AUSTIN, Texas — At this week's the Smart Cities Connect Conference, officials have acknowledged that the next iteration of the smart city should focus more on people and less on infrastructure; the National Science Foundation highlighted three ways it's supporting the greater gov tech movement; and five new cities joined the Smart Gigabit Communities program.
But not all attendees took to the stage to share their smart city approaches. On the show floor, Don Jacobson, IT business partner with the city of Las Vegas, told Government Technology that about 18 months ago, the City Council designated the downtown area as an Innovation District "where we can take and make that a proving ground — a demo area test bed if you will — for all sorts of smart cities technologies," he said, calling out the Internet of Things, connected and autonomous vehicles, and sensors that gather environmental data.
Jacobson mentioned the Innovate.Vegas website, which offers details on news events and activities happening in the larger innovation space, and also links to an interactive map of the Innovation District that displays the connected corridors along with locations of sensors being installed.
Across the country, Washington, D.C., has two big projects that Mike Rupert, communications director for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, was highlighting at the conference.
"The first one is called PA2040, which is a nine-square-block project that we have installed Gigabit Wi-Fi, which is ubiquitous throughout the area — it's very busy from about 9 to about 4, and it's pretty empty after that," he said. "And so we want to kind of activate the area, provide that Wi-Fi to activate parks, to keep people moving and walking, instead of either hiding in their cars ... or hiding in their offices."
The city also just wrapped up a pilot in which 76 intelligent street lights were configured with motion sensors, Rupert said, so each is 30 percent lit until someone comes within 100 yards of it.
"It also allows us to control them remotely for special events or in the event of an evacuation — God forbid something happens — we're able to turn it on 100 percent, or blink them to point people in the right direction," he added, "so that was the really exciting pilot, which has led to an RFP to actually go start doing this throughout the entire city."
One of our GovTech 100 companies — AppCityLife — also was at Smart City Connect, and CEO Lisa Abeyta told Government Technology that AppCityLife was selected as one of the six presenters for the Innovation Challenge for Infrastructure. While it may seem rather odd to have a platform as a service that is focused on data as part of infrastructure, she noted that that's where it needs to start.
"The thing that the judges said made them decide that we should be part of that is the fact that we are platform agnostic, and that we are integrating artificial intelligence, chatbots, normalizing data, have native mobile apps that have more advancements for ADA compliance," she said, adding that these advancements are not for the just visually impaired, but also can now bring in natural language so that people who are illiterate or non-native English-language speakers can use technology that they previously couldn't. "So it expands the breadth of reach for a city that allows more people to use the technology"