National Engineers Week 2017: Enabling the Evolution of Smart Cities and Smart Utilities

Feb 20, 2017 5:00 PM ET

For centuries, engineers have played a foundational role in the design and deployment of the vital infrastructure systems that drive our cities and communities. But today, the work of these critical problem solvers is more important than ever. As we celebrate 2017 National Engineers Week, we recognize engineers not only for their past contributions, but for their future work in enabling our cities and communities to act on the promise of a smarter, safer and more sustainable way of life.

From Barcelona to Boston, San Diego to Singapore, cities are experiencing first-hand how lofty smart city conceptualizations are giving way to tangible advancements. These achievements wouldn’t be possible without the engineers whose innovative thinking has elegantly knit together the technological solutions that solve some of the largest urban issues. Engineers are personifying this year’s theme of “Dream Big” – after all, arguably few things are bigger than reimagining the cities of the future.

Black & Veatch’s 2017 Strategic Directions: Smart City/Smart Utility Report demonstrates how cities and communities are already reaping the benefits of smarter, more intelligent infrastructure. Engineers have made smart street systems more affordable and accessible, and they are cropping up in neighborhoods around the world. For example, the city of Chicago recently launched what it calls a “fitness tracker,” which uses light pole-mounted sensors to capture vital information on traffic patterns, air quality and other measurements. Kansas City, Missouri, spent the last year installing 25 WiFi-enabled kiosks and is working on a system of 125 smart streetlights.  

Today’s engineers are also tackling huge, integrated projects such as modernizing the electric grid. Historically, the grid was designed for one-way power flow, but today’s utilities are managing multiple power flows from solar, wind, energy storage, electric vehicles and other distributed generation sources. The issue is daunting and complex, but engineers are hard at work implementing this technology at scale.

Our transportation infrastructure is also evolving as cities reconsider how people and goods can be moved sustainably across the urban landscape, and there is rising acknowledgement of the importance of alternative fuels and electrification. Engineers will play a critical role in piecing together these systems, changing how we approach transportation in the years to come.

This kind of innovative thinking is unleashing fascinating and useful initiatives that demonstrate the smart city promise. Hawaii has an ambitious plan to have all electricity come from renewable sources by 2045 and the city of Chula Vista, California, has set aggressive goals to become more efficient through the improved use of energy, water, communications and other critical infrastructure elements.

During this year’s National Engineers Week, we celebrate all the ways that engineers are tackling the many different yet interlocking pieces of the smart city ecosystem—modernizing grid infrastructure, implementing vast communication networks, growing automated systems and implementing digitization. These steps can determine our path forward. 


About Black & Veatch
Black & Veatch is an employee-owned, global leader in building critical human infrastructure in Energy, Water, Telecommunications and Government Services. Since 1915, we have helped our clients improve the lives of people in over 100 countries through consulting, engineering, construction, operations and program management. Our revenues in 2015 were US$3 billion. Follow us on and in social media.

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