Mobility and safety in city innovation

With populations on the rise, mobility is one of the major focus areas for all smart city projects. How can cities make transportation more fluid and efficient? How can they reduce congestion and pollution from gasoline engines? What alternatives to the traditional personal automobile should cities explore—and how do they get their citizens and communities on board with the new options? At the Harvard Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator at Las Vegas, a session entitled Mobility in Our Cities was held to address these questions. Here are some key insights from the expert panelists.

  • Many parties involved
  • Don't reinvent—reimagine
  • So many options
  • Generational transportation preferences
  • The importance of data
Mobility is the great equalizer of the 21st century.

Strategic solutions for cities

By Nathan Giles, Accenture and Franco Amalfi, Oracle

In 2018, representatives from Accenture and Oracle began an important conversation at the Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator at Dublin, Ireland, an event that was held to bring together city officials and leading experts to discuss all aspects of smart city projects, including how to overcome challenges and find a pathway to success. The discussion between Accenture and Oracle demonstrated the goal of the Accelerator perfectly, as these smart city experts began a productive conversation about what they, as large companies who work with a lot of partners, can do to further smart city efforts.

After the event, the companies moved from conversation to action. During the 2019 Harvard Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator at Las Vegas, representatives of Accenture and Oracle brought us up-to-speed with what had happened in the past year.

  • Identifying Smart City Challenges
  • Creating a New Smart City Model
  • Saying Goodbye to Vendor First Mentality
  • Identifying Use-Cases
  • Plotting Out the Ecosystem
  • Sustainable Planning
  • Setting Up a Governance Model
  • Forming a Partnership
Any objection you bring forward, we believe we have built a solution for that into this model.

Smart & healthy cities

By Ted Smith, University of Louisville

What if I told you that cities were the important unit for health, and there’s $3 trillion coursing through the veins of the healthcare industry and none of that today is rolling through cities in any meaningful way?” In his session titled Smart & Healthy Cities, Ted Smith, a former CIO for the city of Louisville who now works for the University of Louisville, told the story of how diverse parties joined forces on a mission to solve a health mystery plaguing the city. Although this story is unique to Louisville, it demonstrates the interconnectedness of city problems and why city leaders should consider tackling health problems using smart city technology. Learn more about:

  • The Healthcare Problem (And Why Cities Should Care)
  • The Initial Pilot
  • Assembling a Team of Collaborators
This isn’t about Louisville doing something. This is about many, many cities trying many, many different things.

Fireside chat: Accelerating growth

By Michael Sherwood, Director of IT, Las Vegas

Michael Sherwood has been the director of Information Technology for the city of Las Vegas since 2016, and in that time he has worked on hundreds of smart city projects in an effort to bring new technology and new possibilities to the city. During the Harvard Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator at Las Vegas, attendees got to see these smart city solutions on display, including a ride on Vegas’s autonomous shuttle and demonstrations of smart city projects related to traffic and public safety. On day 2 of the Accelerator, attendees had an opportunity to pick Michael’s brain in a Fireside Chat session. Although his answers are specific to the unique city of Las Vegas, they outline some of the major areas that all cities should be contemplating as they embark on the path to becoming a smart city.

  • Defining Goals
  • Recognizing Context
  • Using Sales and Marketing
  • Thinking About Sustainability
  • Moving Forward
This is not a conversation about making Las Vegas smarter than any other city. It’s about making our region and making the world a better place. So if we can help further their efforts then we want to share, and we want to help, and we want to learn.

Data and privacy panel

The excitement of smart cities projects comes from their infinite and exciting possibilities. By using technology to make the city smarter, more efficient, and more streamlined, one can begin to envision a future city that looks completely different from the one existing today. What is a little more humdrum about these projects is the data. However, although data is a little less exciting to visionary CIOs, data and smart cities are inextricably linked. Before jumping into any smart city project, leaders must consider how the data will be collected, stored and used in a way that will protect the privacy of citizens from whom that data is gathered.

Data and privacy was the subject of a panel discussion held on the second day of the Harvard Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator in Las Vegas. During that session, one project, in particular, exemplified the importance of having an open and transparent conversation about data collection up front.

