IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

The Most Important Emerging Technologies for Special Districts

Welcome to the latest issue of The Districts, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S.

Business and technology, software development, IoT concept. Double exposure, man programmer, software developer working on digital tablet and smart city with binary, html computer code on screen
With the future arriving at an unprecedented pace, special district leaders need insights on how to prioritize and securely deploy emerging technologies in the midst of other operational challenges. The Special Districts Summit on Emerging Technologies, held Sept. 16, provided an in-depth look at innovative tools that will be vital for addressing evolving demands. Our panel of experts broke down key technologies and offered practical advice, lessons learned and important insights specifically for special district leaders.

The recorded summit is online. Here are some highlights and takeaways from the event:

  • Edge computing, 5G wireless, robotic process automation and serverless computing are some of the biggest technology trends for special districts. And broader use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence are on the horizon for many districts.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of cloud, mobile computing, AI-powered chatbots and other modern technologies as special districts responded to rapidly changing requirements.
  • Overall, the pandemic illustrated the importance of embracing new technologies, but careful planning and deep understanding of stakeholder requirements are keys to successful deployment of innovative solutions.
  • A platform approach to data helped the Moulton Niguel Water District in California quickly operationalize massive amounts of customer information generated by a new advanced water metering infrastructure. The district now uses the data to spot water leakage and detect metering malfunctions.
  • The San Antonio Water System is deploying new technologies to make life easier for residents. The organization launched a mobile-friendly portal for utility payments and added self-service features for creating payment arrangements during the pandemic. It’s also leveraging artificial intelligence to create a virtual assistant that answers customer questions via SMS text.
  • The Inland Empire Utilities Agency is modernizing industrial control systems in its wastewater treatment facilities, and it’s using IoT technologies to monitor water levels and track the condition of pumping equipment. In addition, the agency is preparing to revise its master plan to include emerging technologies such as AI to enable self-learning process controls that reduce energy consumption and overall operating costs.

Don’t Miss Our Year-in-Review Summit

On Nov. 3. the 2021 Special Districts Year-in-Review and Recognition Summit will spotlight the biggest technology trends and brightest ideas of the year -- and explain what they mean for your district’s future. The summit brings together some of the nation’s most innovative special districts for an interactive conversation on modernizing internal operations, improving constituent services and navigating uncertain times.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore how technologies, management techniques and leadership strategies are evolving. You’ll hear practical ideas for strengthening operations and service delivery. We’ll also announce the recipients of our 2021 Special Districts Awards. Registration opens soon!

Creating a Roadmap to Resiliency

The COVID-10 pandemic permanently reshaped workforce, service delivery and leadership strategies for special districts. Our 2020 Annual Report shows how districts coped with unprecedented disruption caused by the public health crisis -- and it offers a roadmap for future resiliency and success.

In all, the report includes insights, best practices and innovative ideas from 20 special districts. It's packed with real-life examples of how special districts delivered critical services amid a year filled with uncertainty:

  • The Houston Airport System accelerated deployment of biometric identity systems to provide touchless security screenings
  • The San Antonio Water System in Texas is developing new performance metrics to manage remote employees
  • The Wilmington Public Library District in Illinois installed smart lockers to safely deliver materials to library patrons
  • The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Maryland instituted virtual inspections for new plumbing and gas fixtures

Get your copy today.

District Spotlight: Coping with New Transit Expectations

Public transit riders in post-lockdown America want their buses and trains to arrive on time, with shorter wait times, and they want to be kept up to speed on crowding and cleanliness.

You could say these are the basics of what riders have always generally expected from their local bus service. But just as the coronavirus pandemic has upended so much of life in America, transit also finds itself in a place of reset from its business-as-usual comfort zone.

Transit ridership nationally is still down to 64 percent of pre-COVID levels, according to statistics provided by TransLoc, a transit technology firm operated by Ford Mobility. Transit districts are taking a number of different steps to lure riders back, which often include free or reduced fares.

Read the full story.

More Articles Worth a Read

Here are more stories from special districts around the country. Share your own news with us for inclusion in the next newsletter.

Ohio county launches effort to create microgrid energy system. Cuyahoga County creates a county-run utility department and intends to build microgrids in established business districts.

Audit says Maryland cashless tolling system overcharged drivers. Maryland Transportation Authority moved to fully electronic tolling last year.