Activate Your Smart City: Energize Citizens, Connect Communities, Drive Economic Growth & Solve Problems with Data



Activating a smart city requires more than intelligent infrastructure. It also takes strategic partners who can rally administrators, innovators and citizens around a common goal to make the city a better place to live, work and play. This demands a mix of different tactics to create awareness, excitement and adoption for smart installations. Cities that embrace the local community and its ideas have the power to enable incredible outcomes. Jump in as Current, looks at how to activate smart cities.


AT&T AND CURRENT: Redefining Cities for the Digital Age

In 2017, AT&T (NYSE:T) and Current (NYSE:GE), announced an exclusive agreement to connect cities across the United States and Mexico to the Internet of Things (IoT). Together, the two businesses are unlocking a realm of possibilities to improve the way cities operate, communicate and meet the needs of citizens.


Over 100 years, AT&T has formed strong relationships with cities while GE has built a long history of industrial technical leadership. Now, the companies that modernized the telephone and light bulb are ushering in a new digital frontier utilizing the AT&T Smart Cities framework and end-to-end solutions from Current to transform existing streetlighting into connected intelligent infrastructure.


>> Learn more about AT&T Smart Cities Digital Infrastructure.



Smart city technology spending is expected to reach $80 billion worldwide by the end of 2019 before skyrocketing to $135 billion by 2021, according to a new report from International Data Corporation (IDC). In fact, per the report, intelligent infrastructure ranks among the most important developments in public sector digital transformation. IDC notes that smart cities have recently evolved from a collection of discrete flagship projects to a sizeable market opportunity that will drive significant investments in environmental, financial and social aspects of urban life.1


Accelerating the urgency for smart city tech is the United Nations’ prediction that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in large urban centers by 2030. By then, 27 percent of people—nearly 2 billion individuals—will be concentrated in cities with at least 1 million inhabitants.2


Information Age, citing a new ABI Research report, stresses smart technologies could equate to $20 trillion in economic growth for cities globally over the next decade, while further saving governments, enterprises and citizens more than $5 trillion a year by 2022.3


Using GDP growth as a key metric, the report also highlights three dimensions or phases set to be impacted by smart city tech, including:


  • Open-data policies, with a potential incremental GDP growth of close to $1 trillion without investments in physical infrastructure
  • Public investments multiplier effect of up to 10 times, with a potential incremental GDP growth of $10 trillion
  • Structural smart urban economy growth driven by next-gen technologies


As populations increase, intelligent infrastructure can provide opportunities for cities to flourish, including economic benefits indirectly linked to factors conducive to attracting new business to the region. At the same time, smart city tech can support the quality of life goals of a community, ultimately driving programs and initiatives that make a positive impact for everyone, every day.



IoT-enabled sensors, systems and devices that collect and analyze data can help cities improve public services and transform the way citizens live, work and play. Just consider that an Intel®-sponsored study by Juniper Research found that smart cities have the potential to “give back” a remarkable 125 hours to every resident every year.4


In fact, many of the technologies identified in the study—including public mobility, safety and health solutions—are already being deployed around the world to deliver a better overall quality of life for city dwellers:


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The average peak-time vehicle speed in cities is a dismal 4 mph. This gridlock causes drivers to lose up to 70 hours per year. The Intel study determined an IoT-enabled infrastructure of intelligent traffic systems, safer roads, directed parking, frictionless toll and parking payments can give back 60 hours a year to drivers otherwise stuck in their cars.


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Improvements in public safety can have extensive benefits and save residents 35 hours a year, according to the study. As Forbes Technology Council notes, smart cities need to focus on people movement and maximizing those efficiencies. This includes smart roads that are prepared for autonomous vehicles, self-driving vehicle traffic systems integration and mass transit incorporation into these systems.5 Collectively, these measures can reduce congestion on roadways to make streets safer and easier to navigate.


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The study also found smart cities with connected health services can play a significant role in creating efficiencies and providing potentially lifesaving benefits for patients. For example, telemedicine could enable contagious flu sufferers to avoid a trip to the doctor’s office with an examination via high-speed video link from the comfort of their home. Such services could save the average citizen 10 hours a year.



