Smart technology paying off: How 5 cities are making it happen

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

There's no shortage of ways for cities to save time, money or both by implementing smart technologies Scroll down for a look at five very different cities and how they're making smart technologies pay off.

Grocery store court kioskEasing courtroom congestion in San Antonio: The Texas city's Municipal Courts wanted to find ways to reduce the long wait times residents faced to see a judge. Working with Council Global Partner Cisco, they chose interactive video kiosks that residents can use to resolve every day, routine Municipal Court offenses from the comfort of their own neighborhoods. In the pilot phase, one kiosk was located in a community center and two others in grocery stores. Residents simply walk up to a kiosk with their ticket information and a court clerk transfers them to a judge, who oversees the case via video. After resolution, residents can pay any fines they owe at the kiosk. It's one of several ways Cisco video collaboration technologies are being used to connect law enforcement, courts and corrections.

Westminster speeds manhole inspections: With iPads and a mobile app developed for the city of Westminster, Colorado by CityGovApp, crews have reduced the time spent inspecting manholes 90%, according to a Gov.Tech.com report. And that adds up, considering the city has about 5,000 manholes to inspect annually. What used to take five minutes per manhole now takes about 30 seconds. The app is also helping the city eliminate duplicate data entry, make the data available quicker and lower costs, a CityGovApp executive said.

Edgeworth sees green with LED traffic lights: Edgeworth, a borough along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County, is what its manager calls a "one-horse town." But Marty McDaniel tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Edgeworth does have three traffic lights. Three years ago the borough switched from incandescent bulbs to LEDs and has since reduced the cost to operate those traffic lights by more than 60% in lower electricity costs and maintenance costs. Now McDaniel has his sights set on the borough's 200 streetlights. He doesn't have to go far to see the advantages. Fifteen minutes away in Pittsburgh, the city has converted 4,000 of its 40,000 streetlights and the savings are piling up -- $140,000 annually on maintenance alone, according to the Post-Gazette.

Cleaner and greener in Denver: Denver, Colorado's relationship with the Department of Energy sponsored Clean Cities program, which aims to reduce petroleum consumption, has done lots of good things for the Denver area, according to DomesticFuel.com. For instance last year, by using alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies, the effort has displaced 5.88 million gallons of gas and kept 27,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from entering the atmosphere. But Felix Espinoza, Denver Public Works’ Fleet Management Director, says by incorporating alternative fuels and green technologies the city has also been able to lower operating costs.

What's good for business is good for Ferndale: The city of Ferndale, Michigan – population 19,900 in the 2010 Census – is experiencing an investment spurt with new commercial, industrial and manufacturing businesses setting up shop. Credit in part goes to the city's moves to make its licensing and permitting processes more business friendly. "One of the challenges any community like Ferndale faces is evolving from a mentality that you are a writer and enforcer of rules to treating businesses as customers in your community," Mayor David Coulter said in a Crain's Detroit Business piece on Ferndale's efforts.  To speed processes the city, among other things, equipped city building inspectors with tablets for faster inspections and greater efficiency.

These may also be of interest:
Monetizing street lights: A bright idea being tested in San Diego
How Nice! A virtual city hall in a shopping mall