The Smart Connector


NCSL Legislative Summit Smart Community Programming

2018 logo for NCSL legislative Summit.Join us in Los Angeles for NCSL’s 2018 Legislative Summit taking place July 30-Aug. 2. Several sessions and events on Monday and Tuesday explore smart communities’ topics. Sessions include how intelligent energy infrastructure—such as smart buildings, smart lighting and smart electric grids—are altering how we use and manage energy, how devices are becoming increasingly interconnected and how broadband service providers are preparing to support the increased demand on networks and the current regulations of drones and anticipated state policy trends. Members of the steering committee are also invited to meet for an informal lunch with fellow members on Monday at 12:15 pm. Please come ready to discuss our December meeting and potential session topics. Please RSVP to Kristy Hartman. For a full agenda, please visit NCSL’s Legislative Summit website.


San Jose, Calif., Moves Closer to Smart City and Closing the Digital Divide

Computer laptop.San Jose, Calif., Mayor Sam Liccardo announced last month that the city will partner with Verizon, AT&T and Mobilite to enhance broadband infrastructure throughout the city. All three companies have signed separate agreements to install small cell infrastructure, and hundreds of miles of fiber backhaul, throughout San Jose. This investment will lead to improved quality and speed of wireless service, needed for the expected increase in smart technologies and the development of smart cities. In return, the companies agreed to contribute $24 million over the next decade to the city’s Digital Inclusion Fund to support broadband buildout in underserved or unserved areas of the community.

Colorado Unveils First Connected Project to Utilize Cellular Broadband 

The Centennial State announced it will be first to deploy a cellular-based connected vehicle system in the U.S. All such projects so far have utilized dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) instead. This is a new wrinkle to the Colorado Department of Transportation public-private partnership discussed by Tyler Svitak at NCSL’s May Smart Communities meeting. Technology-agnostic is the key phrase when it comes to Colorado’s work in this sphere. As CDOT’s advanced mobility chief notes, “We want to create an environment that allows for both (DSRC and C-V2X) to work. Wherever the market ends up going for connected vehicles, we have one priority and it’s to deploy connected vehicle environments now to move it toward what we think will be significant improvement in safety on our roadways.” 

Large Investments in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure 

Graphic image of cars on the road and buildings in the background.May was a busy month for new electric vehicle infrastructure investments. The California Public Utilities Commission approved six programs totaling over $738 million that represent the largest investment in electric vehicle infrastructure by any state to date. The programs include funding for residential charging projects that provide rebates to customers, funding for fast charging infrastructure, time-of-use rates for commercial electric vehicle drivers and additional infrastructure to support at least 6,500 medium- or heavy-duty electric vehicles. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced an electric vehicle expansion initiative with up to $250 million in investments over the next seven years. An initial $40 million is allocated to three programs that aim to develop interstate fast chargers, improve airport electric infrastructure and develop electric vehicle model communities that include a utility-managed charging platform. And finally, in New Jersey, the utility PSEG also announced plans to spend $300 million to build smart electric vehicle infrastructure as part of its larger plan to invest $2.9 billion in energy efficiency and other programs.

Cities Worldwide Move Toward Smart Communities 

Image of earth and a keyboard.StateScoop highlighted a recent ranking of global smart cities, with 12 American cities represented in the list. Without endorsing any of the standings, the article delves into an interesting analysis of how city officials implement a city-wide smart technology strategy, how they identify the best initiatives to implement, and what are the effective benchmarks for project development from idea to execution. The full report and analysis can be found here.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration Highlights Smart States

Image of graphic data.Check-out the U.S. Department of Commerce BroadbandUSA’s Practical Conversations webinar series, which highlights the work state and local governments are doing to deploy smart technology.

“Smart Agriculture: Increasing Productivity Through Technology.” Smart agriculture engages technologies such as Big Data, GPS, IoT and connected devices to help farmers and ranchers better manage their production. Using these technologies, farmers and ranchers can improve water efficiency, produce higher quality crops and raise healthier livestock. Reliable and robust rural connectivity are fundamental to helping farmers gain benefits from new technologies. The speakers covered advances in smart agriculture equipment and sensors, the use of big data analytics for decision-making and highlight new innovation hubs, entrepreneurial support and test beds. Archived webinar can be found here.

“How Smart States are Using Innovative Techniques to Enhance Technology Us.” This webinar showcases how states are using smart technology and policy to enhance economic development and quality of life for their urban, suburban and rural communities. Representatives from three states and a moderator from the National Governors Association provide examples of how they are changing healthcare delivery, improving disaster mitigation, controlling traffic and lighting, creating economic growth and enhancing public safety. Archived webinar can be found here.

