The City of Racine is moving forward with an initiative to become a “Smart City” with the help of the Smart Cities Council, but what does that mean? What exactly is a “Smart City”? Peggy James, University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s dean of social science and professional studies, said what may confuse people is that the term is fairly recent, but some of the technology is already incorporated into city infrastructures.
“It’s always very tempting to talk about smart cities 300 years from now, with flying vehicles, but some things are already here,” said James. “They’re smart but it’s not futuristic.”
“It’s going to happen; this isn’t just the newest flavor of the year. This is going to happen so doing it right now will be absolutely excellent for southeastern Wisconsin.” – Peggy James
One example she gave is LED street lights, which are more energy-efficient. Another program, being rolled out in Chicago, is sensors placed in trash bins that notify the city when a rat family has taken residence in a Dumpster so that city workers know to dispose of them. “It’s not really futuristic, it’s just being smart,” said James. “It’s using information to be responsive.”
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave gave the example of a smart park, which collects data on what equipment is used and what people do while they are at a park. “If a certain type of swing is popular, you take that data and put that into other parks,” said Delagrave. Delagrave said that what’s key for county or city to become “smart” is investing in infrastructure so that more data are collected and processed to make government services more efficient. “Ultimately, what it’s really about is how can we better gather data, to be able to share that data and derive better outcomes from that data?” said Delagrave.
Jeff Robshaw, Gateway Technical College’s chief information officer, said those outcomes not only include efficiency but improving quality of life, particularly for the most vulnerable.