Sidewalk Toronto: A cautionary tale

Sidewalk Toronto is a joint project by Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs (a sister company of Google) that seeks to renovate land on Toronto’s waterfront to create a mixed-use community that would become a model of sustainability, innovation, and technology. While still underway, the main snags in the project have stemmed from the fact that there were a lot of discussions about the innovative things they could do in the project without properly engaging the community first.

Confronted with the notion they could be tracked (and not knowing how that data might be used), citizens formed an advisory board to oversee the data privacy issues of Waterfront Toronto. As citizens on the board didn’t agree with the direction the project was taken, they began to resign and speak out against the project, causing an even bigger ripple of distrust in the community.

So the lessons learned from Sidewalk Labs is essentially that we are not taking security as kind of the core of the whole proposal versus the cool stuff we could do with this fifty million dollars.

4 Data challenges to consider alongside Smart City projects

It is clear that data and privacy concerns must be addressed at the onset of any smart city endeavor, but what specific things should city officials contemplate? During the Data and Privacy session, panel members contributed what they thought were the top data challenges to work out for a successful smart city project.

  • Data Sharing Inside Government
  • Data Sharing with Private Parties
  • Navigating Citizen Expectations
  • Iteration and Scale
I think the flavor of this discussion has all been about how do you sidestep or moderate regulation, rather than thinking that regulation could actually be a huge benefit to the economy of a public authority.

The various ways to think about data and privacy

To be successful, smart city leaders must consider more than just what problems in the city need solving and what cutting-edge technology can provide answers; they must also work to build public trust, navigate the expectations of the community, and develop agreed-upon methods to keep privacy safe.

During the Data and Privacy session, panel members also shared examples of how their cities are handling citizen’s privacy concerns. As it turns out, there are many methods used.

  • Cities like Seattle have decided that they would be completely transparent with citizens. In August 2017, they passed the first ever surveillance ordinance in the United States, which exposes the technology the city is using down to the nuts and bolts, seeks comment from the community on all past and future technology, and requires the council to say yes or no to all incoming technology.
  • In cities like Kansas City, they have decided to take the issue of individual privacy out of the equation by automatizing and aggregating all data at the block level (for example, the number of cars that pass through, people, left turns, etc.) This allows them to make decisions at the block level that will help them better manage the city while keeping individual identity safe. Cities like Aurora are being cautious about what technology they deploy and where. Although the city uses about 400 cameras for public safety and traffic control purposes, they have not deployed technology in specific neighborhoods yet (such as underserved neighborhoods), and plan on doing due diligence before adding any technology that may invade individual privacy and cause push back.
  • In cities like Louisville, data privacy is less of an issue because the public had previously demanded better surveillance systems after an incidence of civil unrest that disrupted the city. Citizens appreciate that cameras can help find evidence and lead to arrests and convictions, and they are demanding even more cameras in historically high-crime areas.
  • Another option that many cities implement is to only keep data for a certain window of time, after which they delete or override the data. Although the window of time may vary (typically between 30 and 90 days), most cities allow the police to get clips of video footage when needed for evidence, and the clips stay on file forever.
  • In the wake of GDPR laws, which allow European citizens to ask any institution of business with data what data they have on them and also request to be ‘forgotten’ (delete that data), a new model may also be on the horizon, whereby the commercial value of data is recognized, individuals and communities have control over their data, and the value can be brought back to the community or to the individual. Instead of trying to side-step or moderate privacy regulations, this model monetizes data and creates an economy out of the growing amount of data that cities are collecting.

What is clear is that however a city chooses to deal with data and privacy, they must, in fact, deal with it, and the earlier, the better. Going back to the example of Sidewalk Toronto, although the project got off to a rocky start due to lack of transparency regarding how data would be used, conversations are ongoing. Sidewalk Labs has issued a lengthy proposal that would allow for an independent trust to serve as the gatekeeper of data collected from the project, and government officials along with the community are contributing to that discussion to find a solution that everyone can agree to. Data and privacy are important considerations for any smart city project, and success requires trust, transparency, and collaboration.

I think it’s the city’s obligation who are installing these technologies to make it very clear what these things can and cannot do to really establish that trust.
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