Kansas City seeks ‘smart city’ technology solutions for public health, safety

Kansas City issued a request for proposals Wednesday to expand its “smart city” technology infrastructure program.

The “smart city” project uses technology-driven initiatives to provide services to people in Kansas City. For instance, sensors and analytics help alleviate traffic through “smart” intersections. The technology is also used to streamline parking, outdoor lighting and water metering.

The request states that the city wants to use technology and analytics to decrease violent crime, “with the priority to murder and gun-related violence.”

Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, expressed excitement about the public health benefits he believes the expansion will address.

“We’re not interested in tech for the sake of tech,” he said. “We are interested in tech that involves people.”

The request says that though the current smart city initiatives cover approximately 1 percent of the city’s land, and directly impact around 15 percent of its citizens, that “is not sufficient to have a transformative effect on the city.” The expansion will emphasize Kansas City’s Prospect Avenue corridor.

Bennett said there “absolutely” are opportunities for smaller businesses to get involved.

“In order to take advantage of some of your most innovative technologies, even the big companies have to turn to startups, and this provides a vehicle for them to do that,” he said.

Bennett said the project will expand the presence of gunshot identification technology, which uses audio to identify gunshots and then alerts law enforcement.

Chris Hernandez, the city’s communications director, said the request does not specifically define the technology that will be installed because the city is seeking out partners who can bring new technology and new ways of looking at the issues the city is addressing.

As an example of a creative solution that was brought to the city, Hernandez cited the technology company Xaqt, which Kansas City is working with for a pothole prediction program. The program, he said, is currently being used on 10 streets to see how accurately an app can predict potholes by using data like weather and traffic.

Bennett said the financial details of the next phase will become clearer once proposals are submitted, but added, “It would not shock me to come up with a version where the city’s capital expenditure is zero dollars.”

During the first phase of the project, the city invested about $3.8 million over 10 years, while private partners like Cisco invested almost $12 million.

“Cities and companies are going to have the opportunity to be true partners,” Bennett said. “We are not simply asking for a vendor to come in and provide a service and walk away. We’re asking for a vendor to come in and be a part of a long-term solution for our city.”

The deadline for proposal submissions is July 31.

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