Smart cities may be in the early stages but there’s every reason to believe these examples are just the beginning of what’s possible. First, however, a city must become activation ready by building the public awareness, excitement, engagement and advocacy necessary to accomplish larger goals. As Digital Trends points out, a city is only smart if citizens stand behind it and communities clearly understand the benefits.6


That’s why Current works with city officials to not only develop smart infrastructure but also educate citizens about the projects that enable a better quality of life. From the start of a pilot program, it can take years to fully deploy a smart solution, meaning citizens must stay informed about the improvements being made as the process unfolds.


For instance, an intelligent streetlight pole can appear rather ordinary to the casual observer until that person is aware of the many benefits enabled by digital infrastructure, such as providing emergency responders with vital situational intelligence, surveying streets to help drivers find open parking spots or monitoring the environment for pollution, pollen count and other hazardous conditions.


Smart streetlight poles are popping up everywhere as cities aim to solve challenges with data.

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By promoting smart projects, cities can engage citizens in unleashing urban innovation. An activation strategy that reaches out to the community can pull in powerful advocates and alleviate privacy concerns. A thoughtful public awareness campaign helps people feel comfortable with the changes taking place so that they are not unsettled by new technologies or perceived “Big Brother” tactics.


Current helps cities overcome the overwhelming data volume and initial complexity of intelligent infrastructure deployments and, just as importantly, helps community leaders focus on the outcomes that matter most to citizens. By teaming up with city departments, academia, civic organizations, local businesses, app developers, incubators, entrepreneurs, startups and other inspired innovators, Current looks to build a groundswell of enthusiasm and support for the technologies that can elevate urban living.


It takes a village to raise a smart city, and many parties must come together to make the activation process successful.



It takes a village to raise a smart city, and many parties must come together to make the activation process successful. Each group has its own objectives and measures performance differently but shares the common goal of building a city that works even better for its residents.


City Departments


Smart Cities World notes governing agencies have a big opportunity to use data to drive policy decisions, set goals, measure performance and increase transparency.7 However, this information mostly lies in transactional systems in silos across multiple city departments, often outside the reach of government. To better leverage data, agencies will require a new approach to making it accessible and understandable.


Innovation mostly happens when members of different faculties come together to jointly work on complex issues. It will be the responsibility of city planners and managers to break down barriers and imagine what’s possible when merging data from smart streetlight poles and other sources to benefit police, fire and EMS, or create advantages for transportation, public works and environmental departments. Big data gathered from a growing number of sensors and devices enables cities to rethink processes and improve service delivery.


Many cities have already taken steps to help departments collaborate more effectively, such as data projects that help firefighters access building plans electronically when they arrive on scene. Other cities are tracking asset information on roads and water systems to predict areas in need of repair, while some are using analytic models to predict crime incidents to redeploy their police force.


Each of these solutions helped unlock data that was trapped within a single department of city hall. By sharing and optimizing data across departments, cities can reimagine how services are offered, create new efficiencies, and define and measure KPIs for policies that impact the public good.


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Rallying students and educators around smart city initiatives is another important step in the activation process. A smart city can only excel when there’s talent in place to connect infrastructure, understand how it’s communicating and use analytics to compute all that’s possible.


Cultivating this talent from within the community is important as cities must explore two distinct paths. First, it’s critical to expose children to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to ignite their curiosity in the classroom; second, cities must provide extended learning opportunities to fuel this fire and unlock the future.


Current helps cities engage STEM students by providing everything from simple online teaching tools to full partner support for hackathon events where new companies can be born. Smart cities must offer inquisitive young minds myriad opportunities to participate and succeed. One by one, class by class, students learn to leverage tools to collect and compute data, helping their communities and themselves realize their true potential.


Also critical are colleges and universities that provide a valuable research arm for exploring future use cases or measuring the impact of intelligent infrastructure. Higher-education institutions can accelerate projects by focusing passionate thinkers on a specific problem or need. This also strengthens the bond between the city and new graduates ready to enter the workforce. By keeping this talent in the city, urban centers can grow with greater velocity and vision.


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Activating a smart city further requires app developers and industrialists to carry the spark of innovation forward and foster economic growth, as well as incubators and accelerators to aid startup organizations with gaining traction and bringing ideas to life.


Smart cities need people who can effectively build the applications that improve citizens’ quality of life. At the same time, early-stage, technology-oriented entrepreneurs need ready, convenient access to workspaces and product-development support to take concepts from mind to market.


At the core of smart cities will be teams of people dedicated to imagining, designing and implementing the applications that connect the community to improved services. This ecosystem of tech-savvy individuals and enterprises is critical to a thriving app economy.


