KC's Biggest Win in Smart City Initiative? Data

Kansas City Business Journal
By Leslie Collins
May 16, 2016

Three days after the Kansas City streetcar launched, it already had more than 32,000 riders.

The 2.2-mile line goes far beyond connecting people to other parts of town, however — the streetcar also is a key part of the city's Smart City initiative.

Representatives from Sprint Corp., Kansas City and Cisco Systems talked about the Smart City initiative as part of the Gigibit City Summit hosted by KC Digital Drive. The summit continues through Wednesday in Kansas City and is geared toward leaders in current and emerging gigabit cities; it's about showcasing how technology and gigabit speeds can transform cities.

In Kansas City, the streetcar, digital kiosks and Sprint's free Wi-Fi along the route are "cool," but what it really comes down to is data, said Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City.

"Cities now need to actually be able to get, and then more importantly use, the data associated with what happens in a smart city," Bennett said.

The data gleaned from residents using Sprint's Wi-Fi can be used to determine where the police should focus their patrolling efforts or where a new restaurant should locate, or aid in making decisions about water and electricity, he said.

Cliff Thomas, managing director of Cisco, added that the data can give insights into traffic flow, people and their behaviors. That data can then be used to solve pain points the city faces.

For Sprint, being able to partner in the Smart City initiative not only gave it an opportunity to provide residents a "robust data model to access the Internet," it gives Sprint a revenue model, said Tony Singer, business strategy manager of network planning for Sprint. The Overland Park-based company will use the data for direct marketing efforts and also will glean insights to improve its network coverage and make capacity enhancements.

The city will continue to look for ways to build on the Smart City platform, and within the next three years, the officials plan to have driverless vehicles on the streets, Bennett said.

The city and its Smart City partners are looking to the future, he said.

"We're looking at not only what are we doing with data now, but what's the next step?" Bennett said.

Leslie covers retail and restaurants, and creates Web stories and other online content.