Smart Cities

What is a Smart City

Technology has been the driving force of economies worldwide – but what about cities? Cities have to develop efficient operational models to provide services and infrastructure for their citizens; however, most services and infrastructure are built on a mixture of technologies that can span decades. Moreover, the rate at which cities have adopted new technologies has been historically slow, frequently with investments that are far out of balance with other important community needs.

Elected leaders are increasingly being asked about technology in the community such as residential broadband, how to welcome driverless cars, and how to embrace citizen-empowering health technologies. Citizens have come to expect rapid development and adoption of technology in their daily lives and in their businesses; they don’t wish to see lines drawn between the enterprise and the community. For residents and visitors, the expectation is for the city to meet ever-escalating demands. How do cities innovate and leverage technology to not only provide the services citizens need but also to build a model that supports the rapid growth required to attract and sustain highly successful inhabitants?

Can Smart Cities Help Create Jobs in Every Community

Municipalities across the country are developing Smart City projects that utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) to provide economic opportunities for underserved communities.

Investments in safety, lighting, data infrastructure, and accessibility are used to attract business investment and create jobs. This includes:

  • Multimodal transit options, such as car and bike-share services, that provide greater access to jobs;
  • Electric and connected buses that reduce carbon emissions and provide additional connectivity;
  • Smart lighting technologies that improve community safety; and
  • Data collection and analytics that support smart land use and direct community reinvestment.

To finance Smart City projects, municipalities are looking to create public-private-partnerships (P3) to leverage both public and private funds to ensure the financial sustainability of these initiatives.

The most notable success story has been Columbus Ohio’s Smart City initiative. They raised $90 million from the private sector to serve as a match for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $40 million Smart City grant, given in 2016. The city won the funding in large part because of its close partnership with the Columbus business community. The private funding supported the city’s goal to transform its transportation system with electric vehicle deployment and other carbon emission reduction strategies if it received the federal grant. The CEO of the Columbus Partnership set a goal of incentivizing $1 billion in private sector money in the next four years tied to maximize this initiative. A total of 78 cities applied for the grant, and seven finalists were chosen.

Columbus won out over the other finalist cities including Austin, Denver, Kansas City, and San Francisco because of the extra funding support. (Other cities had great ideas – see addendum) The funding will be used to turn Columbus into the nation’s first city to fully integrate self-driving electric vehicles, smart grids, smart streetlights and collision avoidance sensors as part of its transportation system. It will create smart transit corridors and address the “first and last mile gap” in public transportation. Columbus wants to become a carbon neutral community and the electric vehicles that will be an essential part of the change to its transportation system will play a strong role in that plan.

San Diego smart city is also taking the lead installing technology to gather data in the hopes of saving money, becoming cleaner, reducing traffic, and improving urban life. This initiative is a multi-year collaboration that combines the resources of the City of San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric, General Electric, the University of California San Diego, and a major nonprofit partner, Cleantech San Diego — a trade association whose mission is to advance these technologies. San Diego’s efforts all began in the 90s, in the heart of a financial crisis when they being to look practically at ways to use data and technology to improve city services and save money.

They started early with electric vehicles (EV) by facilitating the expansion of a public electric vehicle infrastructure that ensures safe, reliable, and efficient charging almost anywhere in the San Diego power grid. Today, 32 percent of San Diego’s electricity is renewable, and there is no coal in San Diego Gas & Electric’s energy portfolio. San Diego plans to overclock its EV program by installing up to 90,000 charging stations at single-family homes, putting in up to 45 charging spots for ground support equipment at San Diego International Airport, and installing charging stations at locations used by taxis, shuttles and rideshare vehicles.

San Diego’s latest triumph also involves electricity, and started as a pilot project. With involvement from Cleantech San Diego and other constituents, the city installed 3,000 LED street lights with wireless sensors and adaptive controls downtown. Not only did the lights improve energy efficiency, the extra effort to add wireless sensors has added a whole new dimension of data to the city’s arsenal — and simultaneously launched the most significant IoT civic project to date. Other smart city-related projects include the smart building initiatives at the Port of San Diego, the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan and the EcoLuxury Apartments in Scripps Ranch — the first all-solar apartment complex in San Diego and one of the first multifamily complexes in the United States to offer Net Zero living to all its residents.

How Smart is LA?

L.A.’s Three Biggest IT Challenges

(1) The City’s Information Technology Agency has 480 employees with a budget of $90 million, serve 48,000 city employees and four million residents stretching across 469-square-miles. The department runs a traditional IT shop, a 24-7 data center, the city’s network, and a portfolio of more than 250 applications. Additionally, ITA manages special services, such as a 311 call center, the city’s cable TV station, radio communication systems for police and fire departments, and even helicopter avionics. ITA uses a data-driven approach to effect real change, such as giving previously underserved communities better access to city services. Challenges: (1) ITA has 40 percent less staff than it did in 2008 and a large majority of the staff will be eligible for retirement in the next five years; and (2) the City needs to find more than $350 million to invest in all of its IT capital needs and most overlooked during continuous budget deficits is that fact the there is no greater opportunity for a return on investment than IT spending. The $1.6 million the L.A. Coalition/Mayor’s Operations Innovation Team secured in the City’s 2017-2018 budget is expected to save the City $9 million in two to three years.

