Will America’s Steel City Build the First Grid of Microgrids?

by , Microgrid Knowledge

To many, the idea of creating a grid of microgrids is somewhere out in the future. Even a pipe dream. But for Pittsburgh, it’s now.

The city is pursuing an aggressive plan to lead on energy, which includes developing a series of connected local energy systems.

“The idea of having an energy plant that is 100 miles away producing energy to make your toast would be left in the 19th century, where it was started,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.

Peduto was among panelists last week who presented Pittsburgh’s strategy in a webinar hosted by Harvard Business Review (HBR), Siemens and 100 Resilience Cities.

Such talk is somewhat daring. Microgrids themselves are nascent, never mind a network of them that uses automated software so that they can trade energy among each other.

Read the full article here.

Pittsburgh will buy ‘smart’ garbage cans that signal when they’re full

by BOB BAUDER, Trib Live

Pittsburgh would have “smart” garbage cans under a $580,000 proposal its public works director is pitching to City Council.

Director Mike Gable wants to buy 400 to 500 cans that feature sensors to gauge garbage volume and send a wireless signal when they’re full.

He estimates the cost for the cans and computer equipment at $580,000, but said the smart cans would greatly cut down on hours public works crews spend checking cans to see if they’re full. The city has about 1,200 cans situated in public places.

“That’s something we do every single day,” Gable said. “We spend around 100,000 hours a year emptying rubbish cans. That in a nutshell is 50 employees. We’re estimating we’re going to be able to reduce our activity there by 30 to 50 percent.”

Read the full story here.

Let’s make smart parking tools for Pittsburgh

by MARK FICHMAN AND STEPHEN E. SPEAR, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Can Pittsburgh become a Smart City, using data wisely, making the best use of its current resources and serving the needs of its citizens and visitors? We think it can if we have the wit, wisdom and will to move forward.

As faculty members at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, we have been studying how to make parking “smarter” since 2013. The city of Pittsburgh is well positioned to improve parking for the benefit of its citizens and visitors, by improving travelers’ experience, facilitating access to local businesses, mitigating emissions and reducing the city’s carbon footprint. These goals can be accomplished by pricing parking “right” and using technologies to manage parking and provide parking information. In today’s world, everything can use an app.

Read the full story here.

Pittsburgh Is Building a Tech-Focused Government

by Juliet Van Wagenen, StateTech

The city’s leaders have embraced innovation from several angles, driving growth with a focus on new technology.

Pittsburgh was once known as the capital of the U.S. steel industry but is forging a new identity. In response to increasing automation, the western Pennsylvania city has evolved to embrace technology and has emerged as a leader in innovation.

In 1983, unemployment in Pittsburgh reached more than 17 percent with the fallout of closing steel mills. But a report commissioned in 1990 moved the city to push development in five areas: finance, energy, IT, manufacturing and healthcare, according to a recent National League of Cities report.

As a result, the city has seen major growth centered around many high-tech initiatives and is now home to major technology companies — Google, Apple, Bosch, Uber, Facebook, Nokia and IBM, among others — that generate $20.7 billion in annual payrolls.

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Seeking Smart Streetlights: Creative Procurement in Pittsburgh

by ROBERT BURACK, Data-Smart City Solutions

Pittsburgh is leveraging an effort to replace the entirety of its 40,000 city owned and operated streetlights as an opportunity to enhance city service delivery through connected technology and address neighborhood equity issues. The city is taking an open and iterative approach, learning from the successes of peer cities and from the constraints of its past procurement efforts.

By issuing a less prescriptive and open Request for Information (RFI), Pittsburgh is making room for the rapid pace of smart city innovation. This shows that even a straightforward procurement for something concrete, like streetlights, can turn into an opportunity for creative engagement with vendors and innovators, and for internal problem-solving.

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A whiff of citizen engagement powers Pittsburgh’s new air pollution app

Jason Shueh, StateScoop: A new tool from Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab reports on poor air quality with help from a sensor almost everyone has: the human nose 37xl0qw.

To alert residents of hazardous pollution, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab released a new app to map noxious odors in Pittsburgh.

Dubbed Smell PGH, the app — available on iOS and Android — works by combining crowdsourced reports of “unsafe smells” with air quality data submitted from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. CREATE Lab Project director Beatrice Dias said the app represents a two-way channel for locals to report potentially hazardous aromas and to receive pollution warnings from the county health department and AirNow.gov, the Environmental Protection Agency’s national air quality monitoring portal.

“Smell is such a personal experience and it’s very subjective, but for a lot of people it’s very real, especially for people who live near a pollution source,” Dias said. “The beauty of the Smell PGH app — and hopefully the power of it — is that it helps residents understand it’s not just you, that you’re part of a community that’s experiencing this.”

The Heinz Foundation funded Smell PGH in 2016 with a $49,000 grant to Carnegie Mellon along with an additional $70,000 grant to the university to support air quality monitoring. With these funds, the CREATE Lab collaborated with community members to see where their efforts would go furthest. The common thread in the feedback they received was a demand for pollution complaints to be heard.

“Just giving people a way to contribute their voice is important,” Dias said. “At the CREATE Lab we find that even though we do a lot of work in technology that the human experience is very important to us, and documenting that in a way that’s related to the technology is also important.”

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The Hidden Fences of August Wilson’s Birthplace: The structures both define and devalue a fabled Pittsburgh neighborhood.


Throughout this week, CityLab is running a series on borders—both real and imagined—and what draws so many of us to places on the edge.

I drove around The Hill District the other day in search of fences. You may have heard that The Hill is the historic Pittsburgh neighborhood where the legendary playwright August Wilson was born, and it’s also the setting for his award-winning play, Fences, which Denzel Washington recently adapted into a movie.
The Hill is also where I was born and where I lived until I was about five years old. I moved back to Pittsburgh as an adult, where I’ve lived off and on for roughly 14 years. However, after watching the movie Fences, I couldn’t shake this nagging thought that I didn’t remember any actual fences in The Hill District.

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PennDOT pushes for national test site recognition

The PittNews: Over the last semester, students have witnessed Uber’s self-driving cars racing down the streets of Oakland, and now, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wants more.

After Pittsburgh lost  the Smart City Challenge in July 2016, PennDOT submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting that the agency consider Pittsburgh, and parts of Pennsylvania, as a national test site for autonomous vehicles, expanding the city’s investment in driverless vehicles.

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Pittsburgh Launches New ‘Burgh’s Eye View’ With Visual Neighborhood Data

Source: CBS

With Burgh’s Eye View, city residents now have an in-depth way to see what’s going on in their neighborhoods.

Yesterday, Mayor Bill Peduto announced the launch of Burgh’s Eye View, a mobile app that delivers open city data to the public. In a statement, Peduto said the online tool provides “transparency directly to the citizens of Pittsburgh, and more importantly transforms the experience of open government—by making it truly accessible to everyone.”

See more here>>

Hands off the steering wheel? Not so fast, when it comes to accepting driverless cars


video from Washington Post 

Michael Laris, Portland Press Herald: Cars capable of driving themselves may be on the showroom floor sooner than you think, but whether they should come with all the current essentials – including a steering wheel and pedals on the floor – has the auto industry at a fork in the road.

Ford sided with the pioneering engineers at Google last week in announcing plans to introduce limited-use vehicles without traditional controls within five years. Some other major automakers – and virtually all of them are well along in their work on self-driving vehicles – say they will introduce automated elements one step at a time, until drivers accept that they no longer need to control their cars.