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Smart Cities Living Lab in Dallas Issues Case Studies Report

The Dallas Innovation Alliance released a report detailing feedback generated from nine smart city pilot projects within the Smart Cities Living Lab in the West End Historic District.

It might not come as a huge surprise that air pollution was up following an Independence Day fireworks show this year in Dallas. But knowing the types of particulate matter and how much was present could be useful information for residents suffering from asthma or other breathing problems.

This is just some of the feedback the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) learned after reviewing several months of data collected by a network of sensors and other devices in the city’s Smart Cities Living Lab in the West End Historic District. Starting in March 2017, DIA, a nonprofit, partnered with private-sector vendors to launch nine smart city projects in a four-block area to both test their efficacy and how they might be scaled up for larger citywide deployments. DIA recently issued its report on the findings of the pilot projects.

“There are active discussions as to which projects to deploy more broadly,” said Jennifer Sanders, executive director and co-founder of DIA, adding that one option could be to use bond funding to support infrastructure projects like smart streetlighting.

One of the selling points for intelligent, LED streetlighting, illustrated by the Living Lab demonstration project, rested on cost savings. Smart streetlighting with LED bulbs demonstrated a 35 percent energy reduction, the case study report found. Expand that savings to Dallas’ 85,000 streetlights and the city could save “at least $90 million of operational savings over the life of LED bulbs,” according to the report.

Similarly, smart water metering studies in the Living Lab concluded that the devices could lead to the recovery of 75 percent of water losses due to theft and breakages.

The projects launched in the West End neighborhood also took note of other activities like pedestrian traffic — which increased 13 percent — while businesses noted a 12 percent increase in revenue during the study period. Consequentially, crime decreased 6 percent, year-over-year, according to the findings.

Data related to pedestrian circulation was provided to local businesses to serve economic development efforts. Since the launch of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center four years ago in the West End, some $100 million in private investement has flowed into the neighborhood. 

Other findings included more than 440 people stopped to interact with street-mounted kiosks each month, which offered information related to mass transit, areas of interest and even a “selfie” function.  

Moving forward, the Living Lab will continue to study the environment such as pedestrian activity or pollution, but officials are also looking to expand the study area into Dallas’ south side — an area larger than Atlanta.

“We are working with communities throughout the southern sector to collaboratively design projects for our Phase II efforts in this part of Dallas,” said Sanders. “We hope to announce the projects and launch dates formally in early 2019.”

Some of those projects could be structured around mobility, which helps to grow job opportunities, as well as public safety, said Sanders.

The alliance is also working to attract more technology or other ventures to its Smart Cities Living Lab.

“We have been talking with several early-stage companies about rolling them in, but none are 'in the ground' yet,” said Sanders. “Part of the West End Square park will be an Innovation Arcade, which will include semi-permanent installations from companies of all sizes to demonstrate new technology.”

Other cities like Las Vegas, Atlanta and Kansas City, Mo., have test-driven smart city projects by starting small with demonstration projects in “innovation districts.” It’s a way to develop the program — generally alongside private-sector partners — to best serve the city’s needs.

“The Dallas Innovation Alliance is a valued partner in elevating a culture of innovation in Dallas,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings, in a statement. “And the insights generated by the Living Lab will be utilized as a tool to elevate the potential of these technologies to reach our goals as a city.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.