June 14, 2010
Syd Kitson is thinking ahead – way ahead – while waiting for the economy to allow development of Babcock Ranch.
With all of his major permits now in hand, Babcock Ranch developer Syd Kitson is thinking about systems.
The real estate downturn has thrown a pall over this project, as it has others, but whenever the 18,000-acre ranch is developed, Kitson wants it to be the first of its kind in many aspects.
Now that the project is moving into the design-and-engineering phase, the firsts Kitson envisions for Babcock Ranch are coming together in what he calls "a system of systems."
Babcock's need to have a city-wide solar power grid, ultra-speed broadband, energy efficiency and other state-of-the-art features led to the announcement last week that IBM would supply software to help Kitson & Partners engineer and design its city and to integrate all these systems.
That partnership led Kitson to a stage in Orlando on Tuesday, where he addressed 4,000 IBM employees and their clients about making the systems work together.
On top of these workaday functions for the planned city of 20,000 homes is an issue of critical importance to Floridians these days: economic development. Babcock Ranch's plans call for six million square feet of office, medical and other commercial space, quite a bit more than all the commercial space now in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton combined.
The entire city of Babcock Ranch will have both wireless and wired Internet connections, and its businesses will be served by what IBM calls "an ultra high-capacity digital pipeline."
"You have to create these abilities and systems for companies to use," Kitson said. "Unless you have the bandwidth for those companies to use those technologies, you're not going to be able to attract them."
Kitson did not provide a number when asked how much bandwidth he would bring to this commercial enclave. These days, many businesses need one-gigabit-per-second lines, which is nearly enough to download an entire movie each second. Hospitals often have 10-gigabit lines.
Speed is not what the developer is thinking about, though. What is on his mind is applications.
The questions are: What sorts of uses, and how much bandwidth, will businesses need in five or 10 years? And what sort of Internet speeds will consumers need?
This ultra high-capacity digital pipeline will be built to those needs, Kitson said.
Besides in-vehicle infotainment, faster wireless for an expanding number of mobile computers and phones and other arriving Internet services, people are going to want the ability to remotely control their homes and appliances.
"We're coming from a blank sheet of paper," Kitson said. "Consumers are going to have choices going forward."
As an example, the developer points to plans to turn Babcock into a "solar city" by partnering with Florida Power & Light to use the power from a proposed 75-megawatt solar finances for that for that change yet.
People will want, once it is available, the ability to make deals via their iPhone with their electric company, agreeing to turn off certain appliances on high-demand days in exchange for cutting their bills, he said.
"Those technologies are here today and that's exactly what we're working with IBM on to put it all in place, creating a system of systems," Kitson said.
Kitson says he has talked to several companies that have "verbally committed" to coming to Babcock Ranch once the solar feature is added, including conversations with solar panel manufacturers that would employ hundreds if not thousands.