Tom Gray Interviews Simon Sylvester-Chaudhuri About Urban Tech and the Smart Cities Movement



Capalino’s Senior Vice President Tom Gray sat down with Simon Sylvester-Chaudhuri, Managing Director of Global Futures Group, to discuss urban tech, innovation and the upcoming Smart Cities NYC’ 17 conference. To learn how Capalino can help your company succeed in New York, please contact Tom at

Why are major cities like New York the testing grounds for technology and innovation?

Cities are growing, and are becoming more complex because of it. New York City alone is expecting to reach a population of 9.1 million by 2030. Even after a devastating global recession in 2008, NYC continued to grow. It has been nothing short of remarkable. Our stability is fueled by incentivizes by the public, private and academic sectors. Innovators and entrepreneurs have thrived, creating a robust innovation ecosystem that is transforming the regional economy and changing the way the world deals with some of its most urgent problems. Problems that are all represented in our urban landscape.

What are the challenges to implementing new technologies to improve urban life?

The energetic and disruptive spirit of the innovation economy also poses its own set of complex problems to the social whole. Tensions exist between the broader context of innovation and its multifaceted implications for urban citizens, both now and in the future. While there are a handful of cities that have begun to implement single solutions to tackle  specific issues, such as public safety, service delivery and traffic congestion, many cities do not yet have a comprehensive strategy in place to address multiple needs of our growing cities.

Single point solutions can fail to deliver full value to cities and lead to missed opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration.  To provide the greatest benefits to citizens, a true smart city requires a holistic strategy, developed through cross departmental conversations with  shared resources and data. Global Smart Cities events help educate and guide the public and private sectors through important conversations leading to the development and implementation of an integrated, holistic smart cities strategy.

Smart Cities urban tech and innovation

Tell us about the goals of the Smart Cities NYC’ 17 conference.

This is the first conference and expo to curate the conversation at the intersection of technology and urban life in New York City.  Its ambition and purpose is to catalyze inclusive economic growth, provide a public forum to interrogate and critique emerging problems and innovative solutions, and ultimately to help shape the future of cities for the benefit of the citizens of the world.  With broad participation from all economic sectors and geographical regions, we expect Smart Cities NYC’ 17 to be the inaugural event of an ongoing annual series that will increasingly attract a global audience of government officials, corporations, entrepreneurs, academics, media, artists and community leaders to one of the most dynamic centers of urban technology and innovation.

The event will provide catalytic opportunities for citizens, startups, corporations and public institutions, and in doing so, contribute to the creation of better, safer and smarter future cities. Also, like any major conference with a global draw the potential  benefits of a successful Smart Cities NYC’ 17 expo to New York  will be wide ranging.  As a global event, it will bring thousands of visitors and millions of new tourism dollars to the City and State economies, and create hundreds of part-time and full time jobs.

What themes should we be looking for in the urban tech and innovation space in 2017?

There are a few sectors that New York City will continue to invest in, supporting  innovations and technology for the foreseeable future. First, energy and emissions reduction. NYC has set aggressive emissions reductions goals that could provide huge opportunities for greentech firms. NYC is committed to an 80 percent reduction in all emissions by 2050. Municipal government will invest over $1 billion to retrofit more than 3,000 City-owned properties, and through the implementation of a very low-energy standard for new municipal buildings, outlined in Local Law 31.

Aautonomous vehicles smart citiesutonomous vehicles. They are here, and there are already at least 33 companies working on already have working driverless technology. In an urban environment we have it all when it comes to autonomous. The conversation here is not only how do we incorporate private vehicles, but also how do we utilize this technology while incorporating big-data, IoT and cognitive computing into a robust local and regional public transportation system?

Imagine this: getting picked up by an autonomous minibus that has a fresh cup of coffee and your mail waiting for you at the start of the day, and then ending your day with your grocery shopping and dry cleaning completed when you get back on. Autonomous vehicles have the ability to decrease the amount of trips we take and time we spend running errands.

Still, there is more to being a Smart City than making what we see every day on our streets work better for citizens. We might see the most positive change in the evolving social services and service delivery arena. Technology will allow government officials to utilize data across agency and IT silos. They can improve the ease with which citizens can access services, facilitate employee problem solving, provide access to educational materials and produce a foundation for answering big, predictive questions through data analytics. Most recently, the New York City Department of Education awarded a  $30 million dollar contract to Amazon to sell E-Books in NYC schools.


Where can I find out how to attend or participate in Smart Cities NYC ‘17?

We at the Global Futures Group are confident that with the breadth of our partnerships and the support of New York State, we can create a memorable world-class event that will significantly contribute to the quality of life of the citizens of New York.

Smart Cities NYC ‘17 is a celebration and exploration of the smarter and safer urban spaces of tomorrow.  In the spring of 2017, this unprecedented event takes over iconic public spaces across the five boroughs of New York City culminating in an immersive experience at the Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY).

We look forward to sharing the New York and global smart city experience with you the first week of May in 2017. Please join us at our next monthly town hall. If you are interested in getting involved please reach out to

Get The Latest From Capalino! Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for a roundup of top news and appointments from New York City and State government straight to your inbox every Friday.  Click here to subscribe to Affairs+Appointments.

More from Capalino

Senior Vice President Tom Gray on The Three Pillars for Successful Entry into the New York Market


Optimism for the Future Of New York


Our Picks: Holiday Volunteering and Giving Opportunities