Cool Cities Rely on Technology; Smart Cities Rely on Data and Partnerships

Source: GovTech on November 9, 2016 | Ryan McCauley

Much has been made about the future of cities and what the 21st-century city will look like. Government officials are quick to reference their ideals for smart technology creating more efficient governance and more livable conditions, but how do we tell the difference between cities that do it for press releases and news coverage against those using the tools in a constructive, cost-efficient way?

The difference, according to Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City, Mo., is the use of data.

"Data is what makes it smart,” said Bennett. “Technology makes it cool, but data is what makes it smart.”

Smart cities are the ones, according to Bennett, who “strategically collect data, analyze it and use it to make decisions.”

Kansas City has gone on to serve as both a cool and a smart city. With popular projects like its Internet-enabled kiosks or the Uber-inspired on-demand public transit program, the city has mirrored these tangible projects through data analytics and understanding what specific needs the city has.

Public officials believe wholeheartedly that collaboration with private actors through the city’s open data portal in improving government services is the recipe for success. The portal launched in 2013 but was revamped in 2014due to Mayor Sly James’ open data policy — and has inspired third-party actors to take advantage of the available data and add their contributions to the city.

Dominique Davison took that challenge to heart.

Through Davison’s PlanIT Impact online tool, cities can compare municipal data with hundreds of federal data sets to make the best decisions on city planning and design. In order for continued growth of the city’s smart initiatives, infrastructure will need to be planned sustainably and responsibly.

PlanIT Impact creates geo-specific solutions for city planners, designers and architects. The tool ultimately aids “smart modeling for smart cities,” said Davison. The tool helps localize data about potential infrastructure being built with regard to energy, water use, stormwater drainage, greenhouse gas emissions, proximity to public transportation and more.

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