Chicago is Well Poised to Succeed and Lead in the IoT Revolution (Q3 2018)

-Lewis Percy and Bridget Hardy, AEG Fellows

Innovation has long found a home in Chicago: from the 1893 World’s Fair introduction to the zipper and Cracker Jack, to the births of the steel framed skyscraper and Chicago Pile-1, the first ever self-sustaining nuclear reactor. Even today, Chicago is ripe with manufacturing, software development, data analytics, and is home to the fourth most Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. as of 2017.

In the 21st century, Chicago continues to pave the way, this time in Internet of Things (IoT). The strong drive towards IoT capabilities in energy generation, distribution, and efficiency is supported by the City of Chicago and the city’s dominant utility, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). Chicago’s keen adoption of new technologies is in part a reflection of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policy, he has stated: “Chicago is continuing to invest in the industries of tomorrow in order to create the jobs we need today.” ComEd is similarly committed to providing fulfilling employment opportunities for future generations across Illinois. As part of its effort, ComEd supports the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), which promotes a clean energy future and a stronger Illinois economy.

In October 2011, the Illinois General Assembly built the foundation for IoT to flourish in Chicago through the enactment of the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA). The EIMA aimed to upgrade aging infrastructure and invest in smart technology with $2.6 billion allotted toward modernization of the electric grid. Most significantly with regards to IoT, ComEd committed to replace all four million meters in their system with smart meters by 2021. Smart meters are the building blocks of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and allow two way communication between the utility and the customer. Today, ComEd has nearly reached their mark, and is expected to finish all installations by early 2019--two years ahead of schedule. Effective expansion of IoT technologies in the home and workplace requires AMI, and through this commitment Chicago is ensuring future capabilities in this burgeoning industry.

This work also ties in with the Illinois Utility of the Future Study - NextGrid. The 18-month consumer driven study places a key focus on IoT and technology in two of eight working groups: “New Technology Deployment and Innovation” and “Metering Communications and Data.” The new technology working group is particularly concerned with topics such as the Distributed Energy Resources (DER’s) and Electrics Vehicles (EV’s), and how these new technologies will fit with the electric grid. In addition to this, the 2013 City of Chicago Tech Plan aims to put Chicago at the heart of technological advancements in the United States. The plan’s five strategies include:

  • Next Generation Infrastructure

  • Every Community a Smart Community

  • Efficient, Effective and Open Government

  • Civic Innovation

  • Technology Sector Growth

The Tech Plan has resulted in an expansion of entrepreneurship in Chicago and has led to the development of abundant cleantech accelerators. IoT-centered enterprises are the cornerstone of many new startups, driven forward by the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center (CEC). The CEC is a non-profit that helps entrepreneurs reach self-sufficiency and it has launched innovation hubs such as 1871, Matter, UI Labs, and m-hub. UI Labs City Tech Collaborative uses the City of Chicago as an urban test bed for innovative solutions to city problems. Example projects include exploring incentives and education to reduce Chicago Transit Authority Red Line congestion during Cubs baseball games and constructing a platform for digital mapping of underground structures to overcome inefficiencies and costs derived from incomplete paper-based versions.

So what does all this mean for the city, its residents, and the future of energy? It means we can anticipate Chicago will be a dominant force in the IoT space in the short and long-term. The city’s position at the forefront of technological advancements should allow it to take advantage of new trends. Chicago will transform into a smart city enabled by data and fueled by increased efficiency. Life will become faster, cleaner, simpler, healthier, and the residents of Chicago will have greater control. However, new technology brings new concerns, notably in relation to cyber security. Public and private institutions in Chicago must fortify their abilities to protect the data and operations of its residents and enterprises. Given the steps it has taken thus far, Chicago is well poised to succeed and lead in the IoT revolution.

Please join us for the Q3 stakeholder series in Chicago as we take a more in depth look at energy technology in Chicago, and the city’s progress on IoT and Technology. AEG’s founder and CEO, H.G. Chissell, will facilitate the conversation and discussion leaders will include:

  • Philip Nevels, Director of Strategy, Exelon Utilities

  • Ben Gaddy, Director of Investments and CTO, Clean Energy Trust

  • Sherina Edwards, Partner, Quarles & Brady LLP

  • Rick Lisa, Group Sales Director, IoT/M2M, Intel

Advanced Energy Group is a stakeholder member-supported organization committed to developing and delivering advanced energy policies and solutions in key cities.  Stakeholder sessions are by invitation only.  For details of our programming please visit:

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