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What does a ‘Smart Cincinnati’ look like?

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Imagine a Cincinnati where you know exactly where an open parking spot is or what route to take if you want to avoid potholes. The city of the future can tell you. It can tell public works employees which public trash cans need to be emptied and it can triangulate a gunshot in real time. Though it may sound far-fetched, the city is approaching the intersection of science fiction and practical, modern living.

The city of the future is a “smart city” and on Tuesday, government officials joined stakeholders and innovators for the Smart Cincy Summit. The summit was just the first in a series of conversations the region will have around ways to improve life for everyone in Greater Cincinnati.

The summit, organized by Venture Smarter’s Zack Huhn focused on creating a foundation for future innovation. “I’ve said it many times that I firmly believe this is the right time and that Cincinnati is absolutely the right place to build a smart city,” Huhn said.

According to Huhn, to create the city of the future, the focus needs to be on connectivity, mobility, sustainability and security. “Connectivity is the foundation of a smart city. The internet is a tool of limitless power, but only to those who have access,” Huhn said.

Each concept works hand-in-hand to improve life for citizens and connectivity is the foundation. Connectivity will allow city officials to add sensors to streetlights, parking meters and trashcans, which will then send them data back about conditions and help make life more efficient for residents, visitors and city employees.

“The smart future that we envision here in the city of Cincinnati is everything from the internet in every home – closing the digital divide once and for all – to having a more data-driven government,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said.

Taking steps closer to the future

City Manager Harry Black knows smart city means different things across the nation, but for Cincinnati, it’s about identifying the best practices and seeing how they apply to the Queen City. “What we’ve been working on is how to use technology and data analytics to become the best-managed city in America,” Black said.

Black provided two steps the city’s government has taken to move the smart city pitch closer to reality. Cincinnati recently moved forward with its connectivity effort by beginning the process to bring high speed and affordable Wi-Fi to the city.

In this early step, City Council asked companies to submit a statement of qualification. After a period of time, the city will select a number of companies and ask them to submit proposals to provide infrastructure. Through combining infrastructure and working with private industry, city officials said they want to make high-speed broadband internet access available to residents and businesses.

By setting up infrastructure, Black said the government can provide a base for innovators to use the system to make people’s lives easier and grow the local economy. And while it seems futuristic, the city is already tracking potholes, heroin overdoses, calls for emergency services, citizen complaints about police, buildings permits and calls for recycling services.

Cincy Insights, an interactive dashboard portal created by the city’s Office of Performance & Data Analytics, shows data in real time, allowing anyone to see what’s going on in Cincinnati. The city’s Chief Performance Officer Leigh Tami said the datasets update each day and some update every three minutes.

One pot hole terrorized Westwood for 510 days before it was filled back in 2012. So far in April, nearly 3,000 people have called for emergency medical incidents. There has been seven heroin overdose calls in Avondale and 11 in East Price Hill this month. There have been 18 shootings in District 5 in 2017, in 2016 there were 80. And tomorrow all those numbers will be updated.

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