The Big Benefits of Smart Cities - WSJ
The big push at networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. CSCO -0.09% these days is to create “smart cities,” where wireless networks with enough sensors and computers to process the data will attempt to make services more efficient and lower costs. Cisco Chief Executive Chuck Robbins spoke with Jason Anders, chief news editor of The Wall Street Journal, about how it’s going. Edited excerpts follow.

MR. ANDERS: Why do we need smarter cities?

MR. ROBBINS: Some statistics say that 30% of traffic is created by people looking for parking, so that’s a problem that technology can solve and is solving. We have 70% of the world’s energy usage in cities; 20% of global energy usage is lighting, so connect to LED lighting and leverage technology to actually make them more efficient. You can cut 50% to 75% out of it. There are environmental opportunities. There are efficiency and citizen-service opportunities. There are lots of great opportunities.

MR. ANDERS: Where exactly do you come in? How does this get off the ground?

MR. ROBBINS: It does require infrastructure. Security has to be dealt with up front. The partnerships required to actually make this work are pretty significant.

MR. ANDERS: Some of this isn’t quite Jetsons-level stuff. Garbage pickup doesn’t sound that high tech. But what’s the future of waste management?

MR. ROBBINS: We’ve done things the same way forever. Waste-management vehicles leave, they have a route. They pick up receptacles, and they empty receptacles even if they’re empty. The ability to put sensors inside those—there are applications that have been written now that actually understand where that needs to occur. You can actually put sensors in that measure the presence of toxic materials so safety issues can be addressed.

MR. ANDERS: What are some of the big cities that you’re involved in?

MR. ROBBINS: We’re involved in 120 around the world today. Hamburg has gone all in, particularly in the port. Collaboration between their employees running the dock, communicating to vehicles that are waiting, managing the traffic congestion—everything’s connected, all the sensors, so that they can actually make that seamless.

They’ve increased the productivity of the port and improved the efficiency by 20% just by implementing this technology.

Every city has different things going on. In 2016, I was in Davos and the party secretary of Guangzhou, China, said, “I’d like Cisco to come partner with us to build a smart city in Guangzhou.” And 15 months later, we had shovels, shoveling dirt for the Cisco Guangzhou Smart City Project. We’re building innovation centers. We’re partnered with universities.

MR. ANDERS: Cities are ultimately businesses, and some aren’t well run. I assume the pitch is the technology is good not only for society but for the bottom line and budget. But at the end of the day, someone has to write the check.

Read the full interview transcript at WSJ here.