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San Jose, Calif., Launches Smart City Pilot

The city will install 166 wireless nodes that can sense movement on the streets, send alerts when the trembling of an earthquake is detected and act as Wi-Fi hot spots.

San Jose, Calif., has launched a new pilot that city leaders hope will help propel it to “smart city” status.

The city will install atop its streetlights 166 Wi-Fi-connected wireless nodes that collect data — from natural disasters to traffic jams, among other things – from city streets. The data collected will then be stored, analyzed and returned to city officials to help with city planning and improve public safety.

Plans for the pilot were finalized last week with anyCOMM, an Internet of Things company based in Sacramento County, Calif., that makes the nodes.

“The pilot is structured around anyCOMM collecting the data, and then coming back to us with reports and summaries and suggestions of how this information could be useful for city operations,” said Teri Killgore, assistant to the San Jose City Manager. “We have no expectations at this point; we’re just giving them the space to collect the data, synthesize it for us, and come back and help us understand how we might make use of it.”

AnyCOMM has already installed eight wireless nodes and is ramping up to install the remaining sites. A total of 148 nodes will be installed around San Jose’s city center with an additional 18 around the perimeter of San Jose International Airport. The nodes are equipped with sensors, smart-meter chips, high-speed Internet and mobile phone chips. They can sense movement on the streets, send alerts when the trembling of an earthquake or the blast of a gunshot is detected, act as Wi-Fi hot spots, and tell the streetlights to turn off when the sidewalks are empty. The program marks anyCOMM’s public debut after 15 years of testing the technology.

Killgore said that because the nodes replace a standard photo cell, there is little hardwiring or electrical work required, making installation simple. The nodes will run on a virtual private network protected by encryption to ensure network security.

Killgore said anyCOMM originally reached out to the city to share its technology and to propose how it might help improve city operations. The city then went through a vetting process and defined the scope of the pilot. Killgore said the city scoped the project specifically as a limited duration pilot with a limited scale to operate within the city’s demonstration partnership policy. If the pilot is successful and there is interest in a longer-term project and a larger installation, the city would then conduct a competitive procurement process. 

The partnership marks the first large-scale project designed to help transform San Jose into a smart, connected city.

“We’re definitely interested in becoming a smart city, and we’re also very interested in helping precommercial technology prove itself to help our entrepreneurs get out to market faster,” said Killgore. “So it’s both an economic development strategy and an opportunity for the city to look to the future and see what technologies are emerging, and how those technologies can help complement city services.”

Justine Brown is an award-winning veteran journalist who specializes in technology and education. Email her at