5 cities, 5 smart ideas: Lexington, Luanda, Stow, Toronto, Altamonte Springs

Tue, 2015-06-30 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Scroll down for five smart ideas from cities around the world...

Lexington uses 'digital survey vehicles' to find potholes and cracks
The SUVs are outfitted with high-tech gear – including lasers and cameras – to assess road conditions. Lexington, Kentucky city officials say the two vehicles can cover 40 to 50 miles of road a day, detecting cracks, potholes, rutting and the like. Previously the city had employees or interns walk the streets to assess their condition visually. But as an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader points out, that approach was slow, subjective and even dangerous at times. With the SUVs, a technician in the vehicle monitors the data, which the city will use to determine when and how to repair the roads. "This project is just another example of the city using technology to make informed decisions and show citizens their tax dollars at work," Mayor Jim Gray said. Added Urban County Council member Bill Farmer: "If you see this thing coming down your streets, it's not Ghostbusters."

Mobile becomes a lifeline in Luanda's water-deprived slums
Population is mushrooming in Angola's capital of Luanda, which means the city's water-deprived slums are also swelling. How to ensure running water for the thousands dependent on unreliable community taps? According to Council Associate Partner Veolia's LivingCircular site, the GSMA - an international industry association of mobile operators and equipment manufacturers – stepped in to solve the problem simply and effectively. Its Mobile Enabled Community Services ensures each community tap has a manager with a mobile phone. The managers use the mobile network to report issues to a database which plots where water is or is not available in real time on a city map people can check with their phones. It works because mobile penetration is high in Angola, including in the slums, according to LivingCircular. The added bonus: Water is 10 times cheaper than on the gray market.

City of Stow putting its checkbook online
As part of the Ohio state treasurer's Government Transparency Program, the city of Stow will become the first in Summit County to participate in the OhioCheckbook.com program which launched last year to make government more open and accountable to taxpayers. Residents of Stow will be able to go online to see all of the city government's spending activity. "The State Transparency Program offers an excellent opportunity for our citizens to become more knowledgeable about how their tax dollars are spent each year, Stow Finance Director John Baranek told the Stow Sentry."I am pleased that the city is able to participate in such a positive program."

Toronto City Hall tries digital signage to improve customer service
Two new digital signs are part of an effort to modernize Toronto City Hall and at the same time improve customer service. According to the Toronto Sun, the $5,000 signs are part of a year-long pilot. One of the signs offers real-time updates on transit options around city hall; the other is a building directory. The transit screen, which covers bike-share and car-share information as well as public transit, is designed to give people a way to make informed transit decisions. After the pilot the expectation is digital signage will go up in all major city buildings.

Altamonte Springs will reclaim highway water run-off for reuse
Instead of sitting in reclamation ponds alongside Interstate 4, the city of Altamonte Springs, Florida, is going to collect the water from the highway and pump it into its existing reclaimed water system. Though undrinkable, the reclaimed water is used by homes and businesses for things like car washing and irrigation. Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz told Stateline that reclaiming the highway run-off makes financial sense and allows the city to grow sustainably. Currently he says the city of 42,000 uses about five million gallons of water today – and 4.7 million gallons of that are reclaimed and reused.

Share your city's smart ideas!  Use the Comment form below (you must be a member and logged in) to tell us or send an email to news@smartcitiescouncil.com