In May 2014, Kansas City signed a letter of intent with Cisco Systems, Inc. to explore the feasibility of developing a smart city network along the streetcar starter line in Downtown. Attracted to Kansas City for its emerging technology sector, the investment in transit infrastructure, and the advent of Google Fiber, Cisco is proposing a model that would make Kansas City the largest smart city network in North America – once again putting our city at the forefront of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.
Over the past months, Think Big Partners, Cisco and its partners have evaluated the needs of our city departments and our existing infrastructure to propose a unique program that will enhance Internet connectivity, enable efficiencies in management of public infrastructure, introduce new revenue streams, and ultimately improve the citizen experience in our urban core. This program will also bring new economic development by attracting technology start-ups from across the globe to test their concepts. The following outlines the two primary components of the proposed KC Smart City initiative: the Cisco Smart + Connected Community and the Living Lab.
This process created a solutions-based technology road map that aligns financial return on investment, social responsibility and citizen benefit. Using state-of-the-art internet of things technologies designed to modernize cities, lower costs and deliver long term value, Kansas City will become one of the world’s smartest and connected cities.
A Connected Platform
Smart + Connected Communities is the Cisco smart city solution or intelligent networking that provides real-time information and services for city leaders to create more livable cities. The proposed smart city platform will be organized around the 2.2 mile streetcar starter line and the adjacent districts of the River Market, Power & Light and Crossroads, taking advantage of the construction already underway. The proposal ensures integration with existing KCMO systems to leverage prior technology investments.
In partnership with a third-party provider, a new public WiFi network is proposed for downtown that will provide basic Internet access to visitors and residents of the neighborhood for free, helping us meet our goals to be a more digitally inclusive city. There is no cost to the taxpayer for the construction or management of this network beyond permit fees being waived and the third-party provider will maintain fifty percent of the network for its own use during the duration of the partnership. This WiFi network will provide the connectivity necessary to support any smart city applications that KCMO may invest in to manage infrastructure along this corridor or adjacent districts. As stewards of public data, KCMO is setting the highest standards through the proposed data privacy principles.
One goal we initially set with Cisco was to make the proposed smart city network accessible and valuable to visitors and residents who may not necessarily have personal access to a smart phone or other technology. The proposal includes placing 25 interactive digital kiosks with access to information about local amenities, including cultural events and entertainment, food, other businesses, and city services such as 311. These kiosks will be fully accessible and could potentially serve as a reverse alert system in case of emergency operations. Since they are part of a smart network, each kiosk will have content that is specific to its location and can dynamically change content based on the needs of the users. Transactions can also be linked to a smart phone application so, for instance, if a visitor wants to buy a ticket to a performance at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, they can finish the transaction on their phone if the streetcar arrives before the payment is complete.
City Post, a NYC company, plans to open a local office to manage content and ensure these kiosks are maintained. These kiosks also allow for advertising which will provide new revenue for VisitKC and the KC Streetcar Authority. KCMO proposes community outreach to understand what content might be valuable – such as digital art, historical markers, or other information – in addition to soliciting feedback on where these kiosks should be located.
Video as a Sensor & Smart Lighting
Cisco also proposes installing Sensity sensors and integrated LED street lighting which would be the basic sensor to capture data as needed for any future smart city application. Initially, there is considerable interest from the KC Streetcar Authority to find applications that will ensure its ridership has a safe and quality experience. By installing these sensors, KCMO will be able to apply a variety of applications to help improve infrastructure management and the citizen experience.
The Living Lab
The Living Lab is a joint proposal by Cisco and Think Big Partners for Kansas City to play a vital role in the innovation and commercialization of IoT technologies. This emerging technology is not a fad. According to leading industry experts, this sector is thought to be the most disruptive technology segment since the creation of the Smartphone and is estimated to be valued at $19 trillion dollars.
Kansas City will have the opportunity to create a Living Lab, in which qualified and highly targeted emerging IoT technologies that can benefit the City of Kansas City, Missouri can be deployed, tested and validated in a full scale industrial user environment.
Historically, emerging technologies, even if deemed to be highly useful and in demand, have faced complex challenges to successful market deployment. The initial research and development phase is often very slow, expensive and seeks feedback from the end user market to determine if proper product-market fit has been achieved. The amount of time it takes is dependent on many factors to include competing technologies, participation from relevant parties and access to market forces. This first phase alone can take years, in which many companies can find this process both daunting and cost prohibitive, which in turn can have an adverse impact on the number of companies willing to go through this innovation cycle.
The Living Lab will create an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build high growth companies, partner with large companies needing assistance and allow KCMO the ability to reap the financial and social benefits while improving the quality of life and reducing long terms costs.
An Innovative Public-Private Partnership
KCMO is proposing a public-private partnership that will enable this city to build out the largest smart city network in North America, not only creating the most technologically sophisticated streetcar experience but providing new tools for KCMO to manage its infrastructure with greater efficiency. The investment of $3.9 Million by KCMO over the next ten years will be matched and exceeded by nearly $12 Million in private investment by a variety of partners to include Cisco, Sprint and other third-party provider. From public health to efficient infrastructure to better, safer streets, once KCMO builds a platform for smart city technologies, the applications and benefits are limited only by our imagination.
In addition to the considerable international attention since last May, this proposal will spur new economic activity in the technology sector in Kansas City. KCMO anticipates the Living Lab will attract new businesses and entrepreneurs to Kansas City for the unprecedented opportunity to develop new technology in a real urban environment which can benefit KCMO and cities across the globe. While the smart city concept is not new, the proposal for the Living Lab creates an unique opportunity to make a significant, sustainable impact in this growing sector while benefiting our residents, businesses and visitors with better infrastructure.