Cleantech San Diego is one example of a dynamic, member-based incubator that’s driving economic development. By fostering collaborations across the private-public-academic landscape, promoting and shaping policy agendas that represent the community’s interests, and encouraging investment in the greater San Diego region, this nonprofit organization is helping to position the city as a global leader in the Cleantech economy.


Smart cities need people who can effectively build the applications that improve citizens' quality of life.


Included in Cleantech’s membership are more than 100 local businesses, universities, governments and nonprofits committed to advancing sustainable solutions for the benefit of the environment and the economy. With a mission to innovate, educate, advocate and collaborate, Cleantech is driving San Diego toward a cleaner, brighter and quieter future by organizing initiatives that build the city’s reputation for energy leadership, including:



All cities are home to dynamic thinkers and doers who can be catalysts for transformational solutions that have a dramatic impact on the prosperity of a region. Connecting with these innovators and trailblazers can pave the way to a comprehensive sharing of knowledge and resources, leading to smart city strategies that are sufficiently inclusive of communities large and small.



An Avalanche of Apps

Apps are evolving to deliver unprecedented utility to society as The App Association stresses in its 2018 State of the App Economy report:


“Smartphones have become the single most rapidly adopted technology in human history, outpacing innovations like the printing press and steam engine. In just ten years, apps have changed the phones, devices and ‘things’ we use every day. This marriage of mobile and cloud has opened a new world for 3.4 billion people by providing access to 10,000 years of human creativity. The smartphone brings the entire world to our fingertips, and apps enable us to engage with it.”


For cities, the urgency to build an app economy around citizen needs has never been greater.



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Cities also need commercial application partners that can provide specific capabilities to solve unique challenges. Critical apps must perform seamlessly across a variety of platforms, and this requires a portfolio of technology partners offering deep domain expertise and a range of ready-to-install solutions.


To connect cities with powerful apps, Current built an ecosystem of over 50 partners committed to developing use cases based on sensor data from intelligent infrastructure. Solutions include apps for optimizing on-street parking, detecting gunfire/providing law enforcement with vital intelligence, as well as capturing traffic and weather readings to understand the impact on air quality.


Application partners help by bringing city departments together to map out steps to success, set performance metrics and keep projects on schedule. And while the installation and commissioning process can be rather clear-cut, it is no easy matter to utilize intelligent infrastructure to meet KPIs across departments. The truth is that many smart deployments address only a single goal or short-term objective. As the city’s needs change, simple activation may not be extensible as a long-term, future-proof solution, meaning cities need savvy professionals who can unite decision-makers around broader objectives while also managing numerous stakeholders (and surprises) over months and years.


For these reasons and more, building a robust partner network from the start is essential to raising a smart city.



Taking the Lead for Safer Streets

Every day in America, nearly 100 people are needlessly killed in traffic crashes. Vision Zero Network is a collaborative campaign to eliminate fatalities and severe injuries among all road users. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, where traffic deaths have been reduced by half even while the number of trips increased, Vision Zero is gaining momentum across the globe, including in many U.S. communities.


Current, a campaign supporter, works with cities to take a preventive approach to addressing traffic safety and, like Vision Zero, believes cities have the power to prevent accidents and collisions, ensuring everyone has the right to move safely in their communities.


>> See the 9 Key Components of a Vision Zero Strategy.



Citizens Icon


Creating excitement for intelligent infrastructure is ultimately the goal of the activation process. Data has the power to improve virtually all aspects of urban living, but first, citizens want transparency, and it’s important to acknowledge their apprehensions.


Along with efforts to make cities cleaner, safer, more sustainable and more efficient, Futurism—a think tank dedicated to transformative technologies—notes ethicists have a new concern: How can citizens maintain privacy when data is being collected from all around them?


Futurism explains smart cities rely on two types of information: aggregated and real-time data. Sensors aggregate data about a specific place or thing into larger computer networks that analyze the data to spot trends. Some cities already use aggregated data to monitor the most popular parking spaces or identify traffic hazards. Because the data is aggregated, it is effectively anonymized; it can’t be used to track individuals or gain information about them.


Cities are also gathering real-time data that does focus on individuals. In Singapore, for instance, there are plans to equip all vehicles with a satellite navigation system that monitors their location, speed and direction at any given time. This will allow the government to automatically charge cars for parking fees and levy a tax based on driving habits.


