Building a Smart City? Start with Street Data.

March 19, 2019 Robert Moss

When the City of San Diego wanted to upgrade its streetlights, it saw an opportunity to launch a larger smart city initiative. Working with Current, powered by GE, the city installed CityIQ intelligent nodes—embedded with multiple sensors powered by Intel® technology—on 4,200 of its light poles.

In addition to the intelligent nodes, the city is upgrading 25 percent of its outdoor lighting with the latest Current LED technology and LightGrid wireless controls, which is expected to save $3.6 million annually in energy and maintenance costs.

But saving resources is just one benefit. By using streetlight poles as the basis of an open, secure, and scalable digital infrastructure, San Diego gained the ability to implement a wide range of smart city initiatives that can improve citizen safety, generate revenue, reduce costs, and accelerate growth.

How to Get Street-Smart

Streetlight poles offer three things that make them an ideal installation site for smart city equipment. They are ubiquitous, providing a source of power and a bird's-eye view of the city while keeping equipment out of sight and out of danger. Intelligent devices on streetlights can instantly see, hear, and feel—using optical, acoustic, and environmental sensors to act on traffic conditions, gunshot detections, public activities, and more.

These types of solutions provide cities and metropolitan areas with the means to accumulate a wide range of information that produces numerous benefits. This data can be examined to find meaning in a variety of environmental conditions.

By taking advantage of computer vision, city managers and employees can make decisions that:

  • Improve public safety by capturing and transmitting images to first responders—advancing short-term response, long-term planning, and evidence-based investigations.
  • Identify congestion and optimize traffic by analyzing vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic data to make comprehensive transportation policy decisions.
  • Enhance parking management by enabling drivers to readily find open parking spots, saving time and optimizing lot usage.
  • Enhance emergency response by feeding data to an archive—letting investigators rapidly locate and review images to identify patterns or people involved in an incident.

A Look at CityIQ

CityIQ, developed by Current, powered by GE, is an example of a solution that takes advantage of existing streetlights to enable these solutions and benefits.

Current's CityIQ intelligent nodes, which run on Intel technology, allow seamless integration into any streetlight pole. Multiple sensors embedded into the CityIQ node collect and transmit data over a secure cloud connection using Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular service. Intel technology provides the advanced processing and edge analytics needed for these compute-intensive functions.

The platform empowers any city department to use data to solve its specific needs. Since individual departments can share this digital infrastructure, there's no need to install and manage their own point-solution hardware or store their own data. This means CityIQ solution deployments save money while eliminating departmental data silos (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Solutions such as CityIQ enable cities to monitor a variety of metrics with one device.

In addition, CityIQ's future-proof design makes it simple to adopt new use cases via over-the-air software upgrades. CityIQ fosters the development of apps that use city data to boost local economic expansion and increase convenience.

Powering App Development

Cities can benefit by encouraging third-party developers to build applications that enhance livability and improve the local economy. CityIQ—which makes real-time data available with open API and security-focused, scalable Intel technology—makes it simple for developers to build unique, customized applications that produce targeted solutions.

For example, San Diego sponsored a hackathon and invited developers to create new apps. One of the apps, DreamBiz, enables entrepreneurs to leverage a wide array of city data. Based on CityIQ historical traffic, parking, and pedestrian data, the app helps them match their type of business venture with available real estate (Figure 2).

Figure 2. App developers can use city-owned data collected through CityIQ to build new, innovative applications.

In partnership with GE Digital, San Diego provided real-time data from deployed CityIQ nodes to the 2018 CSU Challenge. The winning app, Treety, uses traffic, pedestrian routes, and other data to aid urban planners and citizens in choosing optimal locations and types of trees to plant. It helps make neighborhoods more people-friendly, reduce carbon emissions, and revitalize neighborhoods.

Secure and Scalable Solutions

Municipal IT departments require secure, high-performance solutions that address current and future needs. CityIQ is built with scalable Intel technology that protects data, software, and hardware. Intel processors support high-resolution multimedia and high-frames-per-second video streaming (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Solutions including CityIQ provide security and scalability, enabling cities to adapt the solution to new requirements.

Designed to Help Smart Cities Thrive

Municipalities around the world use solutions such as CityIQ to collect and analyze data, helping them improve quality of life, generate revenue, reduce costs, and accelerate growth. These solutions take advantage of existing streetlight infrastructure, and their scalable, modular approach empowers cities to grow the solution to match their needs.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer spoke about CityIQ benefits: “Fostering innovation and improving infrastructure are important to enhancing the lives of all San Diegans.” He added, “This new technology will give the city and developers the opportunity to make our neighborhoods safer and smarter.”

By deploying a solution designed to solve current and future needs, city managers and employees make data-informed decisions that improve livability, optimize resources, and entice new businesses and enthusiastic citizens to make smart cities their home.

About the Author

Robert Moss

Robert Moss is an independent consultant and strategist who focuses on the value gained through IoT, AI, machine learning and other technologies. He also helps give voice to executives at leading technology companies, enabling their personal stories to show how they encourage innovation, overcome obstacles, and improve their leadership skills. Tweets @RobertMoss_IoT

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