“Broadband Public-Private Partnerships: Delivering Solutions for America’s Communities.” Learn how to create successful broadband public-private partnerships and hear about the successes, challenges, and risks as well as specific details on implementation and management steps. Archived webinar can be found here.

Making Smart Intersections in Detroit 

Traffic light image against a blue sky.A number of intersections in Detroit now have networked traffic lights, which are connected to video cameras that can analyze video in real time to determine the type of road users—whether bike, car or emergency vehicle. It then figures out how they’re moving and how to respond. These signals improve auto and pedestrian safety and can allow emergency vehicles to reach their destination 20 percent faster. They also use open data systems that make it easier to interact with other connected infrastructure. 

Smart Communities Around the World

The report by the World Economic Forum, Data-Driven Cities: 20 Stories of Innovation, illustrates how data can be used to improve the experience of the built environment.  It explores how data can help communities better understand the digital world in ways that improve livability and safety, and how data can help communities address the challenges of energy, waste, water, mobility and citizen participation.

U.S. DOT Issues Challenge to Use Data to Improve Road Safety

Pedestrian crosswalk on a busy urban street.The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced the Solving for Safety: Visualization Challenge. The challenge wants innovators across disciplines to develop analytical visualization tools to better track and understand crashes. Candidates must focus on addressing one or more of three safety focus areas: protecting Vulnerable System Users such as pedestrians and bicyclists; Conflict Points such as road intersections and rail grade crossings and High-Risk Factors that include young drivers, impaired drivers, drowsy drivers, older drivers and speeding drivers.  

Portland, Ore.,  Aims to Use Smart Technology to Make Streets Safer for Vulnerable Users 

View of Portland, Oregon.When discussing connected and autonomous vehicles, the focus is often on the vehicle’s occupants. Smart technology, however, also has the potential to aid nonmotorized users. In Portland, Ore., a city renowned for its multimodal transportation network, the city is installing over 200 sensors to better understand pedestrian and bicyclists’ traffic patterns and behaviors and help improve safety and mobility for all travelers by parsing through the data. Reliable data on pedestrians and bicyclists is notoriously difficult to collect, although states such as Washington have made gains by harnessing emerging technology and other approaches.  

Turning to Technology to Fill Potholes 

Workers working on a road.Kansas City, Mo., lauded for its Smart City initiative, is among a group of localities leveraging modern-tech to attack the transportation issue as old as the Model-T. Google and Microsoft are getting into the pothole business by creating crowd-sourced smartphone apps, sophisticated forecasting, and computer modeling. Bob Bennet, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, understands even the modest pothole can be a big thorn in the side of a public servant or elected official, pointing out “if [they] fail to fill potholes or pick up the trash, [they’re] going to hear about it.”

Georgia to Provide Connected Vehicles with Traffic Signal Information 

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has installed technology along two corridors allowing for vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communication between certain connected vehicles and traffic signals. The Signal Phase and Timing (SPaT) technology will cost $1 million and will provide equipped vehicles with digital information on signal changes and pedestrian crossings. The National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE) is currently administering the national SPaT Challenge to encourage similar projects across all 50 states by 2020.

Are Connected Cars a Vehicle to Bring Broadband to Rural Communities?  

Autonomous vehicle.For driverless and connected cars to extend their reach beyond urban areas, connected technology will need to be embedded in infrastructure such as traffic lights and signs. A connected future also will require robust broadband networks though. As a recent Governing article noted, this presents an opportunity for creative partnerships between governments, automakers, mobility providers and others. Stitching together a connected broadband network can help ensure connected and autonomous vehicle services are available to all travelers regardless of where they live.  


Siemens Makes ITS Strides to Improve Safety and Mobility 

Marcus Welz, CEO of Siemens ITS, spoke with Traffic Technology Today to share how Siemens is bringing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to U.S. cities and corridors. One such system has achieved considerable time savings for Seattle commuters by using real-time traffic data and “a combination of DSRC, Bluetooth, cellular and Wi-Fi technologies,” Welz notes.   

Role for Electric Companies in Smart Communities 

Earlier this year, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) held a workshop exploring the role of electric companies as communities look to invest in smarter energy infrastructure. According to EEI’s report, the consensus from the workshop is that “the physical infrastructure, data, and information required to enable smart communities increasingly are important.” The workshop acknowledged the business model for the electric power industry is evolving, companies are discussing ways to leverage the existing electric system, and how electric companies more effectively can advance initiatives with communities beyond pilot projects. Electric companies could play a significant role in the design and implementation of smart community initiatives as more communities across the country consider new, efficient and innovative energy projects.