Three cities building smart solutions with data they already have

Thu, 2017-03-02 12:52 -- Doug Peeples

Smart cities are connected cities – and connected cities generate massive amounts of data. In some ways harnessing all that data, making sense of it and using it effectively is a headache. But more and more city leaders are realizing the value of public-private partnerships and are coming up with a variety of data-based solutions that help ensure city operations and services are running smoothly. And as you'll see in the story below, they're also realizing how valuable that data can be when it's shared with their citizens. They know better-informed citizens are very likely to be more engaged with their city and that sharing useful data will help ensure that they are. — Doug Peeples

Why Louisville depends on its citizens so much
In Louisville, Kentucky, citizen participation is an essential element in the city's initial steps toward becoming a smart city. Officials are relying on knowledgeable citizens and groups like the Civic Data Alliance to come up with ways to connect the city's data with smart home devices and services. For example, a two-bedroom apartment in the downtown area used by technology publication CNET to test smart home devices and how they can integrate with the city features light bulbs that change color to indicate air quality levels. A smart speaker connected to Amazon's digital assistant Alexa can provide daily briefings from the city's mayor.

For city data officer Michael Schnuerle, those types of services (and high-speed internet for all) are among the types of project development residents are ideally suited for. Not only does it save money for the city, it also ensures that the citizens have a lot to say about the services they believe are important to them. "I would rather have the community build these tools and own them and make them open source and available to everyone," he was quoted as saying in a CNET article. "If the community owns it, it just builds momentum."

How a hackathon is making Las Vegas smarter
A team of University of Nevada, Las Vegas competing in the Smart Cities Hackathon and the recent Consumer Electronics Show has given the city of Las Vegas a better way to identify and repair malfunctioning or dead street lights. During the competition the students developed an automated application based on the city's open data that could provide notifications about bad lights. The city currently depends on reports from citizens or technicians making the rounds to check its 52,000 street lights. The team's automated solution involves monitoring to determine which street lights are not electricity when they should be. The city plans to have a working model of the detection system within the next three months.

Kansas City's smart city data viewing platform
We've covered Kansas City's smart city initiatives before, such as its pilot project with Council Lead Partner Cisco featuring a new streetcar line in conjunction with free Wi-Fi and smart street lights in the downtown core area. Now the city has launched an interactive web site that offers citizens up-to-date information on available parking, traffic conditions and congestion and street car locations through data collected by sensors the city deployed. As Kansas City Mayor Sly James put it "The smart city sensors and digital tools are cool, but understanding how to use these tools  – and the data that they generate - bridges the gap between cool and smart."

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.