Once considered the purview of Jetsons-era futurescapes, smart street systems have made the transition from science fiction to real city council planning agendas. Sensor-laden Wi-Fi kiosks, smart streetlights, EV charging stations and integrated urban mobility systems are generating rising interest as cities demand greater connectivity, resource efficiency, enhanced public safety and more effective municipal service delivery. Communities of all sizes are exploring pilot programs, leveraging low-cost data capture devices, and implementing more expansive and capable communications networks to move toward a more connected future.
Embracing the Smart City Vision
Given the rapid pace of change in 2016, it can be hard to believe that only a few years have passed since advanced street systems began their move from the concept stage to initial city deployments. In 2015, only 12 percent of Strategic Directions: Smart City/Smart Utility Report survey respondents indicated they were piloting a smart city program. In 2016, that number rose to 19 percent. This shift has coincided with further penetration of smartphones and the evolving mobile app economy that is changing consumer expectations for what is and what is not possible from traditional service providers.
Widespread efforts by municipalities to fund a variety of community improvement programs through creative financing approaches also represent a critical step toward broader smart system adoption. As municipalities and their residents grow more comfortable with public/ private partnership efforts and alternative financing vehicles, traditional direct, taxpayer- funded initiatives are giving way to smart programs that increasingly leverage external capital.