In Forbes - Do Or Die: Cities Face Falling Behind If They Don't Implement Digital Infrastructure

Julie Littman, Bisnow via Forbes

Smart technology is changing how cities are run, how residents live and how businesses attract employees. For the last decade, cities have been building high-speed internet and using digital technology to expand city services. Pixabay Cities implementing these changes will improve the lives of residents, be more attractive to employers, increase real estate values and stand out within the international marketplace. “Smart cities are much more livable, safer and vibrant and have more economic opportunities and workability,” Smart Cities Council Chairman Jesse Berst said. “It’s really essential for cities that want to compete in the global economy and want to attract jobs and talent.” Cities that do not make these changes are at risk of falling behind. Even cities in the beating heart of the tech industry, such as San Jose, are running up against the challenge of a city hall with out-of-date technology. But implementation does not happen overnight and takes years of planning and significant financial resources. How can budget-strapped cities provide much-needed digital infrastructure without the proper funds to do so?

Enter public-private partnerships backing smart technology. Without these partnerships, cities run the risk of losing out in the smart city technology race. Julia Bunch / Bisnow Dallas' West End Dallas’ West End is one U.S. city using public-private partnerships to get smarter. LED street lamps send notifications when bulbs are out. Interactive kiosks provide passers-by with city information and a place to charge phones. In the coming months, the neighborhood will have public WiFi, smart parking where people can reserve spots, trash cans with sensors that monitor capacity and better water management systems. “Cities that approach this [technology] five to 10 years before they are forced to will really reap dramatic benefits and economic development,” Dallas Innovation Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Sanders said.

The Dallas Innovation Alliance, a public-private partnership among 30 organizations, is leading the implementation of smart technology. The DIA also is testing environmental sensors that can provide granular data on particulate matter in the air, according to Sanders. This data can be used to provide allergen alerts so citizens can adjust their days and lessen allergy symptoms. The organization wants to tackle food deserts and find ways to bring healthy food to more people, such as through on-demand food trucks serving healthy food. Dallas is not alone in its endeavor to become a smart city. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are among U.S. cities actively pursuing smart city technology.

Many more cities around the world are integrating digital infrastructure. While each city is doing things differently, they are all implementing high-speed broadband internet and improving city services. Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot / Flickr Barcelona, Spain The U.S. has a lot of catching up to do. Current efforts are years away from full implementation. Smart Cities Council's Berst said the whole process is a 20- to 30-year journey. U.S. cities are years behind Singapore, Spain, Dubai, Copenhagen, Vienna and several cities in China. Spain’s first smart city, Barcelona, is among the smartest European cities. It has been building dozens of smart systems, including a smart irrigation system that collects data such as humidity, temperature and sunlight, which allow city landscapers to figure out a water schedule that does not lead to overwatering. Annual water savings is expected to be $555K each year. Barcelona, which began implementation of its smart city initiatives in the early 2000s, also has one of Europe’s best and cleanest public transit systems with bus stops powered via solar energy, a significant bike-sharing system with at least 6,000 bikes, a trash system that sucks trash below ground, smart lighting and a plethora of apps residents and visitors can use to help them get around.

Smart cities start with digital technology to improve urban life, according to Berst. This typically means creating a high-speed broadband or fiber network. Demand for internet will increase, and cities need to find better ways to provide internet for citizens and businesses. The number of people using the internet reached 88% in 2016 compared to 76% in 2010 and 52% in 2000, according to Pew Research Center. Broadband use has skyrocketed within the last decade and nearly three-quarters of Americans have broadband internet.

“People are very mobile today and move to cities that give more economic activity,” Berst said. Collecting, communicating and computing data are key elements to the deployment of smart city technology. Sensors typically collect data, which is then communicated to the citywide network. Computing uses situational awareness to figure out conditions in a city, such as whether a street is congested. Predictive analytics can determine service schedules. Instead of sending out maintenance every six months to check a power transformer, for example, the system can predict which piece of equipment is most likely to fail and when. This technology improves services for cash-strapped city budgets.

