Last week, seven forward-thinking members of Congress, co-chaired by Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) launched the Smart Cities Caucus. The aim of the caucus is to improve lives through technology by listening to stakeholder groups and proposing legislation to further develop smarter infrastructure.
C_TEC at the same time participated in a panel series with Future Tense, a partnership of Arizona State University, Slate, and New America, to discuss what is needed to foster the cities of tomorrow. Two elements were discussed that will help spur smart city development –creativity and connectivity.
It is important first to understand what exactly one means when using the term “smart city.” Generally, smart cities are those municipalities that employ sensors and data analysis to more efficiently run a city. During an address at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Rit Aggarwala, head of Urban Systems at Google’s Skywalk Labs, described smart cities not as products but as platforms that could fundamentally change the way people live in cities.
According to one study by ABI Research the benefits of smart cities, which will be more realizable with open data policies, blockchain, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence could produce $20 trillion in economic benefits.
Not only do smart city solutions improve a locality’s bottom line, they also make citizens safer, provide mobility for those disadvantaged by disability or economic hardship, and are good for the environment.
From a public safety perspective, smart city technology has the potential to significantly reduce crime. Between 2014 and 2015, San Francisco experienced nearly a 34% reduction in gunfire after installing sensor equipment that instantly alerts law enforcement after detecting a firearm has been discharged.
Autonomous vehicles, coupled with intelligent traffic systems like those being developed by Siemens outside Tampa have the ability to improve traffic congestion as well as make commutes safer. Ensuring safety and establishing regulatory certainty through the passage of federal autonomous vehicle standards will be necessary to provide consumers with the confidence to use AVs which will help economically disadvantaged Americans greater mobility and reduce traffic fatalities caused by impaired drivers.
Policymakers will have to be creative in achieving the goal of running smart cities. For instance local policymakers will need to think outside the box when it comes to urban planning, like the city of Jacksonville, which is currently converting its Skyway monorail system into a test track for autonomous vehicles. State and local governments will need to be creative in selecting private partners to develop smarter urban platforms such as San Jose, which is working with Intel to reduce noise pollution and improve environmental sustainability.
Finally, policymakers must invest in smart city technology.
It is for this reason that C_TEC endorsed, S. 1809, The MOVING First Act, cosponsored by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Richard Burr (R-NC). The bill, much like the C_TEC-supported STREET Act, extends the successful Smart Cities Challenge program, a nationwide contest administered by the Department of Transportation, to provide grant money to smart cities.
When Columbus, Ohio secured its initial Smart Cities Challenge grant in 2016, it was able to leverage the initial $40 million DOT award into $500 million in public and private investment. Investments in smart cities have proven to have economic and society benefits outweighing their costs.
In order for the sensors and data needed to operate smart city platforms to function at their highest level, it will be vital for cities to promote greater connectivity through both wireline and wireless Internet connections. Both Sacramento which has partnered with Verizon and well Atlanta in coordination with AT&T are examples of vibrant and growing smart cities which are deploying environmental and traffic sensors.
Accenture has estimated that over the next seven years, next generation 5G wireless technology to power smart cities will account for nearly $275 billion capital investment by network operators, create 3 million new jobs and result in $500 billion in increased GDP.
In order to encourage an environment favorable to network investment, policymakers at the local level, in Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission will need to adopt regulations that remove impediments to infrastructure deployment.
One way to promote greater wireless broadband is for the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to strike the right balance in allocating licensed and unlicensed spectrum to the private sector.
Additionally, our leaders need to address the growing burden of an outdated permitting and siting framework for communications equipment. One leader in this effort is FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr who recently announced a plan to modernize wireless siting rules on federal land such as eliminating NEPA reviews for small cell installation. C_TEC believes this is a much-needed step in the right direction as evidenced by a recent report which projects that Carr’s streamlining proposal could free up nearly $1.5 billion to be used for further network buildout.
Smart cities will require ingenuity on the part of urban planners, federal and state officials, technology firms, and the networks over which data is transmitted. In order to fully see the benefits that technologies such as AI, the Coud, and blockchain can provide to make municipalities safer and more efficient, policymakers will need to embrace a regulatory landscape that enables informed and smart investment.