The quest to give machines human-level intelligence has been around for decades, and it has captured imaginations for far longer — think of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the 19th century. Artificial intelligence, or AI, was born in the 1950s, with boom cycles leading to busts as scientists failed time and again to make machines act and think like the human brain. But this time could be different because of a major breakthrough — deep learning, where data structures are set up like the brain’s neural network to let computers learn on their own. Together with advances in computing power and scale, AI is making big strides today like never before.
Frank Chen, a partner specializing in AI at top venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, makes a case that AI could be entering a golden age. Knowledge@Wharton caught up with him at the recent AI Frontiers conference in Silicon Valley to talk about the state of AI, what’s realistic and what’s hype about the technology, and whether we will ever get to what some consider the Holy Grail of AI — when machines will achieve human-level intelligence.
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Knowledge@Wharton: What is the state of AI investment today? Where do we stand?
Frank Chen: I’d argue that this is a golden age of AI investing. To put it in historical context, AI was invented in the mid-1950s at Dartmouth, and ever since then we’ve basically had boom and bust cycles. The busts have been so dramatic in the AI space that they have a special name — AI winter.
- The National League of Cities (NLC) has released a report, “Local Tools to Address Housing Affordability: A State-by-State Analysis,” examining the intersection of state policies and local housing markets. It suggests cities’ ability to improve housing conditions varies greatly across the country, and it depends on both state and local regulations.
- The report looks at five policy areas in all 50 states and the District of Columbia: inclusionary housing, rent control, housing vouchers, housing trust funds and state tax incentive programs. It says DC and cities in California and New York have more tools than other cities do to address housing affordability, while cities in Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Texas and Virginia have fewer.
- The report indicates cities and states need stronger partnerships with each other to solve the housing crisis.
Cars, houses, streetlights and HVAC systems are all learning how to talk. The Internet of Things — the growing network of physical objects that can digitally “speak” to one another — is set to revolutionize how cities function, from relieving gridlock to picking up the trash on time. But experts say for IoT-enabled smart cities to reach their full potential, buildings need to be smart, too.
An integrated network of smart buildings could offer significant energy savings to smart cities and keep the average office tenant happier and safer. But today’s urban planners face a significant roadblock: the connectivity gap between the internal workings of buildings and the outside world.
“You can add all of the sensors that you want to the infrastructure of a building, but without a system for in-building connectivity, there’s no way that information can be relayed and shared throughout a smart city,” said Luke Lucas, senior manager for engineering business development at T-Mobile. “Without wireless systems, without connectivity, all that data has nowhere to go.”
Self-contained smart buildings can certainly reduce waste and cut owners’ costs, Lucas said. Heating systems shut off as soon as an office is empty by keeping track of where tenants are in a building. Windows can darken themselves on sunny days to keep tenants cool. On a large scale, these savings could make a difference for an entire city’s energy consumption, as commercial buildings draw almost two-thirds of the power used in the U.S.
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UW-Eau Claire proposals regarding energy-tracking software and a regional video network were among the 30 second-round winners announced recently in Foxconn Technology Group’s Smart Cities-Smart Futures competition.
The competition is intended to promote innovative ideas to enhance quality of life, improve working environments, inspire creative city planning, promote sustainable energy solutions and expand transportation networks and living spaces in Wisconsin.
Second-round winners from UW-Eau Claire were materials science and entrepreneurship major Grey Larson, with a proposal in the energy and environment category; and Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, with a project about education. All second-round winners will receive $1,500 to help further develop their projects, according to a Foxconn news release.
Larson and software engineering and information systems major Alex Stout, both seniors, submitted their proposal on behalf of the seven students involved with Clearwater Labs, a software consulting group the pair founded on campus.
One of Clearwater Labs’ first projects involves building an energy dashboard to gather energy usage data from across campus and put it in a user-friendly database. They believe the green initiative has the potential to help the university reduce energy costs and better track the effectiveness of conservation projects.
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Foxconn Technology Group has entered into an agreement with the fifth-largest city in Wisconsin to help the municipality pursue and implement ‘smart city’ technologies there.
Cory Mason, mayor for the city of Racine, announced the partnership Tuesday.
“Partnering with Foxconn gives the city a unique competitive advantage,” Mason said in a statement provided by the city. “All over the world there is a smart city movement happening, and both the city and Foxconn want to operate in that space.”
Technology and systems that will improve public safety, transportation, utilities and high-speed internet are among the concepts that will be developed through the partnership.
Foxconn last month acquired its second office building in downtown Racine that would create a co-working space for its smart city efforts. That building will become known as Foxconn Place Racine and will house at least 125 company employees. Foxconn in late December bought a smaller office building at 601 Lake Ave., which will be a hub for smart city projects.
