A Florida aerotropolis bets on intelligent infrastructure

A 25,000-person planned community in Orlando, Florida hires Cisco to connect healthcare, real estate, retail, education and transportation with networked infrastructure.

Ever heard of Lake Nona? If you're unfamiliar, it's a 7,000-acre, 25,000-person planned community in Orlando, Florida with urban ambitions the size of Tokyo.

In just 15 years, the community wants to become "a global model and standard for sustainable urban development" -- quite the opposite from what's typically found in sprawling central Florida. To do so, it wants to tightly and deliberately link educational facilities, recreational facilities, a "medical city," workplaces, retail centers, entertainment and residential development using digital infrastructure.

The community announced this morning that it plans to partner with Cisco, the American networking technology company, to design and deploy networking infrastructure to connect its healthcare, real estate, retail, education and community services.

What's that mean, exactly? Things like "smart work centers," "intelligent buildings" and unified healthcare and education services. Also, digital signage, unified communications (data, voice, wireless), fiber to the home, energy management, smarter transportation and IP-based video surveillance. (If it can be digitized, it appears that Cisco is willing do it.)

Because of the deep level of integration between the two entities, Cisco has declared Lake Nona an "Iconic Smart+Connected city" -- the first in the U.S., and one of eight in the world.

That's not the only name for Lake Nona. Another is " aerotropolis ," given the community's proximity to Orlando International Airport. Planners hope that the transport hub will help connect its people, goods and services to distant markets. Though if all that digital infrastructure is put in place, it might not even be necessary.

Addendum: Aerotropolis author and expert John D. Kasarda wrote in to push back a bit on the last sentence in this post. I thought I'd include his words here because he makes a fair point: "Very fine article but you may wish to rethink your concluding sentence about the airport not being necessary. The Internet and other forms of telecom cannot move people or products. Without Orlando's Physical Internet (air routes) quickly moving people and goods over long distances to and from the region via its router (here, Orlando International Airport) the greater Orlando region and Lake Nona probably could never prosper."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com