Integrated Corridor Management and the Smart Cities Revolution: Leveraging Synergies
How Does a "Smart City" Operate?
As the concept of smart cities began to take shape, it quickly focused on a few common themes seen in exemplary cities around the world. One of the most common was that the city became a "system of interconnected systems." The operational components of a city all work together to deliver the services its businesses and citizens require and expect. The main issue, of course, is how to make these systems work more efficiently. The simple answer is to integrate individual systems into a system of systems that can better share limited resources and data. For example, a city's assets may include local departments' information systems and the schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services. Citizens now expect direct information on those services (e.g., trash pickup schedules, school status, hospital waiting times, bus schedules, etc.) from the convenience of their home computer or smartphone without having to contact or make a physical visit to a city facility for that information. That in turn makes city workers more productive and efficient, improving city processes. Information and communications technologies (ICT) also enable improved internal departmental efficiency via data manipulation and communication amongst different departments, the mayor's office, public utilities, and public safety agencies. In short, the goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life for the citizens and to improve efficiency of government by using technology to better serve the public.
A fundamental aspect vital to the success of a smart city is ICT. Since the early 2000s, the advent of "big data" and improved communications due to smart phone applications and social media have allowed ICT to power smart cities and simultaneously make integrated corridor management (ICM) viable. "Big data" is associated with the ever-growing capability to collect huge amounts of data and then use that data to conduct research, analyze, and then disseminate information and services to the public (e.g., interactive communication with public agencies, and real-time updates of project and service status, etc.). The smart phone revolution has enabled the use of powerful applications and social media to make this real-time information available practically instantaneously and with increasing transparency. In layman's terms, both a smart city and an ICM process give users real-time information that allows them to make informed decisions and take decisive actions.
However, in many cities the integration of systems and ICT is often complicated by "silos," or vertical lines of business within the city that are not easily compatible or able to communicate with other silos and are typically surrounded by a virtual "wall" of opacity. This virtual wall can be characterized by institutional constraints, incompatible technologies, managerial parochialisms, or a combination of some or all of these factors. Building smart cities often requires breaking down these silos within cities and integrating people, systems, and processes, thus enabling data-driven decision making and improved efficiency.
Any number of smart cities proponents, from technology firms to market researchers to urban planners, have offered various definitions of smart cities and ways to depict a common platform or framework for real-time data sharing and operational governance within cities and communities. Figure 1 presents one such high-level integration platform that depicts how common elements across multiple agencies, such as networking and security, can be shared. This graphic represents only one of many possible frameworks for a smart city — it is an example, but not a recommended solution for every situation.
Integrating component systems—transportation, healthcare, utilities, education, public services, and buildings—will require cross-cutting services such as networks, cyber-security systems, weather intelligence, data sharing, and resource and performance monitoring to fully support integrated city management and citizen services.
Figure 1. Illustration. A shared services platform for smart cities can scale to integrate multiple agencies and devices.
U.S. Department of Transportation Initiatives
The approach taken by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to improve the delivery and operational efficiency of the Nation's transportation system is embodied in its "Beyond Traffic 2045" framework. In the words of USDOT: "Beyond Traffic is an invitation to the American public—including the users, developers, owners, and operators of the transportation network and the policy officials who shape it—to have a frank conversation about the shape, size, and condition of that system and how it will meet the needs and goals of our nation for decades to come."2 Beyond Traffic promotes five questions:
The USDOT Smart City Challenge
As part of the Beyond Traffic framework, the USDOT has initiated the "Smart City Challenge" which will award one city in 2016 with a substantial grant ($40 million in government funds plus contributions from the private sector) to implement smart cities technologies. In June 2016, the USDOT announced the winner of the Smart City Challenge, announcing that:
"Columbus was selected as the winner because it put forward an impressive, holistic vision for how technology can help all of the city's residents to move more easily and to access opportunity. The city proposed to deploy three electric self-driving shuttles to link a new bus rapid transit center to a retail district, connecting more residents to jobs. Columbus also plans to use data analytics to improve health care access in a neighborhood that currently has an infant mortality rate four times that of the national average, allowing them to provide improved transportation options to those most in need of prenatal care."3
The size of the USDOT Smart City Challenge grant is one of the largest initiatives for smart cities deployment in North America. This approach recognizes the importance of the transportation system in facilitating and enabling many solutions to urban challenges.
Other Examples of Smart Cities Initiatives
Several cities and communities around the world4 have already begun the move to endorse smart cities concepts. In most cases, the initiatives have involved a much smaller level of investment than that intended for the USDOT challenge. In some cases, cities have undertaken pilot projects in one or more domains to show a proof of concept.
Some cities have implemented a multi-year program to deploy inter-related projects and technologies so that each deployment builds upon a common framework, delivering synergistic benefits. Table 1 presents a partial list of cities that have been recognized as leaders in smart cities initiatives:
Table 1. Examples of smart cities and associated applications.
The City of Amsterdam, Netherlands, has been implementing smart cities initiatives for many years. Figure 2 illustrates an important cross-cutting element of the city's initiative, "Measuring Amsterdam." Measuring Amsterdam provides a method for participatory open data collection that occurs periodically through a web application. Inputs are accepted regarding all of Amsterdam's infrastructure, environment, and services. The city publishes the collected data as open data, allowing developers to create visualizations or applications to provide new insights.
Figure 2. Illustration. Measuring Amsterdam seeks citizen input on all aspects of the city's infrastructure, environment and services.
3 U.S. Department of Transportation, "U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Columbus as Winner of Unprecedented $40 Million Smart City Challenge," DOT 73-16, June 23, 2016. Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-columbus-winner-unprecedented-40-million-smart. Return to note 3.
4 There are many smart cities initiatives around the world that are being promoted or supported by governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). See the Appendix for a list including Web site addresses. Return to note 4.
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration