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Smart Technology Is Coming To A City Near You

Within the next 20 years, major U.S. cities will use technology to track traffic congestion, monitor air quality, expand broadband access and provide more convenient parking options. Cities are working with private companies and other organizations to deploy technology to become more competitive in the global economy.

These initiatives are improving the quality of life for residents through better transportation, green initiatives and digital infrastructure. San Jose, New York and Dallas are among the large cities to deploy technology infrastructure in their cities, but they are not alone in their efforts.

Here’s a look at what other cities are doing to become smarter.


A rendering of Peña Station Next, Panasonic's Smart City development in Denver

The Mile High City is partnering with local educational institutions, tech companies and developers to create an entrepreneurial city. One of its biggest developments, Peña Station NEXT, is a partnership with the city, Panasonic and developer L.C. Fulenwider. The development will create a large mixed-use community with 1.5M SF of office, 500K SF of retail and 2,500 housing units, according to Urban Land. The $500M project is expected to take over a decade to complete, but this community will be a testing ground for the city. The community will contain smart lighting and parking, electric vehicle charging stations, environmental sensors, high-speed WiFi and last-mile transportation solutions including autonomous EV shuttles.

Denver will improve transportation by using intelligent transportation systems, which include wireless communication, car navigation and traffic signal regulation, to monitor and improve transit. The city will deploy an Internet of Things platform and a fleet of electric vehicles. It will test its enterprise data management system using a smart city living lab, which will be used in a small section of downtown to test freight movement efficiency, enhanced pedestrian crossings and a connected transportation ecosystem.

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco and private companies are working to improve broadband access, WiFi and transportation throughout the city. The city partnered with Google in 2014 to provide free WiFi at various public parks and plazas throughout the city. San Francisco also installed smart water meters for 96% of the city’s 178,000 water accounts. The wireless technology transmits consumption data to its billing system to better monitor water usage. In February, AT&T began its wireless broadband expansion with the installation of its first small-cell wireless antenna in the country. The company plans to install about 1,000 of these cells throughout the Bay Area in 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Public Utilities Commission is in the process of installing 12,500 energy-efficient LED lights throughout the city by the end of 2017. The city also received $11M from the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop transportation technologies, including new HOV lanes for public transit and car pools, carpool curb space for pickups and drop-offs, smart traffic signals and the deployment of autonomous electric shuttles to Treasure Island.

San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco, began a partnership with Eaton & Associates in July to lay the groundwork for connecting local municipalities with a shared fiber network.

Washington, D.C.

Rendering of Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 project

Washington, D.C.’s Gramercy District will soon become an innovation hub within the nation’s capital. 22 City Link is working on a 2.5M SF development on 24 acres next to the future Ashburn Metro Silver Line station. The developer hopes the smart community will attract innovators to test new concepts. While this development is expected to be a smart city on a small scale, Washington, D.C., has been pushing forward with additional smart city initiatives.

D.C. is implementing Internet of Things technologies to improve maintenance, transportation management and visitor experience. As part of its Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 project, Washington, D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer partnered with Sensity and Cisco to provide public WiFi and smart LED streetlights. Other initiatives include improved wayfinding, bike lanes, parking management and improved maintenance. Eventually, the project will include smart parking, environmental sensors and interactive kiosks.

San Diego

The interactive kiosks are shaped like sails to reflect the sailing culture of San Diego.

San Diego is rolling out one of the largest Internet of Things platforms through a partnership with GE. The project will upgrade 1,400 traffic lights with LED and integrate the traffic lights into a digital network. A network of 3,200 smart sensors will create a network that will improve parking, traffic and public safety and track air quality. The smart network is part of the city’s plan to improve traffic safety and further its climate action goals.

The Port of San Diego also is working with IKE Smart City to install, operate and maintain 30 interactive kiosks for visitors. The touch-screen kiosks provide visitors with directions as well as information about public transit, ride-sharing and bike services, attractions and other points of interest.


Boston FiDi skyline

Boston has long been a top smart city and several efforts have already been initiated to bring Boston’s technological infrastructure into the 21st century. In 2013, Schneider Electric partnered with the city to capture and analyze data from city facilities, traffic lights, street lights and city vehicles to increase efficiency and environmental standards. In 2014, Boston University began developing a cloud-based smart city system called SCOPE to develop and implement smart city services.

In May, the Boston Planning & Development Agency and Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology entered into a memorandum of understanding with WiredScore to ensure residential and commercial developments address broadband needs. The BPDA will add a Broadband Ready Building Questionnaire to assess if a new development is equipped with advanced technological infrastructure. Boston is the first city to work with WiredScore to integrate broadband-ready building design into its real estate development process.

The city’s Broadband and Digital Equity efforts aim to improve affordability and access to reliable high-speed internet for homes and businesses, expand the availability of internet in public places and facilitate access to up-to-date digital tools.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles' smart poles come equipped with 4G LTE.

Los Angeles has some of the smartest street lamps in the country. Its energy-efficient LED lights are equipped with 4G LTE wireless technology. Eventually, about 600 poles will be installed throughout the city. Los Angeles also partnered with Royal Philips in 2015 to install a street lighting system that uses mobile and cloud-based technologies. The Philips CityTouch system allows the Bureau of Street Lighting to remotely control lighting fixtures and monitor energy use for each light.

The Southern California city also gathered 500 types of map data to improve efficiencies of city departments. The Los Angeles GeoHub is accessible to residents, city employees and private companies. Data touches about every aspect of city life and includes things from real-time traffic and building inspections to the location of the nearest fire hydrant.


The Downtown Chicago skyline

Chicago’s biggest smart technology projects are the installation of a smart grid and smart lighting. The city’s Smart Lighting Project will lead to the replacement of 270,000 high pressure sodium lamps with LED lights, the installation of a wireless lighting system to monitor the lights in real time and allow for crews to make targeted repairs on existing poles and wires. The smart grid project will lead to the installation of 4 million smart meters by 2018.

In 2016, the city began installing sensor boxes to monitor the environment, such as air quality, rainwater and air temperatures. The city also is rolling out high-speed broadband and increasing public WiFi. Chicago has an extensive bike-sharing program and was recently named the greenest city in the U.S.

Portland, Oregon

Electric Avenue in Portland, Oregon

Even though Portland, Oregon, lost out on the Smart City Challenge in 2016 to Columbus, Ohio, which received a $50M prize, Portland decided to push forward with some of the elements in its proposal, according to DJC Oregon. The city and Portland State University are working on a Smart City action plan that will create clear steps on how to invest resources and people to move forward with smart city initiatives.

Electric vehicles will be a continued focus. The city is adding electric charging stations in right of way areas, and Portland General Electric has proposed creating an electric avenue in east Portland. There is already a pod of charging stations on Salmon Street in downtown Portland. Uber also will test its electric vehicle program in Portland. The program incentivizes drivers to switch to EVs. Downtown Portland received the country’s first electric vehicle showroom, which will be operated by Forth, an organization set on doubling EV sales in Oregon by 2020.



Seattle is increasing broadband access, simplifying its permitting process and partnering with private companies, such as Cascade Networks, to lease unused fiber optic cable owned by the city to help expand service. Many of its smart city initiatives are being driven by the city's rapid growth. The population is expected to rise 35% by 2035, but city staff will not likely increase enough to accommodate the growing population.

Access to gigabit internet has expanded with over half of Seattle residents having access to high-speed broadband and city services. The mayor has encouraged departments to use data analytics to make informed decisions. Other initiatives include providing an open data program to provide access to data to improve quality of life, building new data centers to improve efficiencies and updating critical components to the countywide emergency radio system.

Seattle and the University of Washington also joined The Metrolab Network, which consists of partnerships with research universities and cities looking to test new technologies.