Greenfield Community Projects in Florida and Colorado Highlight Smart City Potential

In what used to be swampland adjacent to the Orlando Airport, a new kind of community is under development. The 17-square-mile greenfield community includes neighborhoods, education facilities, medical centers, work spaces, retail venues, recreational opportunities and entertainment.

On the surface, this community looks much like one of the many master-planned communities springing up across the country. But this community is unique. Leveraging gigabit fiber-optic technology and distributed antenna systems, Lake Nona is being developed with the vision of using technology and connectivity to enhance the health and wellness of its residents.

Ken DiScipio, Senior Vice President, Business Development & Strategic Relationships at Tavistock Group, which is developing Lake Nona, shared the vision for the community and its progress during a webinar Sept. 25 hosted by the City Networks Task Force, a joint effort of the Wireless Infrastructure Association and the Smart Cities Council.

Anchoring the community are a variety of high-quality medical facilities, including the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, the Nemours Children’s Hospital, the University of Central Florida Health Sciences Campus and a VA medical center. DiScipio said once the community’s strong focus on quality medical presence was established, it was able to attract related health and wellness interest, such as the U.S. Tennis Association, which built its national campus with 100 tennis courts on 64 acres in Lake Nona. The association hopes to use technology to improve men’s and women’s tennis through smart courts that gather data about the athletes playing on them.

The community also hopes to promote health at home and work by using technology. The WHIT Home (Wellness + Home + Innovation + Technology) created by the Lake Nona Institute and collaborative partners showcases a myriad of technologies developed to monitor the health of its inhabitants and promote healthy behaviors ranging from diet to sleep habits. These embedded technologies include circadian lighting, air and water purification systems, and interactive cooktops. DiScipio hinted at future smart toilet technology that could automatically analyze human waste to diagnose hidden health issues like cancer before symptoms are present.

It is not just in Central Florida where technologically advanced communities are cropping up. Almost 2,000 miles to the west, another greenfield community is taking shape near Denver in a project spearheaded by an unlikely champion.

Widely known as an electronics manufacturer, Panasonic first delved into the smart cities movement in Japan when it turned 45 acres of an obsolete manufacturing complex outside of Tokyo into a resilient smart community. Home to 650 families, Fujisawa is surrounded by technology but looks and feels like a normal community, said George Karayannis, Vice President of CityNOW, Panasonic North America, during the webinar. “It’s very human centric.”

Building on the success of Fujisawa, Panasonic set its sights on land near Denver International Airport to build Peña Station NEXT, a mixed-use, transit-oriented community incorporating technology and connectivity that promote net-zero energy, mobility and wellness. The community sits on the city’s light rail line connecting the downtown area with the airport, making it a gateway between the two.

Karayannis said the community serves as a living lab for stakeholder innovation and allows developers to validate emerging technologies and build business cases as smart city technology emerges. While Lake Nona in Florida is strongly focused on health, Peña Station is migrating toward a focus on connected mobility, Karayannis said. Among the applications Peña Station is working on are a solar+storage microgrid for net-zero energy consumption, real-time data from a smart city street networks to monitor real-time road conditions, autonomous mobility solutions, and fully connected wellness centers designed specifically for the community.

Meanwhile, across the country communities are looking for ways to accommodate the communications infrastructure that will drive connected cities and smart city deployments in their rights of way while maintaining the aesthetics of their neighborhoods and streets. Aero Solutions, an 18-year-old company that built macro cell sites during its first decade, is now also focused on the challenges of smart infrastructure, particularly street furniture, through its Comptek division.

The company’s City Pole product, borne out of its work with the city of Denver on smart lighting solutions that can incorporate communications equipment, was designed to integrate into communities. The company studies the cities and communities where its products will be deployed, noting the landscape and what the existing urban infrastructure looks like, and tries to build on common themes to create a matching solution, said Jim Lockwood, founder and CEO of Aero Solutions. In addition to focusing on aesthetics that will blend into the urban environment, the company also incorporates materials that are durable and capable of lasting decades.

Aero has deployed 140 smart poles in Downtown Denver, and nearby communities have shown interest in deploying the standalone poles as well. The company is also working in communities including San Antonio and Memphis to design solutions that meet the specific needs of their communities.

Lockwood said the company has found many communities need help with creating guidelines and processes to handle the deployment of small cell infrastructure, a need that is expected to increase dramatically as densification efforts ramp up for 5G. Aero helped Denver’s Public Works department create a design document that provides guidelines for deploying small cell infrastructure on street lighting. The document sometimes serves as a model for other municipalities in the early stages of creating their own guidelines for deploying next-generation wireless infrastructure.

Click here to view the webinar in its entirety.