The Singaporean government aims to build the nation into an open-source society characterized by high levels of trust and transparency. That’s why the city-state has taken aggressive steps to ensure citizens their security will be protected, such as hiring independent security consultants to test its new navigation system for weaknesses.8


The lesson is that smart cities must be vigilant when addressing data privacy concerns to avoid common misconceptions. Before citizens can rally behind the promises of intelligent infrastructure, they must know what data is being collected about them and how the information will be stored, secured and used.



In San Diego, AT&T, Current and Intel are teaming up to deploy the world’s largest known smart city IoT platform. The network, consisting of 4,200 connected streetlight poles, leverages AT&T’s Smart Cities Digital Infrastructure to capture vast amounts of near real-time data using Current’s CityIQ™ nodes powered by Intel IoT technology. The data is then made actionable through the cloud to drive outcomes specific to city challenges.


Embedded with multiple sensors, the nodes are extensible through over-the-air updates. Each node monitors an area more than 100 feet in all directions and can “see,” “hear” and “feel” using optical, acoustic and environmental sensors that collect traffic, pedestrian, parking, public safety, temperature, pressure, humidity, vibration and noise data.


Intel IoT technology provides the advanced processing and edge analytics needed for these compute-intensive functions, creating a digital infrastructure that lays the foundation for a horizontal platform that all city departments can connect to and use. Instead of individual departments installing and managing hardware for their own purposes, they can now share the data collected by smart streetlight poles.



As IEEE Spectrum reports, the network’s first job will be identifying open parking spaces and, potentially, alerting traffic officers to illegally parked cars.9 Erik Caldwell, San Diego’s interim deputy chief operating officer for smart and sustainable communities, recently spoke with the magazine to explain why the city is growing to love its sensor-laden lamps:


“We just completed a pilot demonstration project benchmarking the system against parking meters with built-in sensors, against parking transaction data, and against an intern with a clipboard. We found that the streetlights provide the best information,” says Caldwell, adding that with the accuracy of the parking data verified, the city is now preparing to act on that information.


“We thought we were using spaces 60 percent of the time, but data we (get) from the streetlights says we are using them 90 percent, which is overutilized. So, we are thinking about pricing, whether we should have more parking in certain areas, whether we should expand the metered network.”


In time, San Diego also wants to use the data to help motorists find open parking spaces. Currently, the city is testing numerous pilot applications but is not ready to launch a consumer-facing version. More useful to city planners than parking, however, will be what Caldwell calls “mobility” data—information on how people and vehicles move through the city.


Right now, he says, the city uses traffic flow models to determine where to place stop signs, stop lights, and one-way streets, as well as how to time traffic signals. Those models currently base their analysis on the number of people living and working in certain areas, as well as the number of vehicles registered to addresses in those areas.


“What is revolutionary is to have near real-time information about how people are moving. That gives us the ability to see things we haven’t seen before. We can look at a baseball game at Petco Park downtown and see how that affects people’s ability to move through the environment. We can see how a law enforcement event, like a traffic stop, impedes the ability to move.”


Seeing all this information, Caldwell says, city managers have been inspired to try to help police and fire vehicles get to emergencies faster:


“We want to see if we can build a tool, based on a more accurate model of how traffic and pedestrians behave, to optimize traffic for law enforcement. Say, when a fire call comes into a fire station, right now, the doors of the fire station go up, and the location information goes into a GPS system. But when the firefighters pop onto the road, they are back in the ‘80s, strobing the light and hoping cars will get out of the way.


“It would be easier if we could use the traffic signals and streetlights to clear the road from Point A to Point B, and then have the system detect how the fire truck is moving through the street, restoring traffic flow behind it. That would save us money on fire stations, because we build them based on response times. Improving response times means we might not need as many stations.


“We didn’t anticipate this use case, but it looks like we can do it. It’s not super-exciting yet in terms of applications from the outside looking in. But it’s like we asked for a cold drink of water and got shot in the face with a firehose; it’s a matter of figuring out how we are going to take in this data, first using it internally, and then putting in policies and procedures to make it available for use by the public, including application developers.”10



Already, as part of efforts to spark urban innovation, San Diego, Current and other sponsors have organized local hackathons resulting in apps that address the city’s unique needs. DreamBiz, a winning app from one such event, helps entrepreneurs make decisions about future ventures by combining traffic, pedestrian and parking data from Current’s CityIQ nodes with real estate zoning data, thus allowing the user to identify prime locations and operating hours for different types of businesses. Many other imaginative apps have also resulted from San Diego Smart City hackathons, including one that allows food truck drivers to find locations with a history of high pedestrian traffic.


