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Rise of the Connected State: Urban Renewal, Health Care, Innovation Complement Michigan’s Automotive Leadership in the Digital Era

By James Amend

Page 40-41

As leaders in connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as a region undergoing a renaissance in economic redevelopment, Southeast Michigan ­finds itself on the doorstep of a new day in the information age, where data gathering and analysis will connect people and things like never before.

The advantages of an intensely connected world, which is underpinned by big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) remotely linking objects and devices to our ­fingertips, appear limitless. As a hub for automotive research and development, the state is keenly aware of how connected cars could save lives, improve the environment and ease the everyday grind. But the possibilities for enriching daily life go well beyond transportation and into ­fields like urban renewal, health care, government, manufacturing and education.

“The idea and successful execution of connected devices is valuable to society as a whole,” said Keith Collins, executive vice president and chief information of­ficer at North Carolina-based SAS, a statistical analysis software company.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates the number of devices connected to the internet, such as automated home systems that turn on the porch lights at night or fitness bracelets that share your workout with friends, will surpass 50 billion by 2020. That is seven times the number of people on earth.

The information unlocked by such widespread connectivity, as well as the behavioral patterns and predictions that data can yield, may solve future cultural dilemmas, such as a global urban population expected to surpass 6 billion by 2045.

Ingeborg Rocker, vice president of 3DEXPERIENCity at Dassault Systèmes, a French multinational software company, said it is time break away from traditional paradigms of urbanism.

“How do we rethink living and mobility in the 21st century?” she asked. “It will be a smart, serviceable environment where objects can be easily programmed and devices can send information back to us.”

MORE: Fortune Magazine’s Geoff Colvin Assesses Michigan’s Leadership in the Technology Race

3DEXPERIENCity is a data-rich, virtual model of a city, where researchers and developers can develop, analyze, simulate and even operate new scenarios for the cities prior to their realization. In this way, potentially dramatic changes to the landscape, infrastructure and population can be previewed and — if undesired — prevented. It is a sharable platform between stakeholders and is continuously updated to provide a real-time point of reference. Want to build a new high-rise? 3DEXPERIENCity will be able to visualize how the development might affect the current and future demography, or how it may alter traffic patterns and electrical use.

“It may chart the entire lifecycle of a city,” Rocker said.

Dassault Systèmes has applied the technology for an initiative called Virtual Singapore, a dynamic data model designed to enhance government services, the connectivity of its residents and fuel innovations to answer severe growth restrictions on the small island nation.

Rocker thinks Detroit, with its automotive backbone and buzz of redevelopment, could employ a similar virtual model.

“It would be a fantastic place,” she said. “There is incredible momentum, entrepreneurship and a pioneering spirit.”

The plan would not only provide development direction, but also could create a new revenue stream by selling Detroit’s smart city expertise and model to other cities seeking successful revitalization.

The promise of connectivity also can be seen in emerging health care technologies, said Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

“We can use big data to deliver personalized medicine to a patient based on their genetic makeup,” said Lassiter, who oversees the $5.5 billion health care organization, comprising six hospitals, 60 clinical sites and 28,000 employees.

Cancer patients, for example, respond to treatments differently and only until recently have researchers been able to determine why. Now speci­fic cancers can be targeted using data from a patient’s genetic makeup as well as the tumor itself. The method is called precision medicine, and Henry Ford leads a national, seven health system consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health researching its possibilities among 1 million cohorts.

Lassiter said participation in the program underscores Michigan’s history as a health care innovator.

“Precision medicine is the complete embodiment of our commitment to our patients,” he said. “We are on the cutting edge, personalizing care you won’t ­find in other places.”

The automobile will continue to play a major role in the future, just as it has since American industrialist Henry Ford’s $5-a-day wage brought personal mobility to the masses. But with cities around the world already straining under gridlock, the auto industry must shift from exclusively supplying personal transportation to enabling a shared model where people, goods and services move freely, said John Kwant, vice president of City Solutions at Ford Motor Co.

“Otherwise it all comes to a halt,” Kwant said. “There is widespread agreement that there needs to be investment in infrastructure, but we also have to ensure it is not all going to cement and steel, and rail cars and things. An increasing amount of it has to be going to smart applications to help all that capacity — new and old — be better coordinated.

A connected world does not come without risk, however, Collins added.

“There are steps that must be taken to ensure data integrity and security,” he warned.

“Organizations that capitalize on the bene­fits of connected technologies must also be committed to safeguarding the collection, management and analysis of all the data that comes with it. Modern computing power makes taking these steps easier and more affordable than ever before.”

James Amend is a senior editor at Wards Auto in Southfield.