New York's Smart City Transformation

New York City has always been a revered metropolis. The unique blend of culture, artistic expression, and innovation exemplifies the idea of a place pushing its inhabitants to greatness. It should come as no surprise, then, that this unsleeping city is always poised to take on a challenge—to raise the bar, from the ground up. This means transforming the Big Apple into one of the world's foremost "smart cities" by integrating technology that improves the quality of life for all residents. How has NYC approached this massive undertaking? A targeted focus on urban congestion, resource allocation, and increased access to educational, medical, and financial opportunities. 

This Is What New York's Smart City Initiative Looks Like:

Juniper Insights

Juniper Research recently released their "Smart Cities - What's In It For Citizens" report. In tracking the progression of smart technologies, and mapping different cities' responsiveness to these resources, they have gleaned an insightful look at the future of our shared urban environment. Their research was structured around four criteria: mobility (including public and private transport systems), healthcare (service delivery, access, and performance), public safety (crime levels, mortality, and law enforcement services), and productivity (initiatives that promote productivity, democratization of services, and wealth distribution). Each city was evaluated based on performance, project deployment, published strategies, and goals for future projects. In each, New York ranked:

  • #4 in mobility
  • #6 in healthcare
  • #2 in public safety
  • #6 in productivity

As a case study in innovative security, New York was profiled for their two-year trial of HunchLab, software that uses "historical crime data, terrain modeling, as well as time and weather information" to predict and mediate crime. This data-driven approach resulted in a considerable decrease in the city's rate of violent crime and was later picked up by the New York Fire Department. The NYFD used similar software to target buildings that were more vulnerable to fire damage. Their program considered 60 factors that influence building fire risk, combined with historical data and predictive modeling. Through these results, they were able to strategically prioritize the buildings most in need of safety inspections.

New York was ranked #3 in overall consolidated performance; the highest-ranking city in North America, with San Francisco and Chicago following. These cities were reported as having "broader, more in-depth smart city visions and are further along in terms of execution." When explaining the rationale behind the ranking, Juniper noted a combination of factors including "their standing as population-dense metro areas, alongside inherent talent in IT services." This confluence spurred early-stage interest and development of smart city projects. 

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Designing a Smarter Infrastructure

Beyond Juniper's four sectors, New York has been making strides in other areas of smart city development. The Mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation (MOIT) is responsible for large-scale infrastructure overhaul, focused on lighting, water quality and conservation, waste management, and air pollution. Current initiatives include:

  • The Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency (ACE) program

    • Launched in 2013, this program has retrofitted 650 government buildings with LED lights, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 900 metric tons.
  • Automated Meter Reading systems

    • These monitors track and relay information regarding water consumption, grey-water recycling, and rainwater harvesting.
  • BigBelly Trash Cans

    • These smart cans use wireless sensors to monitor trash levels and schedule more efficient pickups. The bins run on solar power, and hold five times more waste than conventional cans, through their compacting system.
  • Heavily Subsidized Heating Programs Are Switching Users from Oil to Natural Gas

    • This has reduced the city's sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 70% since 2008.

As these projects multiply, there is a continued dedication to the equitable distribution of these new technological resources. Miguel Gamiño, New York's Chief Technological Officer, said "while I applaud cities that are pursuing projects, that by itself doesn't make the city smart. We're really trying to be clear about what makes a city at large smarter or more responsive to the needs of its people, or better at delivering services to its people."

This has been the impetus behind other city initiatives including NYC Connected Communities, a government-based program that provides access to computer centers in low-income areas. To date, over 100 centers have been establishing in libraries, recreation centers, senior centers, and more. New York is also installing a network of Wi-Fi kiosks across the city, providing free internet to all five boroughs. And, the city is beginning construction on the Civic Tech Hub, a collaborative working space for tech projects, coding schools, and startups. This co-working space is part of a larger effort to create jobs, spur innovation, and provide businesses affordable working spaces in a traditionally long-term, high-cost leasing market.

As Gamiño underlines, "Rapid technological advances hold the potential to transform our cities, driving quality of life improvements for millions of New Yorkers. Our challenge - and responsibility - is to ensure these technologies reach and benefit all New Yorkers, not merely a select few."

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More Time, Made Equitable

Smart cities not only address serious concerns surrounding overcrowding and infrastructure strain, but the technology in use also has the capacity to vastly improve the overall quality of life. Juniper found that smart cities have the potential to "give back" roughly three working weeks of time to each resident, each year. Through improvements in mobility, public safety, healthcare, and productivity, everyday processes will be optimized for efficiency. Creating more time for the things that matter. As New York City continues to expand and innovate, so too must the companies looking to stay ahead in increasingly competitive markets. For the latest in business-minded IT solutions, contact an iCorps expert today

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