On Friday, March 1, IBM added another local government to its list of “Smarter Cities.” Miami-Dade County, Fla., announced its partnership with the company to deploy data analytics, reduce water costs, increase transparency and improve transportation.

“We’re the seventh largest population in the U.S.,” said Carmen Suarez, the county’s IT director. She added that the county gathers a lot of information every day that it may not being using to its full potential -- information "that can make us be more efficient and give us a higher quality of life here for the population that we have in the region.”

As part of the Smarter Cities initiative, Miami-Dade County is expected to carry out four major sub-initiatives to improve the county.

  • Water management: Through the use of predictive analytics and smart metering, Miami-Dade will conserve water by monitoring consumption and identifying water leaks across the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. With the updated technologies, the county is expected to reduce water consumption by 20 percent and achieve cost savings of $1 million annually.
  • Intelligent policing: Using technology for intelligence analysis, lead generation and criminal identification and investigation, the Miami-Dade Police Department is expected to solve cases quicker and share information more easily across other law enforcement agencies.
  • Transparency: The county also plans to consolidate data analytics pertaining to finance, human resources, budgeting and planning. Through the use of a cloud-based system, users can access the government's financial information online.
  • Transportation efficiency: With new mobile apps, residents will have the ability to access public transportation-related updates. To better track traffic patterns and public transportation ridership, analytics will be applied to make necessary improvements.

Suarez said one of the more notable pilot projects being developed from the Smarter Cities initiative is a transportation project in Brickell, an urban community in Miami, to improve the flow of traffic. The pilot program, according to IBM, will provide residents with easier access to public transportation alternatives in an effort to more efficiently manage traffic flow, drive economic development and improve access during special events.

The program will also provide incentives for using public transportation: The idea is to partner with local businesses so that individuals are rewarded for using public transportation. For example, Suarez said a restaurant may give patrons a discount or free beverage if they bring in a ticket from the event they attended in the park or proof they rode public transportation to get to the event.

Michael Dixon, the IBM Smarter Cities general manager, said the company hopes to tackle Miami-Dade’s initiative in a much more integrated way, but there are some issues around that. “One of the defining issues," he said, "is the understanding that this kind of integration transcends the historical boundaries that have been so entrenched in different levels and agencies within government."

IBM has partnered with multiple cities in and outside the U.S. over the years to help them become smarter. Chesapeake, Va., and Corpus Christi, Texas, joined the ranks of smarter cities in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.