New York Gets Smart

September 5, 2021

By Allison Duncil

How is New York becoming a smarter city? By taking resourceful action towards street lighting efficiency, waste management and more, the metropolis is building for the future. With over 9,000 startups and 100+ co-working spaces, New York is actively addressing the needs of today and is one of the leaders in the smart cities revolution. 


Many lighting systems in the city are manually controlled, which leaves room for improvement. In addition, most buildings still use incandescent and fluorescent lighting. However in 2013, the NYC government launched the Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency (ACE) program to start taking action. Many of the projects are geared towards LED lighting retrofits and have most recently allocated over $350 million to help fund lighting upgrades. LED lighting retrofits reduce the power of lighting, while smart controls do the same through dimming or reducing hours of operation.


It’s estimated that the city uses about 1 billion gallons of water a day. To better understand water consumption use, the city is implementing a large-scale Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system which will also give customers a tool to check their water usage on a daily basis. Additionally, the AMR system is compatible with a smartphone application that alerts consumers to abnormal water consumption and potential leaks—bringing over $73 million in savings.


Currently, the NYC sanitation department picks up around 10,500 tons of trash per day. One of the most common issues that the city faces is overflowing trash bins. To help alleviate this issue, the city developed The BigBelly smart trash can as a potential solution. This smart can comes with a wireless sensor that monitors trash levels and also includes a trash compactor that’s run with solar power. These upgrades allow pick-up trips to be more efficient and allows the bin to hold up to 5 times more trash than a regular trash bin.


The city has implemented a successful air monitoring program by conducting air quality surveys and setting up 75 monitoring stations across the metropolis. This program helped determine that low-cost heating oil was causing more air pollution than cars in the city and was able to ban certain fuel oil that was a contributor. Sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced by over 70% since 2008, thanks to this comprehensive program.

Technology has proven quite essential to these smart upgrades and monitoring systems and is only helping the city evolve. In addition, it also creates good-paying jobs, new career opportunities and a more livable environment for all of us.

Interested in learning more about urban planning and smart cities? Check out our upcoming September Monthly Forum event to learn more.