Cisco Inks Kansas City Smart Technology Deal

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The ‘smart city’ scheme, with partners including Sprint and others, is to deploy a Wi-Fi network, city centre sensors and other urban technology

Cisco has signed an agreement with the municipality of Kansas City, Missouri, to deploy Internet-connected urban infrastructure projects that it said will have a major impact on the city’s services.

The project, announced at the Cisco Live conference in San Diego on Monday, is to see telecoms partner Sprint, which is based in Kansas City, deploy and manage a city-centre Wi-Fi network that is intended to serve as the backbone of a new connectivity platform.

Citizen engagement

ciscoInternet-connected street lights are to include sensors gathering a variety of data on city centre activities that Cisco said can be used to deliver better services – for instance helping plan parking, lighting and public safety measures – with the data also to be sold for the use of private companies.

Other aspects of the plan include digital kiosks and mobile apps aimed at engaging with citizens, new water systems and new technology for police vehicles.

The project is intended as a pilot to test a city-wide framework that can scale and can be offered to other cities, Cisco said.

“We know it’s the start of an infrastructure that’s as important to Kansas City in the 21st century as concrete, roads and steel were to the 19th century,” Kansas City mayor Sly James told the San Diego audience, speaking from Kansas City via a video link.

Street-light sensors

Cisco said it is working with Sensity to convert street lighting fixtures into LEDs, a power-reducing measure that will at the same time see the units integrated into a distributed sensing platform linked over a broadband wireless network.

The sensors are intended to collect real-time data for “smart city” applications, including parking, lighting, retail analytics and public safety and security, as well as enabling lighting control to reduce energy costs, improve lighting quality and reduce carbon and light pollution, Cisco said. The units are to be deployed along the city’s streetcar starter line and the adjoining River Market, Power & Light and Crossroads districts.

ThinkBig Partners is to make data from the sensors and other city projects available to private companies via a new portal. The city is working on storage and privacy guidelines for the data, as well as keeping citizens informed of how the data is being used, according to the city’s chief innovation officer, Ashley Hand.

Smart signs

The project is to include a network of smart signs in the city centre for broadcasting location-based information and alerts, supported by a smartphone application, available from the city’s public Wi-Fi home page.

Cisco said it is working with engineering and construction company Black & Veatch on a water system that will provide improved leak detection, predictive maintenance and asset management features.

The first phase of deployment, set for later this year, is also intended to identify technologies for next-generation police vehicles, and James said the city plans to activate the initial phase of the project early next year. Other collaborators may join the project as it progresses, Cisco said.

“It’s exciting to see forward looking cities like Kansas City driving innovations that enable cities to connect people, process, data and things, and bring the Internet of Everything to life,” said Cisco chief globalisation officer Wim Elfrink, in a statement.

Cisco said it is investing $7 million (£4.5m) initially in the project, with another $5m from Sprint and $3.7m from the city.

Cisco has worked with more than 90 cities around the world on deploying smart-city technoologies, including cities in the US, Canada and Australia. IBM is another player in this field, with its “Smarter Cities” initiative, which has funded projects in Glasgow, Peterborough and Birmingham, among others, while Google has invested in high-speed fibre-optic Internet connectivity in a number of cities.

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