Kansas City’s Smart City programming started in 2015 with the first partnership agreements.
Kansas City is part of a leading edge movement to use advances in technology to change the way cities work–from more efficient management of infrastructure like traffic signals, streetlights and stormwater systems to new ways to engage with residents and visitors. These changes follow three major goals established in the KC Digital Roadmap:
- To improve the delivery of City services
- To enhance the citizen experience
- To support entrepreneurship and economic development
The smart city initiative will also improve the way people experience Kansas City, from the flow of traffic to better city services to more free public Wi-Fi.
The changes are happening first along the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line. A $15.7 million public-private partnership was formalized in June 2015 when Kansas City signed a strategic agreement with Cisco Systems, Inc. and its partners to develop the most comprehensive smart city network in North America. Cisco was attracted to KCMO because of its emerging technology sector, the investment in transit infrastructure, and the advent of Google Fiber.
As Cisco, Sprint, Think Big Partners and other private companies continue to collaborate with Kansas City, the impact will be seen in enhanced Internet availability, energy savings, new revenue streams, and improved connectivity with citizens, including efforts to bridge the “digital divide.” But just as intriguing is how the smart city initiative is expected to attract technology startups from across the globe to test their concepts here as KCMO becomes an open data “living lab.”
The following outlines more information on the smart city initiative’s two primary components: the Cisco Smart + Connected Community and the Living Lab.
A Connected Platform
Smart + Connected Communities is the Cisco smart city solution or intelligent networking that provides real-time information and services for city leaders to create more livable cities. The network is being organized around the 2.2-mile streetcar line and the adjacent River Market, Power & Light, and Crossroads districts, to ensure integration with existing KCMO systems. Specific components include:
Public Wi-Fi: In partnership with Sprint, a new public Wi-Fi network is being installed downtown to provide free Internet access to visitors and residents, helping us meet our goal of becoming a more digitally inclusive city. There is no cost to the taxpayer for the construction or management of this network beyond permit fees being waived and Sprint will maintain 50 percent of the network for its own use during the duration of the partnership. This Wi-Fi network will provide the connectivity necessary to support new smart city applications that KCMO may adopt. As stewards of public data, the City is setting the highest standards through its recently adopted data privacy principles.
Community Kiosks: One goal KCMO set with Cisco was to make the smart city network accessible and valuable to visitors and residents who may not have personal access to a smart phone or other technology. A series of 25 interactive digital kiosks will be placed along the streetcar line and nearby downtown locations for accessing city services, current events, transportation services, local business information, public digital art, local history and entertainment. In addition, these kiosks may be able to serve as a reverse alert system during emergencies.
As part of a smart network, each kiosk will have content specific to its location and can dynamically change content based on the needs of the users. Transactions also can be linked to a smart phone application. For instance, if visitors want to buy tickets to a show at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, they can finish the transaction on their phones if the streetcar arrives before their payment is complete.
The kiosks also allow for advertising which will provide new revenue for VisitKC and the KC Streetcar Authority. KCMO proposes community outreach to learn what content might be valuable – such as digital art, historical markers, or other information – in addition to soliciting feedback on where these kiosks should be located.
Video as a Sensor and Smart Lighting: Cisco proposes installing Sensity sensors and integrated LED street lighting to capture data as needed for future smart city applications. The Light Sensory Network will be designed to automatically adjust street lights to save money and energy and reduce light pollution. There is also interest from the KC Streetcar Authority to use sensors to ensure safe, high quality rides.
The Living LabThe smart city movement is part of the Internet of Things (IoT), a phrase which describes bringing connectivity and intelligence to devices, making them smarter and more relevant for people. The growing network of data produced by these things will serve as a “living lab” for Cisco, Think Big Partners and other entrepreneurs as it vaults Kansas City into playing a vital role in the innovation and commercialization of IoT technologies. IoT has been called the most revolutionary technology sector since the creation of smartphones, and industry experts estimate this sector’s value at $19 trillion.
Historically, emerging technologies have faced complex challenges to successful market deployment. The initial research and development phase is often slow, expensive and requires significant end-user feedback. Many companies find this process daunting and cost-prohibitive, but the Living Lab will create opportunities for entrepreneurs to build high growth companies, partner with large companies needing assistance and offer KCMO the ability to reap financial and social benefits while improving the quality of life for residents.
An Innovative Public-Private Partnership
KCMO has entered into a public-private partnership to build out the most comprehensive smart city network in North America, creating not only the most technologically sophisticated streetcar experience but also providing new tools to manage public infrastructure with greater efficiency. The investment of $3.8 million by KCMO over the next 10 years is being matched and exceeded by nearly $12 million in private investment by Cisco, Think Big Partners and other private companies. From better public health to safer streets to energy-saving streetlights, the applications and benefits are limited only by our imagination.
Smart City Definitions
Internet of Everything (IoE): As defined by Cisco, this term is the networked connection of people, process, data and the value this increased connectedness creates as “everything” comes online.
Internet of Things (IoT): A more common term, IoE was recently added to the Oxford dictionary defined as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.” This is a component of IoE as it only includes the physical objects that are a part of this network.1 If you consider the Internet today as the connectivity between computers, technologists look forward to a future of interconnected objects, sensors and actuators that can seamlessly communicate and potentially adapt to environmental conditions.
Sensors: A smart city sensor is a strategically located device that relays real-time information for use to monitor infrastructure service levels. Sensor can track information such as air quality, light levels, activity, temperature, etc.
Smart City: A smart city uses communication networks, wireless sensor technology and intelligent data management to make decisions in real time about infrastructure needs and service delivery. “A smart city is a dynamic city that makes living in a dense urban environment more civil and rewarding.”
Smart City Applications: Smart city technology can be used in a variety of ways to improve services – from parking to street lighting to water management to public safety. An application is a specific way of using the data captured through sensors for a specific business use.