2013 marked the first time Meeting of the Minds convened in Canada. Gordon Feller, co-founder, wrote that the organizers chose the city because it “is clearly at some kind of critical intersection on the road towards a smarter and more connected urban future.” He added that residents and city leaders are facing up to “big choices” that other urban centres are unready or unwilling to confront. The venue reflected Toronto’s efforts to become a more sustainable city. Evergreen Brick Works is an LEED-Platinum building that serves as a hub for innovators to showcase cutting-edge green technologies and develop actionable ideas to improve Toronto’s environment.
The two day conference offered attendees the chance to attend lectures on major sustainability issues as well as to participate in workshops in which they could share their thoughts about strategies for sustainable urban growth. Speakers came from diverse backgrounds, including academics and executives from major corporations. The event also gave some companies the chance to discuss their green technology initiatives. Andre Thibault, head of product management, Bombardier, talked about Primove. Primove allows energy to be wirelessly transmitted between an underground component and a receiver attached to a vehicle’s chassis. The underground component creates a magnetic field that generates an electric current in another conductor within that field, which propels the vehicle forward. This technology is based on the principle of inductive power transfer. Thibault noted that the electricity is generated in a clean and efficient manner. Moreover, the electric conductors are placed on tracks or under the road, so municipalities do not need to invest in wires above ground, an unsightly limitation visible in many modern urban landscapes. Several cities in Germany have already implemented Primove, and Thibault remarked that other municipalities are in talks with Bombardier to bring the technology to their transit systems.
Cisco also used Meeting of the Minds as a platform to announce a new product release. Cisco unveiled its Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi solution, which is designed to provide citywide connectivity and create a platform so that the Internet of Things can offer services for citizens. Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi integrates Cisco technologies such as its Wi-Fi outdoor mesh, ruggedized routing and switching IoT portfolio, Prime and Mobility Services Engine. Cisco built this solution with a three layer logical architecture composed of outdoor access points, a city network layer that connects hardware to the data centre and a data network layer that provides resources to enable city Wi-Fi applications and services. The result is a city-managed outdoor Wi-Fi network that securely transmits and collects data. Wim Elfrink, EVP, industry solutions and chief globalization officer, Cisco, explained that the ideal deployment model would be for Cisco to provide the solution design and underlying technology. The city would take ownership of the assets, and software developers can build new applications on the wireless platform. Visitors to Toronto’s waterfront will be able to access Smart+Connected City Wi-Fi. Evergreen Brick Works has also implemented Cisco’s wireless network to enable a connected campus.
While Toronto was in the spotlight at this year’s Meeting of the Minds, speakers also talked about potential solutions for other cities’ problems. The final panel of the conference focused on Detroit. Panelists discussed how the city can reinvent itself to attract economic development and grow in a sustainable manner. The topic choice was timely, as the city recently filed for bankruptcy. After the panel, conference organizers announced that the 2014 Meeting of the Minds will be held in that city.
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