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LAPD Using Technology to Solve Crimes; Surveillance Equipment Lines Cities Around the World; World's Tallest Building Examined; California Developing Desalination Plant; Bill Nye Discusses City of the Future.

Aired July 26, 2014 - 14:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get a more cleaner future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a single key stroke you get the effect of a 38-person task force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California is in a serious drought and any new water supplies are important to the region.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is happening right now. From L.A. to Dubai, from wind turbines to smartphones, the building blocks for the next decade and beyond are all around us. I'm CNN's Rachel Crane. Over the next half-hour we'll take you around the globe to cities that are preparing for the future using technologies that change how we live and force us to ask the question, is the city of tomorrow already here?

The high cost of energy, crime, choking air pollution. Around the globe these 21st century challenges are all being met with real innovation. In England, wind energy from the Atlantic is powering London homes. Police in Los Angeles are crunching big data to solve every day crime. And in Seattle, one building is redefining what it means to be green.

Real solutions, but the challenges only grow bigger. According to the U.N., the world population will reach 8.3 billion by 2030. In the same time, greenhouse gases are expected to increase by 25 percent, the world's trash nearly doubled, while half the world will live in areas threatened by lack of water.

What does that mean for cities? And 60 percent of us will live in one, and by 2050, 70 percent. And the demand for clean air, water, energy, and yes, convenience, will skyrocket. By 2017, nearly half of the world's population will be online, and almost half of all Internet traffic will travel through smart devices. Imagine, fewer drivers commuting to work, smarter policing, buildings with no carbon footprint, and trash cans that tell us when they're full. Life in the city of tomorrow could be pretty great if we develop the technology we have today.

In Los Angeles the LAPD is using surveillance technology with roots in the CIA. They have police cruisers that scan license plates and a data center that makes sense of it all. It may sound like science fiction but it is real and it is helping them solve crimes faster and with less effort.


CRANE: Since the early 1990s, crime rates have steadily declined across the country. One possible explanation -- smarter data-driven policing. Here in Los Angeles, the LAPD is embracing new technologies and big data analytics like never before, changing the way we fight crime.

Watch Commander Sergeant Kennedy show us how big data analysis is changing the force.

SGT. SCOTT KENNEDY, LAPD: This is our license plate reader. We have three cameras attached to the light bar.

CRANE: License plate readers installed on patrol cars have become commonplace, and they automatically scan every license plate they drive by.

KENNEDY: Palantir goes through the Sacramento database to check for California vehicle systems to see if it's stolen or if there's a want on it for some reason. Be on alert, $30,000 warrant on the parked car we just passed that's right behind us.

CRANE: Over the course of the day, the LAPD can scan tons of thousands of license plates across the city. At the LAPD's real-time analysis and critical response division, those license plate scans are fed into a game-changing data mining system, a powerful application that can claim the CIA as an early investor.

CAPTAIN JOHN ROMERO, LAPD: It's a federated search system. Palantir combines disparate datasets, allows us to access them quickly. With a single key stroke you get the effect of a 30-person task force.

CRANE: After searching over 100 million data points, Palantir displayed an impressive wealth of information on one burglary suspect linking into cell phone number, arrest records, known associates, and past addresses. They could even track the suspect's past locations based on previous license plate scans.

ROMERO: If we are searching for him, we don't have to search all of L.A. County. We know where he frequents.

CRANE: Anybody who is a vehicle owner is then in Palantir?

ROMERO: Anybody who's a vehicle owner in a public place and has passed a license plate reader will be in our dataset. We cannot just go searching for you or anyone else without a reason, because we have a lot of data for people who have done nothing. CRANE: For those people who have done nothing, the ACLU of Southern

California believes the LAPD license plate readers may be violating civil liberties.

PETER BIBRING: A system of license plates readers that's pervasive enough to really track the movements of every car in the city in reasonable detail would effectively substitute for GPS trackers for everybody. The public should be the ones deciding what the proper balance is between their privacy rights and their public safety.

CRANE: The LAPD believe the public wants Palantir on their side.

ROMERO: You want to have the effect of 30 detectives working that burglary or that auto theft. It is hugely important to make those cases solvable.


CRANE: You may not realize it, but you're being watched. Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are literally cameras all around us. You walk outside the door and there's this expectation of privacy even when you're out in public. That's not the reality. As you're out here taking pictures of tall buildings and electronic billboards, you probably don't realize that the picture is actually being taken of you. There are some 6,000 security cameras all throughout the city that the New York City police department has at its disposal. But the question is, how much is too much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it came to my home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It depends on what they're actually doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to walk down the street knowing somebody is watching me makes me uneasy.

CARROLL: Let's say instead of standing in Times Square, you were standing in front of Big Ben in London. They have a security system called the ring of steel. There are security cameras practically everywhere in London. Let's say you were to walk from one end of the city to the other. Chances are you would have been captured by a security camera some 300 times. What are they doing with all that information?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're looking for crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the scary part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of it goes to waste. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're watching patterns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think they know what they're doing with all the information.

CARROLL: So here's the question that a lot of people I think are asking themselves as we go forward. How much of your personal privacy are you willing to sacrifice in order to be safe?