San Diego is building a smarter city by giving data to commercial vendors, universities and entrepreneurs to create extraordinary use cases, while the AT&T, Current and Intel alliance demonstrates the incredible potential of transforming a city’s ubiquitous lighting footprint into powerful connected infrastructure.


The lesson is that city leaders do not have to solve every problem on their own with limited resources—by enlisting strategic partners and the community, cities can expedite the deployment of best-in-class solutions.


By opening data for public use, San Diego hopes to spur the development of apps that solve everyday problems.

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Activating a smart city requires a mix of tactics aimed at educating stakeholders and exciting citizens about the possibilities. Current has partnered with cities, including San Diego and Atlanta, to speed up this process by actively taking the message to communities in memorable, meaningful ways. Officials are encouraged to consider the following strategies for aligning city leaders and innovators around intelligent initiatives. Above all, it’s critical that cities choose activation partners that can help make these tactics a reality.



Perhaps the most important thing a city must clearly understand is who will own the smart installment and how success will be measured. Casual oversight and vague metrics are the reasons many intelligent infrastructure projects never progress from the pilot stage to full-scale deployment.


It’s important to nominate an owner from within the department who will be accountable to the project outcome based on measurable KPIs established from the start. For example, a new urban real estate planning tool might demand the attention of the city’s zoning department to ensure a positive outcome. In turn, it’s determined the data generated by the project can benefit public works in delivering water services. Owners from both departments should have a seat at the table throughout the process to maximize the project’s impact and avoid costly oversights.


The next step is to pull participants together in meetings that include department leaders and intelligent solutions providers. In Current’s experience, teams that convene early and often to discuss obstacles and set parameters develop a greater sense of co-ownership that can propel the project forward. Involving the city’s COO or CIO is also a wise decision to create unity at the highest level. This person can be a powerful advocate for departmental cooperation and communicating the city’s vision to citizens.


Teams that convene early and often to discuss obstacles and set parameters develop a greater sense of co-ownership that can propel the project forward.



With the project team in place and in step, it’s important to make a splash in the community so that everyone can share in the enthusiasm, such as with a ceremonial “flipping of the switch” as a symbolic introduction to intelligent infrastructure. In downtown San Diego, thousands of Current’s CityIQ nodes on streetlight poles are capturing data the city will share with app developers. And because the city knows the most significant new ideas will come from San Diegans, it organized a special event—a block party for streetlights—to celebrate local innovation.


Open APIs Spark Innovation

Current's CityIQ application programming interfaces (APIs) are delivering data to cities to push the boundaries of what's possible. Visit the CityIQ Innovation Apps Center to view real solutions and source code developed from recent hackathons.


Block party participants were asked to imagine how data could transform their lives and contributed their brightest ideas to a giant white board on public display. As GovTech reported, hundreds of residents turned out for the community gathering, curious to learn more about the city’s program to outfit streetlight poles with a buffet of sensors that can aid in determining where infrastructure resources need to be deployed or even what makes for the best walk to school. This data can also offer insight into events that often fly below the radar, such as near-misses at intersections or jaywalking. For instance, the sensor technology will be able to determine vehicle sizes and speeds of travel while distinguishing between cyclists and walkers.11


Public events can be highly influential in encouraging citizen involvement for projects that will continue to evolve over a long period of time.


Such events can attract crowds of people while packing press members and a coterie of city officials into one location, helping to encourage citizen involvement for projects that will continue to evolve over a long period of time. Involving the community can also boost civic pride and enthusiasm—after all, who isn’t proud of a smarter city? Swells of public support further help city administrations shine in their efforts to use today’s data to shape tomorrow’s decisions.


“When I talk to other cities, I tell them they should think about the things that we are thinking about now, that is, how to teach department directors some data science, how you process the data and get it into a format that is usable for the community. Those aren’t things you think about when you have a small pilot project, but when you have 2,000 nodes up, it becomes apparent that you should.”


-San Diego’s Erik Caldwell to IEEE Spectrum


At the block party for streetlights, San Diegans were asked to share their ideas for what a smart city might do.

