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Panasonic Imagines the Future of Smart Cities in Miniature

The company has crafted its rendition of an indoor connected city, complete with a micro-apartment, autonomous shuttles and IoT-equipped infrastructure.

by Tamara Chuang, The Denver Post / March 9, 2018

(TNS) — Inside the lonely-looking building off of Peña Boulevard, a mini city is taking shape.

This city, built by Panasonic, includes a 320-square-foot “micro apartment” with a kitchen, bathroom, Murphy bed, walk-in closet and rotating shoe storage. The lights behind a TV use the company’s LinkRay technology to send data to smartphones, which pull up a website for more information about a product.

Outside the apartment, streetlights hold various equipment to broadcast Wi-Fi, monitor air quality and noise, and sense moving objects to help autonomous vehicles navigate the road. Beyond a large opening, electric cars sit in a cavernous warehouse. A driverless shuttle bus ferries passengers around on the makeshift roadway in the back of the building.

This test city, dubbed the Smart City Innovation Showcase, is one that even Panasonic hadn’t expected would emerge when it picked Denver as its technology hub for Panasonic Enterprise Solutions in 2014.

“We didn’t know what to expect, and in that regard, we’ve wildly exceeded those expectations,” CityNow vice president George Karayannis said of the new showcase, which opened Wednesday. “What we’ve done from a connected-vehicle perspective, an autonomous-shuttle perspective and some of the other technology that we’ve introduced here and what we’ve built in our smart cities innovation showcase, no one foresaw that a year ago.”

But Panasonic knew it wanted to help connect communities to smart technology in a smart way. It’s working with Xcel Energy and the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs to make streetlights smarter. Poles could be used to hold competing 5G wireless equipment, video cameras and digital-ad technologies. On display was an Array of Things from the Argonne National Laboratory, to measure air quality, detect flooding and record hyperlocal weather.

“Smart street lighting is a very broad topic. It’s more than just adding LEDs,” said Karayannis, adding that such poles could supplement a city’s need for cell towers. “It’s a complex topic that cities are struggling with.”

The company expects to start installing smart technology on Interstate 70 via a pilot program with the Colorado Department of Transportation. The technology is being tested near the Panasonic building and allows connected cars to talk with one another and get data from road infrastructure — such as guard rails, light poles and signs. That would tell the cars whether traffic is slowing ahead or whether there’s an accident.

“The 400 acres here, we’ve set up a test environment to make sure it’s properly (working). The next stage is I-70, and the next would be statewide (on 400 to 500 miles of road),” said Jarrett Wendt, Panasonic’s executive vice president of strategic innovations. “We’re about two months away from deploying on I-70.”

©2018 The Denver Post Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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