"Smart City" Planners are encouraged to emphasize the interconnectedness of mobility solutions with community goals, whether or not those solutions are perceived of as being high-tech.

Michigan’s former transportation chief, Kirk Steudle, offers advice for aspiring Smart Cities

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Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

Summary Information

Cities across the globe are installing technology to gather data in the hopes of saving money, becoming cleaner, reducing traffic, and improving urban life. Former head of MDOT Kirk Steudle who worked to attract cutting-edge tech companies and global automakers to the state of Michigan to make the state a front runner in the Smart City initiative offers words of advice for municipalities trying to upgrade their infrastructure for the digital age.

Lessons Learned

Do not deploy for technology’s sake, deploy only to solve a problem.

Agencies must be able to clearly articulate what problem they are trying to solve, whether it be improving traffic safety or reducing congestion, before picking a technological solution. Examples of goals include providing access to services in previously underserved areas or delivering infrastructure improvements to help local businesses.

When selecting partners, first look at your own community

Partner selection should involve a cooperative arrangement and not just simply buying into a whole new system. In such an arrangement, both sides are expected to contribute resources to the project to see what can be learned. Rarely are communities able to lure major new businesses to their area based solely on adopting new technologies. For this reason, it is recommended that deployers start with partners that are in their own "backyard" and look at the industries in their city or state and how they can help those industries with these new technologies.

Bring along a healthy dose of skepticism to any new project

Agencies should not be afraid to take the long road, allowing themselves to learn as much as possible about the technology before making any decisions. While there are many technology companies pitching the latest trends and willing to sell their expensive systems now, municipalities need to remember that they are in it for the long haul. It is recommended that agencies reach out to a variety of sources, including other cities, to develop realistic expectations.

Develop a base network infrastructure to work from

Once an initial network is in place, additional components can be built off it. A tangible example is replacing aging illumination, like sodium street lights, with LEDs with embedded network connections. The lighting system then becomes a mesh network that can support other infrastructure initiatives.

Select streetlights with the optimal color temperature to reduce hazardous glare for drivers

Cities across the country have already begun rapidly adopting LEDs in highway and street lights, only to discover later that the dominant blue light emitted by some LEDs was actually creating more nighttime glare than conventional lighting. According to the American Medical Association, blue-rich LED lighting can decrease visual acuity and create a road hazard. Choosing LEDs with the correct color rendering index can mitigate the problem.

Perform infrastructure maintenance regularly and monitor the prospect of cellular V2X

Transportation departments should keep an eye to the future when maintaining traffic signals – updating or replacing them as often as they can. Initiating vehicle-to-infrastructure installations that enable cars to "talk" to traffic lights and receive warnings about weather and road conditions ahead can minimize the amount of equipment agencies have to change in the future. Though initial costs for this technology may be steep, prices will start to drop once a standard is established for contractors to meet.

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