(2) There is a very diffuse set of controls across the City of L.A. and the regulatory apparatus is complex. And the incentives are also very different from the private sector. In the private sector, the benefits of offering a service or a product are directly visible. In the public sector, they’re much more diffuse and indirect. The strategy the L.A. Coalition will continue to use is partnering with the public sector is to find people who were already doing good work, and from our position offer the resources necessary to help them.

(3) In 2015, the City released a Request for Proposal asking qualified companies to participate in an initiative to encourage the private sector to deploy advanced wireline and Wi-Fi1 digital communications networks so that every residence and business in L.A. has access to world-class, high-speed broadband Internet access. The idea was to leverage CityLinkLA’s infrastructure to actually be multiple networks, constructed independently over time by many different network owners. The City was seeking proposals from entities who were willing to enter into contracts with the City to deploy advanced Wi-Fi and wireline infrastructure and address the digital divide and community needs by providing for a level of free services to members of the public. Due to the difficulty of the request the project has been put on hold. The Coalition was asked to assist in evaluating the RFP to see if there are ways to make it more realistic.

Progress to Date

Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti has been focused on “laying the foundation for a more connected Los Angeles.” This effort focuses on driving more broadband, cellular, and unlicensed spectrum activity across the city.

  • LA Metro is putting Wi-Fi and cellular service into the subway systems and on buses, and LADOT is putting Wi-Fi onto the DASH buses and Wi-Fi into the bus shelters.
  • Fiber optics that are buried under the street, making them available to more operators across the region.
  • CityLink LA makes the assets of the city and Metro available to broadband providers.
  • With the help of the L.A. Coalition’s O-Team, the Mayor’s office created an inventory of all the assets available across the city—real estate, rights-of-way, existing fiber, attachment points for streetlights, and all sorts of other things.
  • Instituted expedited permitting process and a special city office just for working with communications providers.
  • LA was also the first city to put cellular towers into streetlights. About 80 of these “small cells” have been deployed—and hundreds or even thousands more will be—in places like Fairfax Boulevard, Downtown, and all over the city. They allow your cellular service, and consequently your Internet access, to function much better. The result is that on average, according to the FCC, LA’s broadband speeds have increased by about 600 percent since the mayor took office.
  • LA and its open data portal, DataLA, have been recognized by The Sunlight Foundation as a leader in the United States. Elaborate on the value of an open data portal for a city.  When it launched, the portal had about 200 data sets. Now it has more than 1,000. It’s probably the biggest collection of urban data ever published. One benefit of this tool is the potential for more transparent government. Publishing this data allows people to have insight into what the government is doing. The most visible and topical example of this may be police data. LAPD publishes more police data than any big police force in the country. There are also research benefits. The more data we make available to the public, the more tools are available to students, researchers, faculty, and think tanks to work on solving LA’s challenges—from sustainability, to resiliency, to economic development. At the individual level, open data allows people to do things that will make their daily lives better. For example, two million people in Los Angeles use the traffic app Waze. That app works as well as it does because the city publishes our construction data, as well as a ton of other transportation-related data. As a result, people can drive across the city more efficiently, more quickly, and more safely.
  • GoLA is a mobility marketplace. Xerox built the platform and the two apps (iOS and Android), and it’s also available as a web service.If you want to get between points A and B in Los Angeles, GoLA will show you routes using all the different providers of transportation—public, private, fare transit, parking, etc.—in one unified interface. It incorporates about 35 different transit operators. Your options can be ranked according to what’s fastest, cheapest, and greenest. It’s the country’s first such mobility marketplace, but it certainly won’t be the last.
  • Through the leadership of the Operations Innovation Team, the Mayor’s office is close to the proof of concept test for the Public Kiosk Project. The kiosk has shipped and we identified an ideal location at the corner of the Mayor’s Help Desk. The kiosk is free standing so there’s no issue with installation and we met with GSD about the power requirements. This is an opportunity to test how the public interacts with the kiosk before rolling out to the next location at LA Live. By way of background, the purpose of the Public Kiosk Project is to maximize access to City government, extend critical information and services to populations in need, and promote cultural, historical, and commercial attractions through key digital applications via a publicly accessible, digitally connected, secure kiosk. This project hits on a number of key areas including civic engagement, digital inclusivity, homelessness, and technology innovation. It makes for a good story. Also, for the LA Live location, the O-Team has partnered with AEG, Fandango, Atom, OpenTable and Live Nation/Ticketmaster to provide visitors with applications targeted to the businesses at LA Live so they can view movie and event times, book tickets, and make restaurant reservations.