IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Colorado Springs, Colo., Wants to Be ‘Smartest Smart City’

Existing projects include the pilot streetlight program, during which lights were outfitted with sensors to collect weather and ozone data, and equipping trash cans with sensors that can notify staff when they get full.

Aerial vew of Colorado Springs, Colo., at dusk.
Colorado Springs, Colo., at Dusk
Shutterstock/Jacob Boomsma
(TNS) — City officials and community representatives publicly revisited their goal of making Colorado Springs "the smartest of smart cities" during the 2023 SmartCOS Innovation Summit at the City Auditorium on Tuesday.

The daylong conference included 29 presentations that updated participants on advanced technologies, such as "smart" streetlights, trash bins and electric vehicle infrastructure, that aim to streamline public services in the city. The Office of Innovation and Colorado Springs Utilities, in partnership with other city departments and over 100 private, academic and nonprofit stakeholders, have spearheaded these improvements, known as the SmartCOS program.

Summit participants also engaged in breakout sessions to discuss future projects and offer feedback on refining existing practices.

"The pace of technological change is accelerating so much that cities and utilities have to institutionalize their approach to making sure they're staying on top of technology and taking advantage of it," Mayor John Suthers said.

Existing projects include the pilot streetlight program, during which lights were outfitted with sensors to collect weather and ozone data. Officials hope to expand light capabilities to detect gunshots, provide community Wi-Fi and more. The city has also equipped 30 trash cans with sensors that can notify staff via text and email when waste levels are nearing capacity as well as collect data on foot traffic in the downtown area.

As part of the Smart Fleet initiative, newly implemented GPS technology in city-owned vehicles can track data such as drive-time versus customer service time, snowplow snow removal distribution and harsh braking to improve safety and gas efficiency as well as offer residents live snow removal mapping.

These are just some of many initiatives and, while not every pilot project will receive further funding, the city is "constantly examining" ways to improve infrastructure in the future, Suthers said.

While the city seeks to address a variety of citizen needs, both Innovation Manager Carlos Tamayo and acting Utilities CEO Travas Deal said connectivity is a major priority in city development.

Deal touted Utilities' new fiber-optic network as a "historic investment" that will bring high-speed internet service to residents, modernize utility operations and facilitate further "smart" technologies.

"(The fiber network) is going to be that foundation for what innovation really looks like within Colorado Springs Utilities as well as the city moving forward," Deal said.

According to Utilities' Fiber Optics and Telecommunications Manager Brian Wortinger, the fiber-optic network will be financed through a lease agreement with national provider Ting Internet, rather than customer rate increases, to significantly offset building costs.

As construction began in September, Utilities' first fiber-optic customers are set to receive access in upcoming months. Utilities' construction of 2,000 linear miles of fiber-optic infrastructure is targeted for completion in 2028 and will cost $600 million, according to previous reporting by The Gazette.

"We'll have better, less expensive utilities by the benefits that we generate from this network," Wortinger said. "We're also able to address things like the digital divide and enabling connectivity for our entire city."

That digital divide — the unequal access in a population to the internet and other technology that is becoming exceedingly integral to everyday life — is something Tamayo hopes to tackle through SmartCOS's Digital Equity initiative, launched in November.

The city has allocated up to $800,000 in grant funds for local organizations to provide programs and services for certain Colorado Springs communities that lack technology and skills needed to fully participate in society, according to the initiative website.

"(The city hopes to address) accessibility to connectivity, devices (and) technology in underserved areas and disadvantaged communities through training, education and technical support," Tamayo said.

© 2023 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.