Connected cities paying off in Internet of Everything boom

Cisco rallies cities and municipal organizations as it discusses benefits of Internet of Everything.

Cisco, which is placing a big bet on the Internet of Everything (IoE), is rallying cities and other public sector organizations to the cause. The vendor last month published a new study outlining the benefits municipalities and institutions are receiving from IoE, in particular citing projects in Chicago, San Antonio and the University of Virginia Telehealth program.

At the same time, Cisco added Kansas City, Missouri, to its Smart+Connected Communities program. At last month's Cisco Live, the vendor said it will launch a mobile network pilot project in downtown Kansas City that will include interactive kiosks, smart street lighting and video surveillance.

That's the excitement; K.C. builds the infrastructure and the private market fills in the details.

Troy Schulte,
city manager, Kansas City

It's all part of what Cisco estimates is a $4.6 trillion revenue opportunity within connected cities and other government entities over the next 10 years, said Dan Kent, Cisco's senior director of systems engineering and CTO, U.S. public sector. "We're starting to see all of this coming together, delivered through a variety of municipalities, so it's not just one size fits all."

Forty cities in 20 countries benefit from connected cities projects

Cisco's study probed 40 municipal jurisdictions across 20 countries to determine how governmental agencies and other organizations are using IoE technologies to gain efficiencies and cut costs.

One city in the study, Chicago, has repurposed traffic cameras to monitor streets for snowfall. Dispatchers use the data they receive to send plows to the most critical areas. San Antonio uses IoE technologies to manage more than 1,200 traffic lights. Additionally, it uses an IP-based remote video system to permit municipal court judges to conduct hearings through kiosks and link centers scattered across the city.

"It's clear that government organizations are struggling to do more with less, and they are looking for anything that will help," said Joseph Bradley, managing director of Cisco Consulting Services' IoE practice. But IoE, he said, is more than just connecting things. "The true value is the connection itself," in other words, tying together the people, process, data and things that underpin the connection.

Connected cities project will link parking, information and promotions

The Kansas City project will dovetail with the city's downtown revitalization strategy, which is anchored in part by construction of a 2.2-mile streetcar line. Of the many anticipated benefits of the project, pavement or streetlight sensors will notify parking enforcement agents when a car happens to be parked on the tracks or if there are other right-of-way or rail issues, said City Manager Troy Schulte. But more importantly, the city plans to "use this network as a horizontal infrastructure," permitting residents and businesses to easily share downtown retail or restaurant promotions or other event-oriented information. "If someone can be notified on their smart app that there is something good going on in another part of downtown, that [knowledge] will help build up that street presence," he said. "That's the excitement; K.C. builds the infrastructure and the private market fills in the details."

In San Francisco, digital communications and radio manufacturer Harris Corp. is in the midst of installing an IP-based voice, dispatch and planning system for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The network, to be operational in 2015, will use an IoE foundation to permit the agency to track the location of rail, buses and cable cars; manage traffic signals and provide consumers with real-time arrival and departure information.

"It's necessary to have these tools to provide the insight needed to make the right decisions," said Dan Buckley, a principal engineer at Harris. Cisco is providing the routers and other components needed to support the system.

Connected cities parking initiative to change policies

San Mateo, California, is also using diagnostic tools in a plan to improve its parking management. The city of 100,000 expects to roll out new parking fees and enforcement policies as a result of that data, said Matt Bronson, assistant city manager.

San Mateo in 2012 launched a pilot project with Cisco and Streetline Inc. to install an IP network anchored by sensors placed under 135 parking spaces in the city's downtown core. Drivers use Streetline's Parker app to get real-time information about parking availability.

With more than a year of data now under its belt, the city is ready to revamp its parking guidelines to more accurately reflect parking demand, Bronson said. One option: to shift current enforcement hours into later in the evening --perhaps 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. "Right now, someone will park their car at 6 p.m." and the driver can leave it there the entire evening, he said.

The city council, meantime, approved a motion to deploy way finders --digital signs that display in real time the location of empty parking spaces -- in downtown areas to provide information about both on-street and off-street parking options.

"All of this is a tool to help us make better decisions and provide the type of community our customers are expecting from us," Bronson said.

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