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Kansas City, Mo., Closes Smart City RFP Without a Selection

After a year of reviewing potential private-sector partners, Kansas City opted to move forward with its smart city efforts without selecting a "program manager," and will work to develop a "smart city action plan."

by / June 26, 2019
After a year of reviewing numerous potential private-sector partners, Kansas City, Mo. opted to move forward with its smart city efforts without selecting a "program manager," and will work to develop a "smart city action plan."

A far-reaching smart city initiative in Kansas City, Mo., is being fine-tuned as the city arrives at a better understanding of how to manage and deploy large-scale innovation projects.

Without striking a deal, the city has closed its RFP in a search for a private-sector partner to serve as a “program manager” for smart city projects. 

“We decided that first we need to create a ‘smart city action plan’ to help us make sure we know what kind of governance structure would best guide our smart city implementation in the future,” said Chris Hernandez, director of communications for Kansas City. “This will create a more permanent way of incorporating smart city work into our daily operations.”

In June of last year Kansas City issued an RFP as a first step in its efforts to locate a private-sector partner to design and build a “full integrated suite of sensors, networks and data and analytics platforms,” according to the document.

“All RFPs are, by their nature, a way to see what the market has to offer,” Hernandez reflected in an email.

“We discovered that there are a heck of a lot of great ideas out there for expanding smart city programming and technologies,” he added.

The city has decided to move forward with its smart city planning “without selecting a business partner from the proposals we received,” said Hernandez.

The “action plan” Hernandez referenced is expected to be released this fall.

“Our most important goal is to implement smart and innovation solutions at all levels of our operations, and to push smart city thinking and technology deeper into our organization, our business practices and our delivery of basic services,” said Hernandez.

Kansas City, with a population of nearly 492,000 within a metro region of about 2.2 million residents, stands as a smart city icon among medium-sized cities. Its former Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett would often describe downtown as “the smartest 54 blocks in the United States.” The area was outfitted with a honeycomb of connected technology such as traffic and other sensors all communicating with one another to make urban life hum along more efficiently.

A new 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line only added to the district’s curb appeal and transportation options. Plans are already in place to extend the route another 3.5 miles.

The city is also moving forward with an expansion of the sort of smart city network deployed in downtown along Prospect Avenue, where the region’s transit agency is developing a bus rapid transit route, with sensor and other infrastructure being installed as that work unfolds, said Hernandez.

All told, smart city and transit improvements along the Prospect Avenue — an area with about 80,000 residents — will deploy some 600 traffic sensors and about 60 informational kiosks.

“Our regional bus system RideKC (KCATA), has already lit up free public Wi-Fi on all buses, including along Prospect,” said Hernandez.

“We want to make sure that Kansas City continues to lead on smart city innovation and technology, driving the use of data for City Hall decision-making, operating the city more efficiently, and improving the lives of our residents,” he added.

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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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