Introducing CityWorks: Making Chicago a global hub for urban infrastructure innovation

CityWorks, IoT, Internet of Things

Microsoft believes that technology can empower people and organizations to tackle key societal challenges. Cities are at the forefront of discovering creative ways to use technology to address enduring problems and opportunities. A tremendous example of these innovative approaches is CityWorks, a new initiative in Chicago announced today. CityWorks is bringing together companies, government, research institutions and civic organizations to focus on urban infrastructure innovation. Microsoft is proud to be a founding partner of this initiative. The smart and sustainable solutions we develop and test in Chicago will lead to real improvements in cities across the world.

Emerging technical capabilities in areas such as cloud, data analytics and machine learning, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT) can increase cities’ ability to evaluate issues and solutions, identify problems in real-time, and predict and respond to potential future challenges.

Through Microsoft CityNext, we are working with partners around the world to use these technologies to enable governments and businesses to understand and manage resource limitations, while still driving economic growth. We’ve also recently announced the Azure IoT Suite, which empowers organizations of all sizes to capture, integrate and analyze diverse and voluminous data to produce usable information for decision-making and automated operations.

Within cities, a critical but often unseen element of economic and social vitality is the urban built infrastructure, including transportation, energy, and water systems. The scale and benefits of the services these systems provide is a major achievement of the 20th century, but the complexity and age of these systems is a challenge for the 21st.  Combining new ideas in infrastructure design, materials and management with advances in computing and data analysis provides an opportunity to improve how we build, update and use urban infrastructure.

Chicago is particularly suited to the development and validation of innovative ideas in this space, due to the commitment of local government, business and research leaders to urban tech experimentation – exploring how technology can help make the city a safe and rewarding place for residents to live, work, learn and innovate. Chicago is composed of neighborhoods that vary across many of the systems described above. That variability contributes to it being an ideal test bed for how new innovations can impact different environments and communities and be adopted into existing economic and social systems.

CityWorks, IoT, Internet of Things

We see real opportunities in bringing expertise from multiple organizations together to tackle city challenges. CityWorks is a project of the Chicago-based research and commercialization collaborative, UI LABS. We at Microsoft believe deeply in the UI LABS model of public-private partnerships, and we were delighted to be able to work closely with UI LABS and the city to define the opportunity around strengthening urban infrastructure and shape the CityWorks initiative.

Within Microsoft, the Technology and Civic Engagement Group focuses on bringing Microsoft’s best people and resources to help civic leaders – and the communities they serve – to solve their biggest challenges. Facilitating sustained partnerships across organizations and sectors is necessary to coalesce an understanding of community priorities, the policy environment and technological innovation, and we are excited to be participating in a number of such partnerships, like CityWorks, that enable diverse teams to find solutions and help expand and sustain successful approaches.

We look forward to working with all of the CityWorks partners and applying Microsoft expertise in leveraging and integrating technology, data and information to make urban areas stronger, safer, healthier and more resilient.  The ultimate outcome will be taking creative new approaches developed here and deploying them at scale in entire cities across the globe.

For more on CityWorks, Crain’s Chicago Business wrote about it here.

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