Technology leaders from five cities got the chance to highlight smart city success stories during the opening panel of Smart Cities Week, running Oct. 3-5 in Washington, D.C.
Archana Vemulapalli, the CTO for Washington, D.C., and Peter Auhl, the CIO of Adelaide, South Australia, said the planning phase is especially critical to smart city projects to ensure the government wasn’t just buying technology, but actually focusing on solving a problem.
Adelaide officials spent about a month meeting with citizens and businesses to ask about problems they had interacting with the city. With that information in hand, they determined how technology could address those issues. “It helps us focus on customer outcomes and making meaningful change,” Auhl said.
Washington wanted to focus on “holistic investments,” Vemulapalli said. This meant looking at technology to meet the District’s goals of ensuring resilient and equitable infrastructure and building it in collaborative and transparent way by providing information through portals like smarter.dc.gov.
It is just as important to communicate internally to ensure there is a cohesive smart city strategy throughout city departments, she added.
Charlotte, N.C., has invested in public safety, installing more cameras in the downtown area and outfitting its officers with body cameras, Charlotte’s CIO Jeff Stovall said. The city also is starting to use predictive policing to reduce crime, he said.
The solution sends information on what crimes could occur in the area being patrolled by officers, he said. The city has kept an eye on the algorithm and has tweaked it in instances in which the model is generating results that aren’t consistent with what officers see in the field.
In New York City, the LinkNYC kiosks have been up and running for a couple years now and have been installed in all five boroughs of the city. It project includes 7,500 kiosks, the gigabit internet infrastructure connecting them and the free Wi-Fi, national VOIP calling and USB charging — all at no cost to the city.
NYC Chief Innovation Officer Jeff Merritt said infrastructure projects like LinkNYC can be some of the most time consuming initiatives. But the city was able to stand up its 21st-century payphone replacement fairly quickly, he said.
LinkNYC is replacing the payphone network, but this newer technology will become obsolete more quickly, Merritt said. As a result the city made the kiosk modular and created a franchise agreement that keeps the systems up-to-date.
The libraries in Boston changed the way they consumed electricity after the city began tracking how its buildings were using power, the city’s Chief Data Officer Andrew Therriault said.
The city’s electricity billing is spread out across thousands of different offices and buildings, Therriault said. So the city worked to digitize its paper billing to better keep track of how much was being charged. This helped them identify potential overcharges or inefficient older systems that were using too much electricity.
Analysis of the billing allowed the city to decrease power consumption during the peak hours when utilities charge more in buildings like the library, he said.