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Connectivity and Mobility Are Key Pillars of Metropolitan Development, Say Congresswomen at Smart City Event

Masha Abarinova

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Photo by Masha Abarinova

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2019 - Connectivity, mobility, sustainability and the workforce are the main pillars of smart city development, said Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., at an Axios panel Tuesday. Cities must have reliable sources of energy to maximize efficiency, she said, which makes infrastructure the top priority for policymakers.

Investments must be made in all levels of education, said Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., so that the workforce is prepared for future infrastructure. Both large and small communities will benefit from smart-city solutions, and this is the time for people to learn more about cybersecurity and infrastructure, she said.

The effects of smart cities are beginning to take their toll, Clarke said. The city of New York, for instance, began phasing out its phone booths for Wi-Fi kiosks, which have already yielded game-changing results.

Smart city components are not as robust as they should be, she said, yet they provide a solid foundation for future infrastructure.

The concept is not about the cities themselves, but about solving big problems, said Hicham Abdessamad, chief executive of Global Social Innovation Business at Hitachi. Data sits at the core of smart city infrastructure, he said, which consists of multiple layers of development.

These layers can range from dynamic scheduling to data harnessing, Abdessamad said. However, lawmakers still need to address how privacy fits into the data, for the sake of governance as well as innovation. Machine learning can be beneficial, he said, but it requires enough regulation.

If citizens cannot trust their government, said Microsoft Executive Director of State and Local Government Solutions Kim Nelson, then there is no foundation for smart city technology.

Digital transformation is key for cities, Nelson continued. Technology and hardware are not as crucial as obtaining the information that smart devices are collecting. There are no such things as “non-tech” companies or “non-smart” cities, she said, as all these entities possess unharnessed information.

Transportation is a common element in smart city discussion. Jeff Marootian, director of the District Department of Transportation, said that the District of Columbia aims to be at the forefront of smart transportation infrastructure.

The city is working to improve public transportation, he said, increasing the quality of Metro Rail and transit signal priority to help speed buses in and out of traffic. The Department is also planning to redesign roads in order to make traffic flow more friendly to drivers, pedestrians and other road occupants.

Connecting communities to one another is essential, Marootian said. The fusion of infrastructure and technology will help achieve that goal.

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