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Smart Infrastructure: A Multitasker's Paradise

Smart Cities - Gannett Fleming
Authors: Robert Skaggs, PE, PTOE, Vice President and Traffic/ITS Manager, and Jeanette Berk, Senior Planning Manager
Everyone wants to be smart, but there is no simple road map to get there. Some government leaders have formed regional planning commissions, others are implementing smart technology in pilot programs, and still others are reluctant to join the movement given the risks of a rapidly changing landscape. 
One practical and compelling reason to embrace smart infrastructure is that it can solve more than one challenge at once. Let’s take a look. 

Embrace Multiuse Data Collection

Entities that collect data solely for a single purpose are missing out on opportunities to make greater impacts. For example, Google’s long-deployed Street View cars collect images that we’ve all come to depend on as we search for directions. Recently, Google announced plans to expand its use of air quality sensors attached to those cars to collect data on carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. The information collected can help officials make more informed decisions about pollution levels and public health. 

In another example, sensors used to estimate available parking spaces also could send notifications to a towing company when a spot is filled during designated no-parking times. Aggregated metrics on usage could help the city plan for future parking, and the sensors also could collect air quality, sound, and light data to help manage those ordinances as well.
Break Down Silos 

To reach the full potential of cross-collaboration, utilities, governmental agencies, and industries must address seemingly unbreakable institutional boundaries. The cities of San Diego and Jacksonville, Florida, shattered conventional silos when installing new street lighting – undoubtedly an important public safety measure. They took the project a step further by piloting GE lights equipped with sound sensors that detect gunshots and immediately notify police. 

The solution involves sectors that – in many municipalities – would be distinct and separate: power, law enforcement, telecommunications, and traffic. Smart cities will break down these silos, ushering in a dramatic shift in the way organizations operate.

Integrate Data

Improved integration will ensure that utilities and public agencies share and use the same source data. It‘s common for a local transportation authority and power utility to use their own historical usage data to project the demand on their systems—so they end up preparing for two different futures. Imagine the efficiencies gained from every service aiming toward common goals. 

A community can’t become connected overnight. By piggybacking on already-existing data collection, municipalities can begin to encourage collaboration and realize new ways to improve the lives of the people they serve.

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