Purpose-built smart cities are seen as the ultimate fruition of connected living — at least as they’re depicted in movies and TV shows. Not surprisingly, such grand visions face obstacles.
Fortunately for this idea, hope springs eternal. The latest proponent to lock onto smart cities, former President and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce Marc Lore, believes he can have one up and running within about eight years — assuming that a lot of things go right.
Departing Walmart last January after four years and a blazing run as its eCommerce chief, Lore grabbed headlines in Q3 2021 by announcing his plans for the city of Telosa, a connected and sustainable wonderland sprawling over 150,000 acres in a to-be-determined site in one of six areas being scouted, including Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian Region.
Lore is seeking $400 billion in financing and is bringing partners on board to kick off the creation of Telosa, reportedly to begin as a $25 billion, 1,500-acre village housing some 50,000 residents on its way to eventually welcoming five million connected neighbors in the 2030 timeframe.
Design for the eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy and drought-resistant city of bikes, pedestrians and autonomous vehicles is provided by famed eco-builder Bjarke Ingels.
Smart cities and adjacent undertakings have fired imaginations for years, but actual projects have struggled. As COVID lockdowns went into effect in 2020, Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Sidewalk Labs had to scrap plans for a smart development on Toronto’s waterfront called Quayside.
In a blog post, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said that “unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, [and] it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan.”
Doctoroff added that despite the letdown, Sidewalk Labs has “started innovative companies addressing urban mobility, next-generation infrastructure and community-based healthcare, and has invested in startups working on everything from robotic furniture to digital electricity. We continue to work internally on factory-made mass timber construction that can improve housing affordability and sustainability, a digital master-planning tool that can improve quality of life outcomes and project economics, and a new approach to all-electric neighborhoods.”
While not nearly as glittering as the city of Telosa, the November passage of the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a boost for efforts to bring greater internet connectivity and 5G speeds to rural America, in part to make AgTech advances — and even smart city experiments — more supportable as efforts progress.
As reported by Nextgov, the $1 trillion spending package carves out “about $65 billion in federal funding … toward expanding broadband access and 5G connectivity nationwide. Establishing better broadband infrastructure would give more Americans in every part of the country access to high-speed internet, helping close the digital divide existing between urban and rural areas of the country.”
The infrastructure bill also makes available more money to fund the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) initiative, wherein states and municipalities can apply for grants to modernize public transit with new digital options, including payments.