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Kansas City, Mo., Issues RFP for Smart City Partner

The request for proposal aims to land the city a private-sector partner to help it become the “smartest city in North America.”

Those 54 smart city blocks in Kansas City, Mo., could grow to several hundred in five to 10 years, bringing connected technologies and linking parking meters, transit stops, intersections and more.
The city is moving forward with its next expansion of smart city technologies, in part, through the issuance of an RFP as the first step to partner with the private sector in the form of hiring a “program manager.”
The manager — which is another way of saying private-sector partner — will be charged with designing and building a “full integrated suite of sensors, networks and data and analytics platforms,” according to the RFP. The program manager will work collaboratively with the city on smart city projects.
The RFP, announced June 6, 2018, “is not a traditional RFP. It is actually a partnership opportunity for someone to come in and work with us,” said Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City, speaking during a panel discussion at the Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo in Kansas City in March 2018. 
Kansas City aims to build off of its current smart city network in downtown, roughly along the new Kansas City Streetcar corridor. The next phase would deploy connected technologies along a new bus rapid transit route planned for Prospect Avenue — an area serving about 80,000 residents. Some 1,000 Wi-Fi access points, 600 traffic sensors and 60 information kiosks are proposed to serve the roughly nine-mile route. 
“The kiosk programming in this corridor will focus on concerns in this neighborhood including public safety, economic opportunities and education resources,” Bennett said.
This phase of the project is expected to have a 30-month construction period, with five sub-phases which expand the network by 18 to 25 blocks every six months, according to the RFP.
Phase II, which would follow the extension of the Kansas City Streetcar south to the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, would include some 800 Wi-Fi access points, 300 traffic sensors and 30 information kiosks.
The smart city program manager would also be expected to develop a long-term strategic plan, outlining the city’s direction for the next 10 to 30 years, which would include priorities and a timeframe for specific initiatives.
Kansas City’s overarching smart city objectives fall into several sectors: mobility, public safety, accessibility and improving the overall quality of life for residents. These objectives could take the form of gunshot detection technologies, smart water-metering, or even health-related projects, such as creating “geo-fencing” for public health alerts for sufferers of asthma.
“We think of smart city project goals such as the delivery of basic city services, increasing life expectancy through better health and bridging the digital divide,”  Bennett said.
Kansas City is the sixth largest city in the Midwest, with a metro region home to about 2.2 million residents. Several years ago, the city laid out a vision for developing a network of connected devices and systems that would then offer insight into quotidian urban concerns like traffic congestion, parking and transit, while also making available perks like public Wi-Fi and informational kiosks. That project saw the development of 328 Wi-Fi access points, 178 smart streetlights and 25 information kiosks — all largely along the new streetcar spine that runs along Main Street in downtown.
The new project hopes to build on this existing — and relatively small — infrastructure base, to vastly scale up smart parking, smart streetlights, public Wi-Fi and more to areas well beyond the city’s downtown core.
“This RFP will ensure that we continue to use data to innovate and work with skilled, visionary partners to make life better and more equitable for all our residents,” said Mayor Sly James, in a press release. “We look forward to receiving many compelling proposals.”
The deadline to submit a proposal is July 31, 2018. 
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.