Author Kendra Langlie, Photo Amber Sigman
As the Synapse 2019 conference took over downtown Tampa last week, among the 5,500 visitors networking on the latest technologies and trends were representatives from several communities around Florida sharing their experiences and perspectives on what it means to be a Smart City and how critical this effort is to serve residents and visitors in a rapidly changing world affected by climate change and population growth.
What is a Smart City, anyway?
Simply stated, a Smart City is one that uses technology — from sensors to data and analytics and more — to address the priorities and quality of life of its residents and visitors, striving toward automation and seamless services as much as possible. The definition varies slightly depending on who you talk to, and what it looks like is largely shaped by the personality, needs, and threats of a given city.
The excitement and branding of the concept was helped considerably by the federal US Department of Transportation’s $50 million Smart City Challenge in 2016 that tasked mid-sized cities with developing ideas for an “integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.”
Common ground and emerging trends
Not surprisingly, much of what Florida cities are looking at in terms of “smart’’ are transit-related. As populations — and especially urban centers — grow, solutions for mobility, parking, improved safety and the need to relieve traffic congestion and commutes are increasingly urgent.
Nearly all of the cities that presented at Synapse have an eye toward autonomous vehicles playing an important role in future and continued ride-sharing to address these issues, but there is also a lot of talk about scooters and bicycles for the first and last mile, with several e-solutions regarding parking, pedestrians, and traffic rolling out as well.
Water, energy, and public safety were also major themes. The dazzling possibilities of 5G, which will require the deployment of multiple “small cell” antennas to every city block for even speedier internet connectivity, is viewed as having a lot of potential in terms of synergies with transit including hyper-localized traffic monitoring and “vehicle-to-everything” connectivity for autonomous vehicles as well as with utilities.
How are cities going to go about this? Most salient was the absolute necessity for collaboration both internally, within governmental departments, and externally — public-private partnerships — among the business community, academia, and utilities.
READ More Here – Thank you Kendra for spending two days with us at Synapse for our co-located launch of Toward Smarter Communities. This is a great article covering work happening around Florida.