Editor’s note: The following is the second installment of the Digital Communities special section in the September issue of Government Technology magazine.

Miami-Dade County, Fla., is using advanced technology and analytics to prevent crime. Park cameras and facial recognition technology are used to spot known sex offenders in areas where there is no expectation of privacy, said Miami-Dade County CIO Angel Petisco. “So if one of these individuals happens to be near where children congregate, that will send a trigger to law enforcement and they’ll visit that park.”

Petisco emphasized that analytics tied to sensors can help government react not just to historical data, but can also enable near real-time adjustment to changing conditions. In the past, Petisco said traffic engineers might investigate six months of traffic flow data from a given intersection seeking patterns typical for weather, day of the week, time of day, etc. “However, with proper metering and sensors, that information can be done in real time,” he said, “and now we can program our traffic controllers to respond — not to what happened over the last six months, but what’s happening today, this hour, this second, this intersection. And that’s a heck of a lot more valuable.”

With a smart-valve analytics application, the county’s parks director predicted that he could save Miami-Dade $1 million per year by quickly detecting and fixing water leaks. The actual savings were much higher, Petisco said. So now the parks department has money to open formerly closed pools and perform deferred maintenance, even though its budget has not increased.

Data collection and analysis also can provide a real-time feed to the public, to yield some interesting cross-pollination for local government. In Miami’s Brickell community, for example, the county, the Miami Heat NBA franchise and neighborhood businesses have teamed up to increase transit ridership, spur economic development and provide better access to Heat games.

Here’s how it works: The county public transit agency has a mobile app called the Miami-Dade County Tracker that — in addition to fares, schedules, trip planning and so on — gives real-time information on the location of light rail trains and buses. Now the app is being expanded to connect public and private events to the trip planner.

“Say I’m going to a Heat game tonight,” explained Carmen Suarez, division director in the Miami-Dade County Information Technology Department. “The app will show me which restaurants I can get to from the AmericanAirlines Arena using public transportation that are offering coupons if I’ve attended the game.”

“We’re going to be gathering statistics in the background about all these things, which we will share with the private sector,” she added, “and that will provide a wealth of information on how best to promote events, get people using public transit and more.”

The project is a partnership between the county, the city of Miami, the parks department, public transit and businesses in the Brickell neighborhood — along with help from IBM.

The county’s interest in this is increasing public transit ridership, said Suarez, which increases revenue. In addition, some businesses promote local parks and donate money for their upkeep. “A particular restaurant wants to sponsor movie night in a park,” said Suarez, “and a percentage of their revenue that night goes to maintenance of that park.” The app informs constituents about the promotion and also gives the public an opportunity to donate to the Parks Foundation.

“It’s a very good way of getting and building economic development within a given area,” said Petisco. “It really takes the government and the local community [and says], ‘If you want skin in the game, then participate with us.’ And what we’re finding is where you normally get a certain amount of walk-in traffic, this is stimulating that economy and all of a sudden we’re having a lot of folks on Friday nights congregating in this area. And that leads to crowdsourcing and a bunch of other things.”

Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.