“This initiative speaks to the core of what Foxconn is all about, and this partnership will cement a lasting legacy for the next generation of innovators in the city of Racine and beyond,” said Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn founder and CEO Terry Gou, in a statement provided by the city. “I am excited to see projects get off the ground and start to take shape. I have no doubt that we will soon see some exciting stories of creativity, discovery, and success that will positively shape the future of Racine and Wisconsin as a whole.”
Foxconn plans to break ground by this summer on its LCD screen fabrication plant in Mount Pleasant, which is a village in Racine County. Local officials expect the plant will house 1,500 jobs and exceed 1 million square feet of building space.
Foxconn is putting up $1 million over the next three years to support a statewide smart city competition in Wisconsin, which is designed to bring to the forefront ideas from students and faculty in Wisconsin that could improve health care, transportation, production and other elements of the state’s economy.
Partnership will make Racine a hub of innovation that enhances
quality of life and work for residents and businesses
City of Racine – Mayor Cory Mason, together with Foxconn Technology Group’s (Foxconn) executive leadership, today announced a partnership to pursue public-private partnerships to accelerate a shared vision for Racine as a ‘Smart City.’ The agreement, which Mayor Mason will submit for the Common Council’s approval tonight, builds on the “Racine Smart City Initiative” framework passed in February. Dr. Louis Woo, Special Assistant to the Foxconn Chairman and CEO, signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on behalf of Foxconn.
Projects within the scope of the agreement include the development of strategic relationships with public and private organizations, academic institutions, or technology-based companies. Under the agreement, various partnerships will yield solutions for industry sectors such as public safety, transportation systems, public utilities, high-speed networks, and related infrastructure.
“Racine’s history is rooted in innovation. We are inventors, builders, and doers. To be successful in the 21st century and continue to innovate, we have to anticipate the needs of future entrepreneurs and create an environment that will attract innovators to the City of Racine,” said Mayor Mason.
“Partnering with Foxconn gives the City a unique competitive advantage. All over the world there is a Smart City movement happening, and both the City and Foxconn want to operate in that space. The City’s infrastructure combined with ingenuity of Foxconn sends a clear message to innovators and investors – if you have an idea, you want to be in Racine,” continued Mason.
Foxconn owns two buildings in the City of Racine – 601 Lake Ave, which will be a hub for Smart City projects, and One Main Street, named Foxconn Place Racine. The building will also be home to the Wisconn Valley Innovation Center, part of the AI 8K+5G ecosystem that Foxconn is building in Wisconsin.
Dr. Louis Woo said the Racine Smart City Initiative will be a great outcome for both parties and in line with Foxconn’s vision for a AI 8K+5G ecosystem.
“This initiative speaks to the core of what Foxconn is all about, and this partnership will cement a lasting legacy for the next generation of innovators in the City of Racine and beyond. I am excited to see projects get off the ground and start to take shape. I have no doubt that we will soon see some exciting stories of creativity, discovery, and success that will positively shape the future of Racine and Wisconsin as a whole,” said Dr. Woo.
Last month, the Common Council authorized the City of Racine to submit an application to the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge. Winning the challenge would officially designate Racine as a “Smart City” as well as give the City access to best practices in use of integrated technology and systems implementation, capital for specific projects, and consulting support from the Smart Cities Council. Only five cities in North America will receive the award.
On Friday, March 15th, the City was notified that it was selected as one of the 10 remaining finalists. The five winners of the Readiness Challenge will be announced on April 16th.
“I am excited about the opportunities the partnership with Foxconn and the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge presents. For our residents, my goal is to use data and new technologies to make more informed decisions and deliver better services. When it comes entrepreneurs, we want to be the City of choice for inventors and innovation. There is a lot of work to still be done, but we are making fantastic progress,” said Mayor Mason.
Journal Times: Racine to partner with Foxconn; needs City Council approval
Our 2019 North American Smart Cities Readiness Challenge was our biggest yet. More than 100 cities throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico participated and three dozen delivered very strong applications detailing numerous smart cities projects they planned for their communities. The process of judging was very difficult, but we’ve narrowed the entries to 10 finalists, which are listed below.
This year we saw much more regional collaboration and three of the finalists are true regional efforts — one even spans the U.S./Mexico border. There’s also a lot to be inspired by. For instance, a couple of the finalists are also using smart cities strategies to give their communities a second life.
We will narrow these finalists to five winners, who will receive a year-long Readiness Program to help turn their smart cities visions into at-scale projects. Winners will be announced at Smart Cities Week San Diego. Register to attend to hear from and be inspired by them. — Kevin Ebi
Baltimore has truly embraced a collaborative spirit to advance its vision by establishing a smart cities committee that includes a wide range of city staff but also has broad participation from the community and the tech ecosystem. Its data-driven, collaborative efforts have already yielded results to improve the quality of life for city residents and now it plans to continue that approach to better protect residents from flooding, address the opioid crisis and eliminate the digital divide.
