A Future Engineer’s Take

Jul 18, 2019

A new weekly summer series from ASME Global Public Affairs Executive Intern Paul Cipparone.

In April 2019, I attended an ASME Connect Event on Capitol Hill where I learned of a new ten week Summer Internship Program launched by Thomas Costabile, ASME Executive Director/CEO to connect engineering students with ASME.   Since I’m currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at George Mason University, which just happens to be conveniently located near the ASME Washington DC Office, I applied for – and was offered – the Fellowship.  During the next few weeks of my internship, I look forward to providing you with some of my personal insights on public policy events and activities related to various technologies of interest to ASME and our Members.

I began my internship by researching some of the public policy issues that the ASME Government Relations Team is working on, in order to become better informed of how decisions are made by policymakers.  I decided to attend a three part series of events hosted by the Washington Post which brought together innovators and regulators to discuss the technologies and vision guiding the creation of the cities of tomorrow.

The first event focused on Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Development. “Smart” refers to the vision of the city, such as analyzing the basics to optimize quality of life for those inside the city. In addition, smart cities are data-driven: data is used to make informed decisions about city layout, infrastructure placement, and everything else. Technology is then integrated to achieve goals that the data indicates. The ideal smart city is dense but walkable. The US does not have the majority of these cities in the world- there are 50 smart cities in Europe compared to 12 in the United States. This may be because quality of life is more of a focus in Europe, as opposed to economic development. A big urban development challenge is gentrification. One possible solution is to implement more equal access to transportation- urban mobility is the single most important factor in finding a job (which may be the difference allowing someone to stay in their neighborhood once development has taken place).

The next section was Innovations in Mobility. According to Tim Bean, CEO of Fortem Technologies, urban air mobility will be a huge market in the future- a potential $3 trillion industry. One challenge that brings up? Rogue aircraft. The solution? Drone-hunting drones, which could be useful when drone-based air travel becomes standard. Another aerial technology that may be used is geofences— no-fly zones that are marked off by various GPS points throughout cities. Construction on skyports has already begun with more on the way. Maglev trains are a proven technology that could be implemented in the US— they are already in use overseas. Maglev trains are much faster than traditional trains- could represent savings on the order of $6 billion per year for a DC to NY maglev train when factoring in currently lost productivity. This justifies the $10 to 12 billion price tag such a project would entail. Stephen Taylor of Lyft says there are four main principles to look at when innovating in transportation: 1) frictionless implementation; 2) use of existing infrastructure; 3) equity; and 4) safety. It is much better to get transportation solutions right than to be first.

The final part of the program was The Transformative Power of 5G. 5G has the potential to enable many emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and smart homes. The race to 5G matters because whoever gets there first sets the standards. This technology is starting to be rolled out now, with experts opining that it will be here in five years. One of the benefits of 5g is that it will enable many more endpoints in a square mile, thereby yielding lower latency. It will also enable a farther-reaching signal due to low bandwidth, which couples nicely with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) goal of widespread access to broadband. However, there is a possibility of added costs for 5G, which will decrease equitable access. In addition, concerns over privacy are valid, such as the explosion of devices coming onto the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will also lead to an increase in automation, meaning lost jobs. But despite possible downsides, the successful implementation of 5G could enable another technological revolution.

To watch segments from the program or learn more about those interviewed, click here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/Washington-post-live-transformers-cities-2019/?utm_term=.8fd5a86ba8eb