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Local colleges and universities can also be instrumental in solving the city’s problems with data as evidenced by the GE Digital CSU Challenge. Since 2016, engineering and computer science students from several California State Universities (CSU) have participated in the annual contest to help San Diego leverage the data it collects from its smart streetlight poles. The event provides students with access to live data streams and exposes them to real-world issues the city must contend with. Winning teams walk away with scholarship prize money and a greater sense of the positive impact they can make on their communities.


In three years, CSU students have developed a variety of brilliant solutions aimed at making San Diego an even better place to live, including a climate app that focuses on addressing air quality and algae bloom issues by creating tools to assess microclimates and predict ozone levels. Another app aims to save students time by making their campus commute more efficient—it can compare current traffic conditions and available parking spots on campus with public transit travel times to determine if it’s better to drive or take the bus that day. Other bright ideas include an app intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of idling vehicles searching for parking spots, as well as an app that quantifies the various benefits of trees—allowing policymakers to better plan for new urban foliage by first understanding the expected environmental impact.


Awakening imaginations is equally critical to activating smart cities. Current’s Bright Innovators Program is a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity designed to inspire K–12 youth to explore and pursue STEM-based careers. The program provides STEM curriculum coordinators with learning modules, tools and activities to spark creativity in the classroom, along with additional support from Current to inspire students to explore and investigate their world.


Bright Innovators allows students to become more civically engaged through Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) and group idea generation. Students can see the power of their ideas, discover the job skills needed to make those ideas reality and imagine the possibilities of existing and future technology. Importantly, this same program can be instituted at libraries, fab labs and other knowledge centers to create passionate STEM learners who grow in step with their smart city.


By bringing the next generation of scholars into the mix, student challenges and other dynamic learning opportunities can lay a foundation for future smart city leaders.


Cal Poly San Luis Obispo won first place at the third annual GE Digital CSU Challenge for its “Treety” urban planning app.

Hackathon Winners



App developers and entrepreneurs are essential to activating smart cities. Innovators eager to apply their skills to solving real problems can be found everywhere, and rallying these individuals to the cause is fundamental to success.


One example is the recent Smart City Hackathon held in conjunction with San Diego Startup Week. Hosted by Cleantech San Diego, CyberTECH, AT&T, Current and Intel, the hackathon gave developers and entrepreneurs free access to CityIQ’s real-world datasets. For participants, it was an opportunity to explore how applications using near real-time data from the thousands of CityIQ nodes installed across San Diego can help solve traffic, parking, public safety, urban planning and environmental challenges.


As CyberTECH reported, more than 60 engineers, programmers, designers and students making up 15 teams participated in the 17-hour, overnight hackathon where $3,500 in prize money was up for grabs. Participants received short presentations and code samples along with food and loads of caffeine to stay awake. Many hackers brought their team together in advance, attending the pre-workshop to get a jump on the competition, while other developers, coders and designers formed impromptu alliances on-site. Throughout the night, teams experimented, white-boarded ideas and took the occasional nap. By the next morning, all coding stopped, presentations were put together, and judging began with each team having just three minutes to demonstrate their idea.12


First place was awarded to team DreamBiz for its app to help business owners find the ideal location for their storefront. See Things took second place for developing a digital tool to help report possible drunk drivers. Meanwhile, team ParkA finished third for its parking optimization app.


The hackathon showcased San Diego’s continuing status as a leading smart city and the ongoing collaboration among organizations, technology providers and entrepreneurs that keeps it at the forefront of innovation.


For city officials and department heads, hackathons can serve as the perfect jumping-off point to continue exploring intelligent solutions. These events empower teams to develop use cases by the community, for the community, while also boosting economic development and job creation as the city’s app economy begins to grow.



Trade shows and special events that put ready-to-install IoT solutions in front of the public are a great way to introduce citizens to the latest technologies. Attendees can see intelligent devices in action, interact with smart systems and have their questions answered by experts. This boosts awareness for smart installations and can go a long way toward alleviating peoples’ privacy concerns by making new data-gathering services and approaches transparent.


“The good thing about the Current node is that the data coming off the streetlight pole is anonymized. There is no inherent ability to do facial recognition or license plate recognition. There is nothing in here that will allow you to play that ‘Big Brother’ role.”13


-San Diego’s Erik Caldwell to LEDs Magazine


Cities need established commercial partners who are in it for the long haul and who will be there to solve new challenges years down the road. IoT exhibitions give city decision-makers and technology innovators a rare opportunity to discuss challenges and make new connections. More and more, these conversations are happening in conference centers across the world as department leaders seek out strategic partners with the resources to grow and evolve with citizens’ needs.


