Panasonic CityNOW’s George Karayannis on Building Smarter Cities


While developing smart cities can often seem like a proposition centered squarely around shiny, futuristic utilities, the truth of the matter is that those technologies can’t be integrated in our buildings and infrastructure without quite a bit of legwork aligning stakeholders. That’s where Panasonic’s CityNOW comes in.

In addition to aggregating data and creating opportunities to deploy interconnected vehicle technologies, smart streetlights, microgrids, and more, CityNOW works to bring the right people to the table to ensure those technologies function everywhere they can. One’s ability to enhance their safety on the road via connected vehicle technology shouldn’t end when they take an exit ramp off the highway. That’s why CityNOW aligns private and public stakeholders to deploy effective business models for smart cities.

Headquartered in Colorado, CityNOW has recently secured a 5 year, $72 million contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation to deploy the country’s first commercial-scale connected vehicle platform, one of many projects underway in Denver and its surrounding areas with CityNOW.

Curious to learn more about how Panasonic’s CityNOW is changing our built environment, BuiltWorlds sat down with George Karayannis, Vice President of CityNOW at Panasonic USA.

What​ ​is​ ​Panasonic’s​ ​CityNOW​ ​doing​ ​differently​ ​than​ ​other​ ​smart​ ​city​ ​endeavors?

What CityNOW​ is​ doing​ fairly​ ​uniquely is​ working​ ​very effectively with​ ​leaders from cities, ​​utilities, ​​private developers, and​ state ​departments​ ​of​ ​transportation​ ​to​ ​create​ transformational​ ​outcomes,​ whether​ ​​they’re communities, ​buildings,​ ​​or​ ​mobility​ experiences. We​ ​are​ ​becoming​ ​quite​ ​adept​ at​​ ​aligning ​​the senior ​executive​ ​stakeholders​ ​among those​ various groups so​​ ​that​ ​once​ ​we​ ​have​ them​​ aligned,​ we can​ ​optimize​ the​ P3​ ​(public-private partnership)​​ business​ ​​models, which​ then​​ enable​ the​ implementation​ of​ a​ lot​ of​ ​smart​ ​city​ ​projects.

Panasonic’s CityNOW building in Denver is actually energy positive in its consumption and generation.

The​ ​difference​ we are creating is safer and more efficient transit with fewer accidents and delays, more efficient, sustainable and resilient buildings, and deeply integrated, human-​centric live-work-play communities.

CityNOW​ ​is​ ​a key component of the growing Denver​ ​aerotropolis.​ ​How​ ​does​ ​Panasonic approach similar​ ​development​ ​around therest​​ of​ ​the​​ ​country?

In​ ​North​ ​America​ we​ ​aren’t​ ​going​ ​to​ ​build​ ​any ground​ ​up​ smart​ ​cities.​ We’re​ ​all​ ​built ​out.​ We’re​ ​going​ ​to​ build smart buildings, smart blocks, a​ ​sports​​ and entertainment district,​ and similar developments. Smart cities in North America are ​going​ ​to​ ​get​​ ​built​ out​ ​a​ building​​ or​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​blocks​ ​at ​​a​ ​time.

That’s​ ​why​ it’s​​ ​so important​ ​to​ ​work​ ​closely​ ​with​ ​cities,​ ​utilities,​ ​and​ ​developers​ ​so​ ​that​ ​we​ ​can provide ​deeply​ ​integrated​ ​solutions​ ​​that ​enable​ ​capabilities​ ​that​ ​​really​ ​haven’t​ been​​ ​attainable before. Typically, a developer has an arms-length relationship with the city and the utility. We’re​ ​optimizing​ ​at​ ​the​ ​building ​and​​ the​ ​district​ ​levels​ by getting​​ all​​ ​stakeholders on the same side of the table.​ ​This ​​is transformational.

One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​CityNOW​ ​technologies is​ ​the​ ​implementation​​ of​ ​smartstreetlights. How are those​ ​an​ ​entryway​ ​to​ ​creating smarter​ ​cities?

Smart streetlights are sometimes considered the ‘gateway drug’ to smart cities, largely because they will be one of the first opportunities a city will have to deploy city-wide ‘smart’ technology. When​ ​a​ ​city​ ​upgrades ​to​ ​LED​ streetlights,​​ ​the ​first​ ​thing​​ they​​ have​​ to​ decide​ is​ ​​whether they want​​ to​ control​ ​them.​​ Do​ ​they​ want​ to​​ add​ wireless​ controls​ ​so​ they​​ can​​ achieve​​ deep​ energy​ savings​ ​and​ make​ ​them​ ​interactive? Now​ ​that​ ​LED​ ​​is​ a​​ digital​ ​light​​ ​source,​ cities​​​ understand they​ have​ unbelievably​ valuable​ ​real​​ ​estate on​​ that​ ​streetlight​ ​pole.​​ What was once a liability is now a strategic asset. ​They ​can​ hang banners,​ small cells, environmental ​sensors,​ ​parking​ ​sensors,​​ ​security​ cameras,​​ ​off​ ​of ​​it.

An environmental sensor on a streetlight.

It’s​ ​a​ ​way​ ​for​ ​cities​ ​to​ ​holistically​ ​think​ ​about​ ​smart​ ​city​ ​technology​ ​and​ applications​ ​​that​ ​leverage either​ ​the​ ​physical​ ​streetlight​ ​pole,​ the​​ ​electrical ​conductor​​ in​ ​that​ ​pole,​ ​or​ ​the​ ​​communications network ​that​ ​is​ ​managing​​ the​​ streetlight​ ​control.​ It’s​ really ​​a way ​to get​​ ​cities​ ​to​ ​think strategically about​ ​their​​ street infrastructure, and to help them manage the enormous complexity involved with aligning all the related stakeholders.​ It’s​ also​ ​relevant ​for ​developers​ ​​because cities​​ ​are increasingly ​looking​ ​for​ ​developers​ ​to​ lead​​ the​ ​way​ ​and​​ ​pilot ​certain​ ​smart​​ city​ ​technology​ ​​simply because ​they​ ​can​ move​ ​quicker.​

CityNOW​ ​offers​ ​consulting​ ​for​ ​cities​ ​during​ ​the​ ​process​ ​of​ ​unrolling​ ​these​ ​technologies. Does it​ ​have​ ​a​ ​similar​ ​initiative​ ​for developers?

We provide ​Smart​ ​District​ Master​ ​Planning Services for developers.​ ​The​ ​city​ ​and​ ​the ​developer​ ​have​ ​slightly​ ​different​ ​ needs,​ ​so​ what​ ​we​​ focus​ ​on​ with​ ​the​ ​developer​ ​is​ ​optimizing energy, sustainability, mobility, and Internet of Things technology​ ​at​ ​the​ ​design​ ​phase.​ ​If​ ​they’re​ ​already at​ construction​ documents,​ ​it’s​ ​just​ ​too​ ​late for us to provide any value.

At​ ​the​ ​design​ ​document or​​ earlier​ ​phase,​ we​ ​help developers​ ​think​ ​through smart buildings and districts​ ​from​ ​​an integrated​ ​perspective.​ We​ bring strategic​ ​planning​ ​services​ ​to​ ​​the​ developer​, and help align the ​​utility​ ​and​ ​the​ ​city to achieve the best possible impact from an economic development / ROI perspective, from a customer experience perspective, from an environmental impact perspective, and so on.

George Karayannis will be speaking at the 2018 BuiltWorlds Summit in Chicago this April. Learn more about the event and secure your tickets before it’s sold out!