University-business collaborations are shaping tomorrow’s smart cities

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Here’s why university-business partnerships are essential for advancing smart cities.

By U2B Staff 

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Globalisation, technology and the democratisation of knowledge are just some of the forces that are changing communities and societies across the globe.

As we dive further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, newer waves of technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) is already caused seismic shifts in how we live, from improving safety to making our cities more sustainable. 

Consulting and research firm Frost and Sullivan project that over 80 percent of the population in developed countries will live in cities by 2050. This is hardly surprising as city life can act as a springboard for a better future, providing citizens with wider access to career opportunities, education and lifestyle choices. 

But rapid urbanisation also comes with its unique challenges. Issues such as traffic congestion, pollution to inadequate schools catalyse demand for smart cities and smart regions that can tackle these issues with technology.

The university’s role in the development of smart cities

Universities can help advance the development of smart cities, making them ideal partners for businesses or organisations that want a multidisciplinary approach in transforming urban spaces. 

One such example can already be seen in Southeast Asia. Through a collaboration with Malaysian conglomerate Sunway Group, Monash University Malaysia played a role in the transformation of Sunway City, which started as a tin-mining wasteland in the 80s to become a thriving township.

As universities typically host a wide range of departments and faculty, from business to IT and engineering, they act as ideal partners for the advancement of sustainable cities.


In a similar vein, Cox Communications recently announced that the company and Arizona State University (ASU) are collaborating to create the Cox Connected Environments Collaboratory at ASU.

This partnership will propel the development of Arizona’s smart region infrastructure, and aims to deliver on the promise of ASU’s Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) to build smarter communities in the greater Phoenix metropolitan region by solving pressing community challenges.

Smart city initiatives are nothing new in Phoenix, which has weathered the effects of 2008’s recession and continues to rebuild itself.

Some of the city’s past efforts include replacing some 100,000 existing street light fixtures with energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures.

The Cox-ASU partnership will bolster the city’s smart city initiatives.

Joining forces for a better future

Universities can help advance the development of smart cities. Source: Shutterstock

According to Cox, the Collaboratory is an incubation centre that aims to engage ASU students, staff and faculty to design the next wave of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that could, for example, optimise buildings for sustainability, provide new learning experiences in virtual and augmented reality, overhaul transportation infrastructure and more.

To power the Collaboratory, Cox will be deploying a comprehensive wired and wireless network on campus as part of ASU’s NextGen Network. 

In speaking about the collaboration, Arizona State University Chief Information Officer Lev Gonick said: “Cox is a trusted partner, and we are eager to see the Cox Connected Environments Collaboratory at ASU drive smart region applications that combine people, connected devices, data and processes to improve community operations and the citizen experience.”

The company is no stranger to powering smart city initiatives, said Steve Rowley, Cox Business executive vice president.

“Cox Business, combined with Cox2M, will bring new experiential capabilities to the campus and provide a space for all to innovate,” he said.

“Through our Cox2M business line, we will bring ASU students, staff and faculty the tools and capabilities to develop end-to-end solutions that can really make a difference,” said Sujata Gosalia, executive vice president and chief strategy officer, Cox Communications.

“We are excited to build the future together in this new collaborative environment.”