An open forum is another idea for creating collaboration among key partners. Recently, intelligent services provider US Ignite joined the City of San Diego in convening a one-day smart lighting workshop. Nearly 50 workshop participants drawn from local government, industry and nonprofit organizations examined San Diego’s smart lighting deployment and discussed best practices and lessons learned. Representatives from other cities, including Atlanta, also shared their perspectives based on their own intelligent infrastructure projects.


At the workshop, participants talked about financing issues, technical challenges and use cases. US Ignite then compiled the Smart Lighting Playbook to share discussion session highlights. The book stands as a valuable resource for local governments exploring smart lighting and sensor deployment projects in their communities.


Events like these can be the precursor to sit-down meetings between city administrators and application partners. Cities evaluating intelligent infrastructure should start by identifying the communities’ goals. Clear goals will set priorities and inform all decisions about project design, financing and implementation. Smart installments can be developed, paid for and implemented in various ways, and communities should develop an approach based on their own objectives.


More in Store in San Diego

Beyond parking and traffic optimization, San Diego aims to leverage its smart streetlighting network to continuously monitor roads for potholes, alerting maintenance crews to craters in the making. Additionally, the city hopes to develop applications for tree and landscape management and for spotting trash issues.13


LEDs Magazine also shares the story of a San Diego museum director who approached city officials about accessing pedestrian traffic data (counting passersby) to compare the figures with the actual number of visitors to the museum. San Diego’s Erik Caldwell anticipates the city will one day be able to service such requests via APIs.


“What’s game-changing is when organizations find ways to use the data,” he says. “It’s new data. And it’s good data.”



Insist on City-Owned Open Data

City leaders need to carefully choose technology partners who will craft a strict “no data silos” policy and allow the city to own the data. Smart technologies must coexist in a way that their sum is greater than the individual parts, where data flows naturally from devices and platforms so that services and applications can be easily deployed and managed. Critically, the city (not the technology partner) must own and control the data for policy purposes and potential data monetization down the road. For these reasons, Current is committed to creating endless possibilities through open, interoperable IoT platforms accessible by the local app developer community.



Beyond block parties, hackathons and conferences, cities must explore an even wider array of ideas and activities to keep citizens informed (and excited) about smart installments.


Many cities are learning to tap into their intelligent partner ecosystem for disruptive ideas, along with the resources to bring them to life.


For most cities, this starts with a website where visitors can learn about the projects and public-private collaborations shaping intelligent infrastructure. For example, both San Diego and Atlanta host microsites celebrating the latest developments and educating citizens about what’s coming next.


Experiences that bring IoT learning to the community are another consideration. Creating a special exhibit in a science or history museum, for example, can help citizens understand their smarter city through videos, interactive demos and fun, family activities. Many cities are learning to tap into their intelligent partner ecosystem for disruptive ideas like these, along with the resources to bring them to life.


Smart Cities Dive also suggests a “walkshop” to spur excitement. More than a typical neighborhood tour, it’s a moving conversation on foot or bike that allows citizens and city planners to better understand their community together by documenting improvements and discussing ongoing initiatives.14


Photo contests, design competitions and art projects are other ways cities can encourage citizens to get creative when it comes to identifying and addressing different issues, while Civic Plus15 points out even more examples of effective citizen engagement, including:


  • A free home security survey that shows how leaders will work with citizens one-on-one to ensure their family and property are safe
  • Time-lapse photography that gives citizens a chance to pause and reflect on just how impressive a project or development has been
  • A Citizens Academy that lets residents learn more about their government’s operations
  • A Pinterest page to help amplify social media strategy and connect with citizens (some travel and tour companies report seeing over 50 percent of their website’s traffic come through Pinterest 16)


Cities might also elect to create posters and murals to help citizens picture their future home or may produce a special documentary series capturing the journey. Designated “smart pit stops” at points of interest across the city can also elevate awareness for intelligent infrastructure. Academic scholarships, meanwhile, give STEM students a head start while demonstrating the city’s commitment to growing tomorrow’s leaders from within.


There are many ways to communicate projects to the community and encourage participation at all levels. Cities that use a variety of tactics to surprise and delight citizens are sure to see the greatest returns.



A collaboration between AT&T, Current and Georgia Power is transforming the city’s existing streetlighting infrastructure into a sensor-enabled data network.