Many of the smart cities are working on better websites and applications where citizens can access city services on a 24/7 basis. Smart cities create an environment that attracts young professionals who prefer to live and work in technologically integrated neighborhoods and keeps residents who benefit from the healthier environment and green technologies.

How Can Property Owners Benefit?

 Even though Phase 1 is in the early stages, building owners in Dallas’ West End are already experiencing economic benefits. Sanders said the smart city initiatives are becoming talking points for landlords and rents are increasing.

Crescent Real Estate Vice President of Acquisitions Stephen W. Luik said the smart city initiatives in Dallas’ West End have added to desirability as the developer attracts new prospects into the area. “Technology continues to play a major role in companies’ office location decisions,” Luik said. “Districts that implement the smart city initiatives will greatly benefit in desirability, and ultimately occupancy and rental rate growth.”

Granite Properties Leasing Manager Burson Homlan said the smart city initiatives have helped attract prospective tenants from the technology industry. BCBS Innovation Labs was the first office tenant to lease at Factory Six03, which is in the West End. “[Smart city technology] is great for every stakeholder in the area: residents, owners, restaurants and the city,” Holman said.

22 City Link is planning a high-tech, 2.5M SF development in Washington, D.C.’s Gramercy District. In New York, Related Cos. and Oxford Properties’ 28-acre Hudson Yards development is sustainable and resilient with decreased electricity costs and improved efficiencies. In Denver, Panasonic and L.C. Fulenwider are partnering with the city to create a large mixed-use development chock full of smart technology as well. “Smart grids and buildings save an enormous amount of money,” the Smart Cities Council’s Berst said. He said building owners who install new thermostats or LED lights to reduce energy costs pay themselves back over 10 to 15 years. Investing in conveniences like smart parking and personalized climate controls increases the value of real estate and tenants end up paying more for these additional amenities, he said. Building owners save money by using renewable energy, according to Berst. Microgrids also make buildings and neighborhoods more resilient during a natural disaster. These grids can still run power even if the rest of the city’s power goes out. Improving City Services

Cities are looking for ways to increase access to services while saving time and money. Smart Cities Council is working on improving digital city services so citizens can access city services 24/7 via a smartphone. Offering self-service is far cheaper and saves city resources. Berst said when Albuquerque launched its open data portal for city services, call volume to the 311 system dropped by half a million calls per year.   In San Jose, the population is expected to grow 40% by 2040 and have an additional 470,000 residents, according to San Jose Chief Innovation Officer Shireen Santosham. This type of growth will stretch city services to the limit. “We simply are not going to be able to keep up with that growth without taking innovative steps to the way we work,” Santosham said. San Jose is known as the capital of Silicon Valley, but its city hall has been using outdated technology and computers, making it more difficult for residents to navigate city services. San Jose is beta testing a new app that will allow residents to take a picture of a pothole or abandoned vehicle and send the picture to the city, according to Santosham. Then, crews can be deployed more quickly instead of residents calling in and sitting on hold for an extended period of time.    “We would really like to have the city feel like the center of Silicon Valley when you arrive,” Santosham said.

San Jose’s airport has robots that help incoming travelers, and the city recently launched efforts to have companies pitch autonomous vehicle technology. The transit corridor from the airport to Diridon Station is expected to become one of the largest hubs west of the Mississippi, which makes this tech even more of a priority. Google’s proposed massive 6M SF to 8M SF campus also could drive more visitors and workers into this section of the city. The development of autonomous vehicles can help change commuting behaviors and move toward shared electric vehicles that can share data. The end goal would be to have a system of cars that talk to each other and to the traffic lights and help with traffic flow.

“Ultimately, we’ll have to find these solutions at a regional level,” Santosham said. “Traffic is not a city problem. It is a regional problem.” New York also is using technology to improve city services. It is working to improve its 311 system and with IBM Watson, according to New York Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamino. The installation of an affordable high-speed internet infrastructure is key. Without access to internet, residents and visitors would not be able to access city applications. Having this technology also allows New Yorkers across the spectrum of incomes to participate in the future tech economy by promoting skill development. “Most people I talk to in the industry rank talent at the top two or three in terms of priorities and the things they need to grow their business,” Gamino said. “Talent is a tremendous asset that New York has already and is investing in.” Gamino has been working on interconnectivity of various agency efforts to make sure different agency systems are sharing data.