CRANE: Later on the show, Bill Nye the science guy predicts the future, California takes salt out of the ocean, and Erin Burnett visits the world's tallest building. But first, New York City wants to count every pedestrian in Manhattan, and it finally has the technology to do just that.


CRANE: And 8.3 million people live in New York city and millions more visit as tourists every year. What if you could count all that foot traffic and predict where the big crowds will pop up next?


RACHEL CRANE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours a year waiting in lines -- at the grocery store, for a hamburger, at their favorite restaurants. Imagine if you didn't have to? That may soon become a reality in New York where they're embracing new recognition technology that will count every pedestrian in the city.

NICOLAS O'BRIEN: Every neighborhood in the city walks. We really need to have an understanding of what that activity looks like to serve New Yorkers better.

CRANE: Over 60 percent of commuters in New York City travel by foot or public transit. For a city of 8.4 million, that's a lot of people to count.

FLORENT PEYRE: The department of transportation counts pedestrians around the city, and they send a few people to go twice a year, and they just sit there with umpire pitch counters. It doesn't really give a view what it's like day in, day out, through different seasons.

CRANE: A start-up called place Meter is trying to change that by providing a real-time picture of New York's pedestrian traffic using hundreds of existing video feeds around the city.

ALEX WINTER: We layer in computer vision algorithms that actually make it possible to detect and count people.

CRANE: Using online traffic video feeds, Place Meter currently counts about 10 million people a day. They can count occupy people are inside a building. The city's already using the data, providing pedestrian counts to small businesses in the city's online business atlas. And there's promising potential for data integration with consumer apps.

PEYRE: If instead of Yelp or Google Maps you could set up alerts telling you that restaurant you always wanted to try but it always packed, right now is the right time to go.

CRANE: Today the company only covers about 25 percent of the city. To help count the rest, Place Meter is offering to pay residents to stream video from their own windows using an old smartphone.

WINTER: Today we count different kinds of vehicles on pedestrians. Tomorrow we are going to start detecting and classifying gender, then age. Then we are going to start detecting people with strollers or with bags and things like that.

CRANE: With detection technology rapidly improving, an obvious concern is whether their systems will be able to track the details of our daily lives.

WINTER: What we do is turn video feeds into data. Video feeds by nature, they are creepy, until somebody looks at them. In our case, a computer looks at them. So whenever one frame goes to our system, we process it, turn it into some data, and then we delete it.

I think there's a lot more things we can do if we have better understanding of the pedestrian activity in the city. When we have to go schedule trash pickups, how many police we need to deploy to a particular area, the better information you have on a place, the better you're going to be able to manage it.


CRANE: Wherever you fall on the issue of surveillance, one thing is clear, global populations are growing and so is the need for drinkable water. In water starved San Diego, they're betting big on a billion- dollar solution where the largest and most advanced desalination plants in the world.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With California experiencing one of the worst droughts in the state's history, access to fresh water has never been more important, or more difficult. Here in southern California, the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere is being constructed. It will soon take water from the ocean and create 50 million gallons of fresh water a day.

BOB YAMADA: California is in a serious drought right now, and any new water supplies are important to the region.

PETER MAOLAGGAN: We have a $190 billion economy in this region that's dependent on water. The question you need to consider is what's the cost of not having enough water? YAMADA: Unlike, let's say, water that comes from rainfall or water

that comes from snow pack, we're utilizing what essentially is the world's largest reservoir, the Pacific Ccean.

CRANE: The Carlsbad desalination plant will cost approximately $1 billion. The freshwater will be pumped 10 miles underground to a regional delivery system, providing water to an additional 300,000 San Diego County residents.

Customers won't know whether they're drinking desalinated water or not?

YAMADA: That's right. It will become part of the overall supply.

CRANE: Through a process called reverse osmosis, the plant will convert every two gallons of seawater into one gallon of fresh water, filters out 99.9 percent of the salt. The salt, or brine, that's removed, is discharged back into the ocean. The desalination process traditionally takes a lot of energy. A plant this size would normally use as much energy in a single day as 70 homes in a year. Officials at the Carlsbad plant say theirs will use 46 percent less energy.

The project is not without criticism. Environmentalists point out desalination requires a lot of energy and that brine discharge can negatively impact marine life.

MAOLAGGAN: We're creating more marine wetlands in the south San Diego Bay to create new habitats so fish can reproduce there. With respect to the brine discharge we dilute the brine with sea water before it leaves the site.

CRANE: The plant is expected to be completed in 2016.

YAMADA: Everybody is extremely excited to see this project coming online and providing us with a new water supply.


CRANE: After the breaker we see how one building collects water in the middle of the desert, Bill Nye explains why batteries are critical to the future of cities, and we take a look at London's massive answer to an energy crisis.


CRANE: Later, Erin Burnett visits Dubai and we see how a skyscraper collects water in the middle of the desert. But first we take a look at how London is harnessing the power of the wind.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the London Array. It's the world's largest offshore wind farm. And this is what it helps power. The farm has 175 giant wind turbines capable of generating enough electricity to power 500,000 homes, and it's quite possibly the answer to London's growing energy needs. MIKE O'HARE, GENERAL MANAGER, LONDON ARRAY: We expect about 900,000

tons of carbon dioxide to be saved per year that would otherwise be put into the atmosphere. That's about equivalent of just under 300,000 cars a year taken off the road.