Two hundred CityIQ sensor nodes are being added to previously installed Current LED streetlights in Atlanta. AT&T’s Smart Cities Digital Infrastructure solution will utilize the nodes to create a platform for citizen engagement while helping Atlanta address issues such as traffic flow, parking optimization and gunshot detection. The fixtures are also equipped with Current’s advanced controls system (LightGrid™) that allows city managers to dim, brighten and check maintenance on the lights remotely.


“The city of tomorrow requires collaboration across every layer of the public and private sector,” said Christine Primmer, Georgia Power Smart Cities Strategic Manager. “By digitizing our lighting assets with cutting-edge technology like CityIQ, Georgia Power is further evolving our commitment to provide safe, reliable and valuable services in Atlanta and across every community in Georgia.”



Atlanta’s transformation into a global top-tier smart city includes opportunities for students, citizens and businesses to unleash their creativity by leveraging actionable, open-sourced data from new digital infrastructure. Both the Atlanta Civic Coding Competition (C3) and Georgia Tech HackGT4 challenge, for example, involve the community in solving real problems as teams develop apps and present them to a judging panel for the chance to win as much as $40,000.


Meanwhile, Atlanta residents were recently invited to “Experience SmartATL” at Ponce City Market to better understand the city’s evolution into a smart urban center. The all-day event included 38 experiences and exhibits showcasing work in economic development, environment, mobility/transportation, public engagement and public safety. More than 500 people gathered to learn about these and other projects that affect their daily life, including how their water billing works, how to avoid recycling contamination and how the police department is leveraging advanced technology. Atlanta took special pride in executing Experience SmartATL—made possible through collaborations with academic partners and companies like Current, AT&T and Georgia Power—at no cost to attendees and limited cost to the city.17


“Experience SmartATL” attendees gained a new appreciation of how Atlanta is evolving as a smart city. (Photo courtesy Janae Futrell, AICP + LEED AP and City of Atlanta)

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As smart city growth gathers speed, many municipalities are wondering how they can capture the momentum. While citizens express the desire to live in smart cities, there is a disparity between residents’ expectations and the reality for elected officials and their resources. In all cases, the greatest barrier to intelligent infrastructure is the complexity involved in going from concept to reality.


Current is committed to educating citizens about the promises of innovation and economic expansion offered by connected lighting platforms. And while shifting to an open-data policy can require a significant change in mindset for some cities, it can also unlock a wider app economy as San Diego and Atlanta are demonstrating.


Along with its IoT partners, Current is on a journey to activate smart cities using simple and strategic approaches for creating public support. Cities embracing their own digital transformation are invited to come along and discover a world of possibilities.


Visit to get in touch with a representative.


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Intel - IoT Solution Alliance

Current, is a Member of the Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance. A global ecosystem of more than 800 industry leaders, the Alliance offers its Members unique access to Intel technology, expertise and go-to-market support—accelerating deployment of best-in-class solutions.


Intel and the Intel logo are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.


1TechRepublic; “Smart Cities Expected to Invest $80B in Technologies in 2018”

2United Nations; The World’s Cities in 2016

3Information Age; “Smart City Tech to Drive Trillions in Economic Growth”

4Intel; “Smart Cities Technologies Give Back 125 Hours to Citizens Every Year”

5Forbes; “Building A Smart City? 10 Big Priorities Government Leaders Should Focus On”

6Digital Trends; “For Columbus, a City Is Only Smart if the Public Is Behind It”

7Smart Cities World; “Use Smart Data to Achieve Your City’s Goals”

8Futurism; “Smart Cities May Be the Death of Privacy as We Know It”

9IEEE Spectrum; “San Diego Installs Smart Streetlights to Monitor the Metropolis”

10IEEE Spectrum; “San Diego’s Smart Streetlights Yield a Firehose of Data”

11GovTech; “San Diego to Cover Half the City With Intelligent Streetlights”

12CyberTECH; “Local Hackathon Highlights San Diego Status as One of World’s Smart Cities”

13LEDs Magazine; “San Diego Broadly Deploys Cameras and Sensors on LED Street Light Poles”

14Smart Cities Dive; “10 Lessons in More Engaging Citizen Engagement”

15Civic Plus; “12 Inspiring Civic Engagement Examples (Smart Initiatives)”

16Checkfront; “Pinterest for Tourism-Based Companies”

17Janae Futrell; “Experience SmartATL”

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