Will Kansas City Become America’s Next Smart City?

Kansas City has embraced the smart city movement with steps including expanded broadband access, a streetcar line and an expanding number of electrical-vehicle charging stations.

by Greg Hack, The Kansas City Star / February 10, 2016
Kansas City, Mo. Flickr/Stuart Seeger

(TNS) -- More cities and utilities see adoption of “smart cities” technology as important to improve efficiency and preserve resources, but municipal governments face obstacles to planning and financing such projects, says a Black & Veatch annual survey.

The survey, taken from mid-October to mid-November, got 778 responses from people with utilities, commercial businesses, municipalities and providers of “smart services.”

The resulting report, 2016 Smart City/Smart Utility, said that nine in 10 respondents said the smart city movement — which embraces everything from measuring and controlling energy use to expanding broadband access and mass transit — “is transformational and will have positive long-term impacts on cities around the world.”

Black & Veatch, the Kansas City area’s largest engineering firm, said one indication of increased interest in the smart cities movement was that this survey got five times as many government responses as the previous survey in late 2014. Many of those interested, however, indicated little had been done yet. Slightly more than half of those responding said their municipality “does not understand” the movement.

Kansas City has embraced the movement with steps including expanded broadband access, a streetcar line and an expanding number of electrical-vehicle charging stations.

Some other survey findings:

  • A high-speed data network was among the three most important smart city systems to invest in first, said 45 percent of those responding, followed by energy management systems (36 percent), smart water systems (35 percent), smart transportation (35 percent), smart buildings (28 percent), smart electric grid (27 percent) and renewable or distributed energy generation (18 percent).
  • The main drivers of municipalities starting smart city initiatives were improved efficiency and reduced costs (30 percent), environmental and resource sustainability (20 percent) and better overall management of community systems (15 percent).
  • The main hurdles for governments, asked to list their top three, were budget constraints (70 percent), lack of resources or expertise (49 percent), policy hurdles (32 percent) and ownership across departments (22 percent).
  • Less than 8 percent thought a smart city model would be implemented in the U.S. in five years, 36 percent thought it would take six to 10 years and 22 percent said 11 to 15 years.

At Black & Veatch, vice president Fred Ellermeier is chief operating officer of the firm’s Smart Integrated Infrastructure group, which has helped Kansas City and other cities with smart city initiatives. He recently was chosen for the board of KCnext — the Technology Council of Greater Kansas City.

©2016 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.