CRANE: Approximately 8.3 million people live here. And by 2031, that number is expected to climb to 10 million. A growing population means a growing need for energy. London, one of the most historic cities in the world, knows that in order to keep up with future energy demands they need to update and diversify their energy portfolio.

O'HARE: It's really about how to get a more cleaner future, reliable energy sources? And that's really what the London Array is about, is moving from that old coal, gas, nuclear, to more renewable offshore winds.

CRANE: The U.K. is one of the world's leaders in offshore wind power. There are over 1,000 turbines dotting the waters. These things are massive. Each turbine is larger than the London Eye. And it takes a little as a 10-mile-per-hour gust to spin these. Until recently, the array was said to expand by possibly 50 more turbines, but construction was halted to save a rare breed of bird called the red- throated diver.

O'HARE: They're a rare species of bird in the U.K. and they come down in the winter and they feed there.

CRANE: The fear is that the construction of the second phase would displace the birds.

Is that a bit of a disappointment that it's not in the near future four?

O'HARE: I think as an engineer, I always like to build things, so of course I would like things to go ahead. But having said that, you've got to be realistic. I want these off shore winds because I care about the environment.

CRANE: The future will present more obstacles than a bird. But one thing is certain -- more of these means more of this.


CRANE: Thousands of miles away from England in the desert of Dubai is the Burj Khalifa. It's the tallest building ever built and it may also be one of the smartest. Here's CNN's Erin Burnett.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: At 2,716 feet, Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure ever built on earth. Towering over the city of Dubai, it has the highest observation deck and the highest restaurant in a sky scraper, and its owners say it has the highest swimming pool in the world.

Is there room for tall buildings like this that aren't just a landmark or something beautiful to look at, but actually function and are efficient and profitable?

MOHAMED ALABBAR: I think there are. I think nowadays people are building smarter.

BURNETT: Smarter and more efficient. Mohamed Alabbar built the Burj it at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Its doors opened in 2010.

Today it was, I don't know, 110 degrees. How do you keep this cool?

ALABBAR: Of course it is a combination of good design to start with, good advancement, good electrical system, most advanced skin on the building, so the type of glass we are using, the way it reflects heat, all of that is a combination of advanced technologies, and monitoring the building every single hour.

BURNETT: Using an innovative ice storage system, the tower is currently kept cool with the equivalent of 13,000 tons of ice. The Burj is monitored 24 hours a day in the main control room where engineers measure everything from power and water use to wind speed and seismic activity. On a windy day the top of the tower can move up to six feet in either direction. And the base is designed to shift in the event of an earthquake.

Do you get a little nervous if there is an earthquake?

ALABBAR: I used to. But now I trust it so much because recently, last week we had quite a good movement.

BURNETT: Get into the observation deck on the 124th floor takes only about 60 seconds in one of the towers 57 elevators. Its specially designed lifts can move up to 12,000 people a day and even acts as a power source.

They're creating power?

ALABBAR: Of course they create power. Then the power goes back to the grid system that we have.

BURNETT: Alabbar explains how the Burj Khalifa captures water from outside the building itself in Dubai's sweltering humid air.

ALABBAR: We take pride in it. We use the condensation that happens on the skin, including what we collect. We use it for our system and the whole development. It is the equivalent of 20 Olympic pool sizes of condensation on the skin of the building, and it is very valuable when you live in the desert, of course.

BURNETT: And while it's only been open four years, he is already thinking of building bigger and better.

ALABBAR: Height is something very special for human beings. I think we can do much better next time.


CRANE: After the break, Bill Nye describes his ideal city of tomorrow.


CRANE: Bill Nye is obsessed with science and he spends a lot of time thinking about how climate changes impacts our lives and our cities. So we asked him, what does his city of tomorrow look like?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The future is the child of the past.

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: When I think of the city of the future, I think of doing more with less, of having more efficient water distribution systems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can drive anywhere we want at any time for any reason.

NYE: More efficient transportation systems, citywide part of your tax dollars Internet access.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not buying power. We're buying knowledge.

NYE: The big problem we need to solve is energy storage, electricity storage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is how to get this power.

NYE: If we could generate electricity offshore or in big open areas and then make electricity locally with solar panels, and we had a way to store that and move it around the city electronically in a smart fashion with a smart electrical grid, we would be doing more with less on a scale that would absolutely change the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big hope for the future.

NYE: You have to be optimistic. You have to think these problems are solvable or you won't solve them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one small step for man --

NYE: Just to remind everybody, peel went to the moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- giant leap for mankind.

NYE: So we can do this. And working together, we can make cities the most productive part of human civilization. We can change the world.


CRANE: We don't exactly know what the city of tomorrow will look like. There are a lot of people working on a lot of solutions to a lot of problems. What we do know is that the need to create the city of tomorrow is powering the pulse of the innovation today.