Digital Communities

Kansas City, Mo., Launches 'Smart City Open Access' Website

The website serves as a public facing window into the smart city data being generated by sensors along the city's streetcar line.

by Joe Robertson, The Kansas City Star / February 8, 2017

(TNS) -- Kansas City, Mo., opened its online data portal, and its first mission is to show you an open parking space on Main Street in downtown.

“It’s live right now,” said Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, on Tuesday, Feb. 7. He called up the web page, smartkcmo.xaqt.com, on his phone.

This, the program developers say, is just the beginning, with its map grid showing the parking, the traffic speed and the at-this-moment location of the city’s new streetcars.

The vision the city was sharing this week, as Kansas City partners hosted a workshop for high-tech planners from across the Midwest, is ambitious.

“We will be the smartest city on Earth within five years,” Bennett said.

Imagine foot-traffic data, historical and projected, that can inform entrepreneurs looking for business locations, he said. Imagine the city being able to adjust its bus services to real-time rider patterns, and police being able to see traffic and pedestrian congestion in need of extra help.

The new data source is the next step in the development of the Smart City Initiative that Kansas City launched nine months ago with the opening of its streetcar line downtown.

The city is investing $3.7 million in its high-tech innovations, with another $12 million pledged from private companies including Sprint and Cisco Systems.

“This is foundational,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James told the conference crowd. He described a direct line, saying the information will make consumers downtown “smarter,” and therefore happier and likely to spend more, meaning more jobs, more money, and people who are even happier.

“I’m glad we’re on the cutting edge of this,” he said.

Heat sensors now in place along Main Street from Union Station and into the River Market are providing some 10 gigabytes of data a day, said Chris Crosby, the CEO of Xaqt, which developed the data platform.

One of the intentions in the Smart City work is to be adaptive, gathering inputs from people on how they use the information and the data they seek in order to develop the technology in directions not yet known.

“We want citizens to surprise us with how they use it,” Crosby said.

Going forward, Bennett expects the program to expand along with other city projects, starting with the creation of a MAX rapid bus line along Prospect Avenue. The technology likely will also grow with any expansion of the streetcar line. The city will also be looking for an opportunity to build in the Northland, he said.

Right now, the technology covers about 2.2 miles of city blocks, Bennett said, but he hopes to see expansion to 10 miles within the next three years.

©2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC