Cities get smarter

Just about every city in America has a Smart City project that looks to improve services, security and sustainability. SC Media took a look at some of the leading programs of 2019. 

During the past year, Pena Station NEXT, the ambitious “work, live, play” project near Denver International Airport began to take shape. Panasonic has partnered with the city to develop the site that will include offices, retail, dining, outdoor and residential space with the goal of becoming an energy self-sufficient community. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, this smart city within a city will serve as a testing ground for new technologies, such as Wi-Fi-enabled smart lighting supported by video analytics, electric vehicle charging and renewable energies. As part of the project, an autonomous vehicles company called Easy Mile deployed an electric autonomous shuttle that services Panasonic’s 112,000 square-foot facility. Officials expect the project to be completed by 2026. Pena Station NEXT was inspired by the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, a smart city and sustainable development project led by Panasonic in Fujisawa, Japan, about 30 miles southwest of Tokyo.  

Denver has also outlined plans to increase public and private electric vehicle use, install pedestrian detection systems at intersections to improve safety and establish a connected freight system in which trucks can communicate to coordinate delivery routes and reduce congestion. The federal Department of Transportation awarded Denver $6 million in 2016 to fund the connected vehicle network and pedestrian detection system. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, Denver plans to match this grant with city funds over the next several years to purchase roughly 1,500 connected electric city vehicles and install pedestrian sensors at intersections.  

Portland, Ore. 
The city’s Smart City PDX group has worked closely this year with the Mayor’s Office and the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights to explore ways Portland city government can better secure data for its citizens. The group’s main goal was to focus on how the city can improve trust in the communities that the city serves with a special emphasis on human rights for privacy and information protection and how the most vulnerable parts of the city are affected by the lack of clear rules to protect their personal information. The group developed seven privacy and information protection principles that include: transparency and accountability to all people who entrust city government with their data and information; full lifecycle stewardship, including storage, use, control, processing, publication, transfer, retention and disposition; equitable data management, in which the city will prioritize the data needs of marginalized communities in designing new programs; ethical and non-discriminatory use of data, promises fair stewardship of all city data; data openness, where all data open to the public must comply with all applicable legal requirements and not expose any confidential or personal information that may put communities, individuals or sensitive assets at risk; automated detection systems, in which all new technologies such as artificial intelligence will be deployed through the lens of equity, fairness, transparency and accountability; and finally, data utility, in which the city will only collect a minimum amount of personal information to fulfill a well-defined purpose. These principles are a first step. Next steps include working with the various communities around the city to deploy these principles successfully. 

San Francisco  
The city spent much of the year working on a myriad of smart city projects. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has launched a pilot program that includes the deployment of wireless controllers on about 60 of the city’s street lights. These devices let the SFPUC remotely monitor individual fixture performance, meter electrical usage at the fixture level, adjust light intensity levels, automatically adjust on-and-off cycles based on seasonal factors, and receive real‐time alerts when a given fixture burns out or experiences a fault. The benefits of such a “smart” LED infrastructure include improved efficiency, service levels, public safety, and overall responsiveness in the event of an outage. The city has also used federal Department of Transportation funds for its SFpark project that uses wireless sensors to create smarter parking management through demand-responsive pricing. Deployed in 8,200 on-street spaces in the piloted areas, the sensors can adjust prices in real-time depending on the number of spaces available. This information is sent to citizens who use an app that lets them identify the closest available parking spot. Over the past several months, the city has also created roles within its city government to focus on the technology and security side of these smart city projects. The city hired a Chief Data Officer in response to the public asking for clear data privacy rules. San Francisco created the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation in 2012.  

New Orleans  
The city was awarded an IDC Smart Cities award earlier this year for its Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC). According to a Mayor’s Office press release, the crime center consists of 400 city-owned public safety cameras and 150 privately integrated cameras. The RTCC delivers critical information to first responders in the field to assist them with criminal investigations and to improve the quality of life in the city. RTCC staff fielded more than 3,200 requests for assistance from public safety agencies last year and provided relevant footage for 70 percent of those requests. In 2018, RTCC estimates its services saved more than 3,000 manhours for the New Orleans Police Department – time it would have otherwise taken officers to collect, watch and log video evidence. The RTCC is housed in the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and was funded as part of the 2017 $40 million Citywide Public Safety Improvement Plan.    

The city of Louisville, Ky., also won a 2019 IDC Smart Cities award for developing the Waze Analytics Relational-Database Platform (WAZE), an open-source, cloud-based system run over Amazon Web Services that crunches analytics on environmental data and collision reports. Instead of paying $50,000 for a multi-week traffic study to see if the city’s road configuration changes had an impact, the city can now use WARP for free to generate reports. Based on the success of WARP, Louisville founded the Open Government Coalition, a network of government agencies that work on open source projects together. WARP now gives more than 900 government Waze partners access to a free platform that uses real-time and historic traffic data to improve mobility, pedestrian and bike safety, road conditions and emergency response. 

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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