The electronics company Panasonic is building “smart
city” infrastructure in a remote area near the Denver
The project, called CityNow, is laying the groundwork
for high-tech highways and autonomous vehicles in the city,
according to the mayor’s office.
Panasonic may be best known for consumer electronics, but it has
started moving into high-tech urban design in recent years.
The company is now building “smart city” infrastructure near
Denver, Colorado, with the goal of turning the area into
a “smart city” by 2026. The initiative is part of a larger
Panasonic program Panasonic called CityNow. Although the
definition of a “smart city”
varies depending on who you ask, the term typically describes
a metro area that prioritizes the use of technology in its
On a 400-acre swath of empty land near the Denver Airport, the
company has installed free WiFi, LED street lights, pollution
sensors, a solar-powered microgrid, and security cameras.
With the help of the new microgrid (which partially relies on
solar power), the district can be powered for 72 hours in the
event of an outage, Jarrett Wendt, EVP of Panasonic
told PC Mag.
Panasonic is preparing the area for autonomous vehicles, too. In
spring 2018, a self-driving shuttle will connect a light rail
station to bus routes throughout the Denver area.
In late 2017, the company and city partnered
with the US Department of Transportation on a $72 million
autonomous vehicle project, also part of CityNow. In coming
years, on a 15-mile stretch of a
highway, Denver and Panasonic hope to deploy a
high-tech system called Road X that would “talk” to self-driving
cars. For instance, it would provide navigation recommendations
(based on real-time traffic patterns) and create “virtual
guardrails” that would alert drivers when they veer out of their
Emily Silverman, a program manager for the City of Denver, told
Business Insider that her team believes the technology will
improve residents’ lives. For example, since city officials will
be able to remotely control the LED streetlights, they hope to
increase public safety while minimizing light pollution and
“The city’s population growing by 15,000 residents annually.
While this is great for economic development, it also means that
Denver faces challenges like traffic congestion, air quality
issues, and affordable housing shortages,” Silverman said.
“We needed to think about how we plan to address these challenges
while maintaining Denver’s character.”
Panasonic plans to share all the data it collects with the city
via an open API. If successful in the Denver area, the company
may launch CityNow in other American cities.
This is Panasonic’s first rollout of CityNow in the US, but in
2015, the company completed work on the Fujisawa Sustainable
Smart Town, 30 miles west of Tokyo. According to
Wired, Panasonic hooked up 1,000 new residences to a
solar-powered smart grid, which monitors energy usage in real
time. To accommodate electricity demands, the company also built
a solar farm south of the city and 440 yards of solar cells along
Cities across the US are embarking on similar projects, in
which officials and private companies tap all kinds of data —
from pollution levels to commute patterns — to improve the
functionality of the urban landscape. In 2014, New York Coty
partnered with Sidewalk Labs (the urban innovation unit of Google
parent company Alphabet) to replace phone booths
Wifi kiosks in Manhattan. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
launched a fleet of Uber autonomous vehicles in 2016.
At a press conference at CES 2017, Denver Mayor Michael
Hancock said the changes are laying the foundation for a smart
“We’re going to continue to evolve. Those opportunities are
going to continue to evolve,” he said. “And we look forward to
our solar panels, our solar grid. That’s awesome stuff, but it’s
just the beginning.”