Internet of Things Innovators

This interview is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, Innovations that Mattered in 2016. Download the full guide here.

Meet the Innovator

Bob Bennet, Chief Innovation Officer in Kansas City, MO

Innovation Mark. Bennett’s main goal is to use IoT as a way to increase citizen engagement in Kansas City. IoT programs offer an opportunity for the city to keep up with changing citizen demands for connectivity. One of the projects Bennett has spearheaded includes installing a 2-and-a-halfmile streetcar line through the city’s downtown, with free public Wi-Fi covering 51 blocks of the route. He emphasized the impact of this connectivity initiative by explaining, “I was able to walk out of my office one afternoon, start to download a presentation and by the time I walked about 16 blocks, it had downloaded. I never lost continuity the entire trip.”

The city has also installed 25 information kiosks connected to public Wi-Fi. They provide information about myriad things, such as where streetcars are and restaurant reviews and recommendations. As a result, citizens can make better-informed decisions about their travel plans and where they decide to eat in the community.

Additionally, Bennett and the Kansas City team were one of seven finalists in DoT’s Smart City Challenge. The city proposed a three-pronged plan that included transforming a proposed

bus and rapid transit line in the eastern part of the city, building autonomous vehicle corridors, and establishing a series of community empowerment projects. Kansas City didn’t win the challenge, but Bennett’s forging ahead. Next steps for the city include smart integration into all departments, he said.

Tips from the innovator. With the growth of connected devices in Kansas City, Bennett and his team had to address growing security concerns. As a result, the city partnered with Sprint to ensure security. “We have the benefit of having Sprint’s web security involved and we are the beneficiaries of their advances,” Bennett said. Additionally, Kansas City partnered with a local law school to establish a citizens’ bill of rights for data. This partnership fostered transparency and citizen engagement to further support IoT initiatives.

Why it matters. Even cities that are just starting their IoT journey can foster successful innovation. Bennett advised these new-to-IoT governments to “embrace the fact that cities can’t do this all by themselves.” To implement IoT initiatives, local governments must be willing to build and engage in partnerships.

Keeping citizens in the loop will make implementation more seamless in the long run. Cities have an obligation to respect citizen privacy, and promoting transparency and engagement fosters mutual respect between the city and its citizens. “You have to make sure you engage your citizenry to let them know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” he said.

When developing and implementing IoT initiatives, city governments should ultimately do so with a sense of humor. “Look at today’s failure as the impetus for tomorrow’s success because you’ve learned something along the way,” Bennett said. By not getting hung up on the little things, cities can keep moving forward toward innovation.

Meet the Innovation

Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge

Innovation mark. There is little chance that organizations will succeed in implementing IoT initiatives unless they are embraced by a culture of innovation in which they feel like they can get their ideas out and funded. This was exemplified in DoT’s recent Smart City Challenge. It offered $40 million in funding to the city that could come up with the most innovative way to transform its transportation network.

DoT received 78 vision statements from cities nationwide and whittled them down to seven finalists. Some of the finalists’ ideas included traffic solutions, intelligent vehicles and bike sharing programs. Columbus, Ohio, won the challenge with its five point approach to promote connectivity and economic prosperity in the city. The five strategies include developing smart corridors, enhancing traffic condition data, pushing real-time traffic information to users, developing and deploying communication technology solutions to those who don’t have smartphones, and expanding the usage of electric and smart vehicles.

The real impact of the Smart City Challenge was that it made cities think about next steps in IoT. Bringing together problem solvers and key stakeholders is critical to continually foster IoT innovations in cities.

Why it matters. Large-scale promotion of innovation is key to uncovering and implementing IoT solutions in cities. Although Columbus won the challenge, many other cities were able to secure funding from outside sources based on the plans they came up with.

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