Denver Talks Up Regional Benefits of Smart Technology

Colorado's Front Range expects its population to grow by more than 1 million in 20 years, making regional, smart mobility solutions an absolute must, say panelists at the annual Smart Cities Connect Conference.

by / April 3, 2018
From left, Bob Bennett, outgoing chief innovation officer in Kansas City, Mo.; Robert McDonald, executive director and public health administrator with the Department of Public Health in the city and county of Denver; and Emily Silverman, smart cities program manager for the city and county of Denver speaking during a panel discussion Tuesday at the Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.

DENVER — Mobility networks, whether they involve air quality sensors spread across Denver County or smart streets technology at Denver International Airport, work better when they address a regional issue.

“One of the things we’re really struggling with, as a region, is the amount of growth that we’re expecting in the next 20 years,” said Douglas Rex, executive director of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, during a panel discussion Tuesday at the Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo. “We’re expecting 1.2 to 1.3 million people to relocate here to this region in the next 20 years.”

“We’ve got some issues,” Rex added. “And we’re really, really in search of some ways to mitigate some of these mobility problems that we have today, and certainly, will exponentially grow with this region.” 

Rex was part of a panel on “Smart City, Smart Region: Front Range Collaboration.” The annual conference brought together more than 500 city participants from 44 states and 14 countries to discuss many issues around mobility, data, and the evolution of cities in an increasingly technological world.

“This is a long game and we also need to be bold about where we need to go,” said Chelsea Collier, editor at large for Smart Cities Connect.  

Bob Bennett, outgoing chief innovation officer for Kansas City, Mo., who moderated the panel — and who playfully called the group the “Front Range Rock Stars” — pushed officials to expand on both the need to work as a region, and what happens when you don’t.

“I think there have been some bad examples where you pigeon hole yourself in to a certain technology,” said Bret Waters, deputy chief of staff for the city of Colorado Springs. “And I think that regionally, we’ve talked more. I think we’re able to discuss what’s happening, what’s worked well, and then really leverage understanding amongst the region on what’s worked well.”

“Across jurisdictions it’s very important to have those conversations and those discussions to understand what issues a neighboring jurisdiction might be facing,” added Darryl Jones, executive vice president and chief real estate officer for the Denver International Airport. “So then you can help and bridge the gap.”

The conversations should not just stop with the folks in corner offices, said Emily Silverman, smart cities program manager for the city and county of Denver.

“We need to have these crucial conversations with our residents,” said Silverman. “Not only about what they want to see, but also in terms of the data. The data the city pays for, for the devices, is everybody’s data.”

“We need to find safe and secure ways to both be able to share the data and gain the insights, but make sure everybody is protected,” she added.

Skip Descant Staff Writer

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 Sacramento.

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