Dallas has had a smart cities program in place since 2014 and has a strong plan, structure and foundational technologies in place. It’s looking to create long-lasting impact with citizen-focused services, commitment to sustainability, and cross-cutting programs such as integrating transportation decision-making with housing, economic development, equity and the environment.
Edmonton has already delivered substantial value for its residents through the design of programs like You Can Benefit, which helps citizens find government services, and multi-stakeholder projects like their Open Data Initiative. Their world-class team is helping Canada’s fifth-largest city scale up their existing Smart City ecosystem, joining with neighboring jurisdictions, universities and community groups to deliver a bigger regional impact by leveraging technology and innovation.
Jersey City, NJ, is a high-diversity, high-growth city that’s motivated to integrate smart technology into every facet of the community to improve the quality of life for all residents and increase economic development. The city has identified 15 projects, including one to better collect and use data to create targeted health interventions to streamline resources while meeting neighborhood-specific health needs.
Montgomery, AL, is advancing its smart cities vision through strategic partnerships, building relationships with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama Power Company and others. It’s using A.I. technology to proactively assess road conditions, replacing a time-consuming, labor-intensive process, and partnering with schools, community centers and others to extend Wi-Fi access to all students.
Palm Coast, FL, is a comeback kid kind of city. In the mid-2000s, it was one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. when a recession put a heavy halt to the development of its promising downtown. Ten years later, its new approach and vision, driven by economic opportunities and smart cities principles, has resulted in a new Innovation District that’s creating jobs and improving the quality of life for residents.
Racine, WI, is a post-industrial city poised for an economic comeback. In the midst of substantial redevelopment initiatives, it plans to turn its community into a smart cities laboratory that will serve as a showcase for other cities in similar situations. Among its numerous partners is Foxconn Technology Group, a company that plans to invest billions in the region, including an Innovation Center and related facilities in the City’s downtown.
Cleantech San Diego is convening multiple cities, the port, airport, and regional planning experts from across San Diego County to approach smart cities efforts on a regional scale. Through sharing data and best practices and collaborative planning, entities will work together to develop a regional smart cities action plan that, among other things, will coordinate and deploy smart traffic signals and support the implementation of climate action plans.
The North Florida Smart Region Coalition is working from an established regional smart transportation plan that includes 33 project types for deployment across four counties. The coalition, which includes the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, the cities of Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Jacksonville Transportation Authority and more than 100 public and private partners, is collaborating to advance new energy, safety, telecommunications, and health and human services initiatives.
U.S./Mexico Smart Towns Consortium brings together cities throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the Mexican state of Chihuahua with research institutions including Western New Mexico University and Arizona State University. Consortium members are working together to find ways of using smart technologies to benefit rural communities, especially in the areas of transportation and workforce and economic development.
Thank you to everyone who supported and/or attended our “Smart Cities – Smart Futures WI” Round 2 recognition ceremony on March 13! We celebrated the 30 winners who moved on to Round 3, which kicked off last night.
Milwaukee Business Journal: Thirty teams advance in Foxconn’s $1M Smart Cities – Smart Futures competition
The Journal Times: Foxconn announces second-round winners of Smart Cities-Smart Futures
BizTimes Milwaukee: UW-Madison, Medical College lead round two winners of Foxconn contest
Round 3 criteria was also released and entries are due April 5, 2019:
Milwaukee Business Journal: Thirty teams advance in Foxconn’s $1M Smart Cities – Smart Futures competition
Foxconn Technology Group announced the 30-team second round participants of its “Smart Cities – Smart Futures” competition this week, with teams being awarded $1,500 each to fund their ideas.
Foxconn is putting up $1 million over the next three years to sponsor the competition, which is designed to bring to the forefront ideas from students and faculty in Wisconsin that could improve health care, transportation, production and other elements of the state’s economy.
The first round of winners were announced in December at an event at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Each team received $500 to support their ideas and were invited to apply for the second round.
The 30 teams have an opportunity to move to the third round, where a field of 16 teams will each receive $5,000. In its inaugural year, the competition will award more than $200,000 in its three rounds.
University of Wisconsin-Madison had the most teams represented in the second round with seven teams, followed by Medical College of Wisconsin with six. UW-Milwaukee had four. Among the winning ideas is a virtual learning app by Concordia University, designed to help students learn the steps of a skill before they participate in hands-on practice.
The competition is also supported by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the Wisconsin Technology Council, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation and the WiSys Technology Foundation.
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