November 13, 2013

New vision for cities

By: Larry Rulison

Source: Times Union

Albany

Plans by the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to redevelop Kiernan Plaza, downtown Albany's old train station, go beyond the state's attempts to replicate the NanoCollege model in other parts of upstate.

The former Union Station, purchased by the NanoCollege with $4 million in state funding, is being converted into the Smart Cities Technology Innovation Center. It will be known as SCiTI.

The center will house companies interested in taking technologies developed by the semiconductor industry and using them to make cities and governments run more efficiently and do more for citizens. The city of Albany will be the test bed.

Imagine vibration sensors that can predict when bridges are failing, or computers that can predict where a flu outbreak will happen first. Or even cars that don't need drivers.

And the beneficiaries of those technologies — first tested in Albany — will be places like New York City and metropolitan areas all across the nation, NanoCollege officials said.

"Those are the types of things that governments are interested in," Michael Fancher, the NanoCollege's vice president of business development and economic outreach, said Wednesday during a presentation hosted by the Business Council of New York State. "All of these budget cuts are driving municipalities to think, how can we do this in a different way?"

Fancher says that this so-called "smart cities" technology is the next market for the semiconductor industry, which has been growing primarily by supplying chips and sensors to the consumer electronics market, especially smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad.

The Smart Cities center at Kiernan Plaza will have a control room where experiments are tracked and data collected that will be used to show state and local governments what the technologies can do. Fancher called it a "living lab" that will be able to access the state's data center being built at the NanoCollege's main campus on Fuller Road.

The initial companies to locate at the site are credit union SEFCU, the engineering firm CHA, and Windstream Corp., an Arkansas computer networking firm. At capacity, the facility is expected to house 250 workers and attract $26 million in private investment.