21st century subway system."
  • Clarifying the Smart "Cities" Caucus: "I call it smart cities / smart communities" so we can address the needs of rural communities that struggle to get broadband access.

Thank you Hitachi for sponsoring this event.