Schenectady, N.Y., Forges Ahead with Smart City Efforts

According to Mayor Gary McCarthy, the $6.7 million undertaking will have an impact on every city department and service.

by Larry Rulison, Times Union / June 15, 2018
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(TNS) — National Grid and the city of Schenectady, N.Y., launched a three-year, $6.7 million project to set the groundwork for Schenectady to become a "smart city" of the future where lights and sensors deployed on city streets will make city services more efficient and help improve public safety programs.

The initiative, which will be paid for through the utility, will begin with National Grid converting more than 4,000 street lights across the city to energy-efficient LED lights that use much less energy than traditional light bulbs.

However, the project will also include using those street lights to install a variety of wireless data network nodes and sensors that will dramatically increase the city's ability to collect and use data from city streets to its advantage.

The hardware is expected to make Schenectady a so-called "smart city" that will not only adjust its street lighting based on real-time data but also traffic lights and other municipal services, including police and fire response.

"This deployment is going to effect every department and every service in the city of Schenectady," Mayor Gary McCarthy said during a press conference Thursday at City Hall.

State regulators have been pushing utilities like National Grid to expand their portfolio of services for the public beyond just electricity and natural gas service using its available infrastructure. Since National Grid owns many of the streetlights in cities across the state, the company is planning to offer smart city technology enhancements that go beyond lighting.

The Schenectady project is a pilot program for what the state is calling Reforming the Energy Vision. The utility expects that it will be able to earn revenue from these services in the future.

"This project will develop and test multiple innovative business models that could serve as scalable solutions for other cities and towns across our service area," Laurie Poltynski, National Grid's eastern New York regional executive said.

Schenectady is already at the cutting edge of smart city research and development. McCarthy has even testified to Congress on the city's efforts, which have included the creation of a special smart city commission. General Electric Co., which was first headquartered in Schenectady back in the days of Thomas Edison, is participating in the National Grid project, along with computer chip giant Intel, AT&T and Cisco. McCarthy also created a city commission to oversee the smart city transformation.

McCarthy said that the city has already made significant smart city technology upgrades. One project in partnership with the University at Albany uses sensors at intersections to measure the size of cars to figure out how to best manage the traffic signals and how long the line of traffic is at specific lights.

"It makes moving through Schenectady more efficient," McCarthy said.

McCarthy said that a Wi-Fi data network has been deployed in the city that downloads dashboard camera video from police cars directly to the city's network as cars move through the city. In the past, police officers would have had to stop at the police station to physically bring in the disk drive to download the video.

"It was labor intensive," McCarthy said. "Now (police) cars are not taken out of service and are now available for patrols."

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara was also at Thursday's press conference since he had previously helped the city get a $1 million grant to install new smart city infrastructure in the city's Mont Pleasant neighborhood. He said that while wireless internet networks and sensors are not new technology, it is the way that the city uses it that makes all of the difference.

"The best part of this is that it will actually save the city money," Santabarbara said.

©2018 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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