Implementation Challenges?

Jennifer Sanders The success of smart city initiatives will rely heavily on private investment. A lot of the technology can carry a hefty price tag and city resources are very limited. As a public-private partnership, the DIA is a freestanding entity that can move more quickly and does not use up city resources, according to Sanders. “We’re going to continue to see the growth of public-private partnerships take different forms that will be really advantageous to getting this [technology] done across broadband and roadways,” Sanders said. Because technology moves so quickly and construction of parking structures and other buildings does not, some cities may run into a problem with deploying a technology that is already outdated, according to Sanders. She said one city developed a smart parking request for proposals, but it took them 18 months to procure the technology. By the time it was deployed, the technology was two versions behind and the city could not buy the new tech due to contractual obligations.

“Technology is moving toward open source and software platforms with contracts written to include tech updates,” Sanders said. With so many devices expected to be interconnected, issues of privacy and cybersecurity also are on the minds of city staff and smart city organizations. San Jose recently passed its first cyber security safeguards for the city, according to Santosham.

New York is taking cybersecurity and the Internet of Things seriously and incorporating it into the design of its systems as well. San Jose is using the tech talent within its backyard to find better ways to provide smart technologies. The city is partnering with Facebook to test and deploy wireless internet to provide a free gigabit of speed in downtown and other parts of the city, according to Santosham.

Other partnerships with local tech companies will be considered, especially since public-private partnerships will help the city save money. “We have been very successful in creating innovative public-private partnerships,” Santosham said. “It gives us a little bit more flexibility to test pre-tech and allows companies to donate equipment and use the city as a platform.” Courtesy of San Jose San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo San Jose is openly engaging with tech and encouraging entrepreneurs to use San Jose as a test ground. “We are being very intentional in using our city as a laboratory for innovators who want to test their latest tech or demonstrate it to the rest of the world,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “We know we need to be extroverts in how we engage with companies.” The city began an Unleash Your Geek initiative to challenge students and tinkerers to help solve urban challenges. One challenge was how best to deal with graffiti under freeway overpasses, which usually costs about $60K to get a worker with a truck to clean it up. A better way of doing that could be a drone or mechanized robot to clean up. The city challenged teams to create a prototype that can do this job instead. “We want to encourage a relationship between the innovators and public sector in a new way,” Liccardo said.

Smart Cities Connect 2017: A First Look from Austin

Smart Cities Connect 2017: A First Look from Austin


By Emily Routman, DIA Summer Associate, University of Richmond

As I embarked on my journey to Austin, I didn’t realize that what I knew about the concept of Smart Cities would be forever changed. Not only had I never been to Austin before, but I had also never attended a conference, especially one like Smart Cities Connect. Reflecting on it afterwards, I could not believe the diversity of the people attending, as well as the topics discussed in the many sessions.

I arrived at the Austin Convention Center with a pen and notebook, not really sure what to expect. I was handed a nametag--feeling very official--and a program book with all of the different sessions available to me throughout the three-day conference. To my surprise, there were five or six sessions going on simultaneously, all dealing with different facets of the ‘Smart City,’ such as data, energy, mobility, infrastructure and citizen life. My first task was to choose what session to go to during each time slot.

Upon entering my first session, “Urban Mobility: Transforming Smart Cities,” I was instantly filled with excitement in seeing all the movers and shakers in the chairs alongside me. In this half-hour timeslot, I learned more than I could wrap my head around. The speaker, Rahul Gupta of Price Waterhouse Coopers, spoke about the megatrends that were contributing to a “new paradigm” of transportation: demographic shifts, economic power shifts, technological breakthroughs, urbanization, and climate change. He revealed that traffic congestion was prolonging travel time in cities by 30% or more, and that building more roads was not solving this issue. An “avalanche” of automotive innovation would solve these issues eventually, Gupta explained, mentioning unfamiliar concepts: powertrain electrification, connectivity demand, functional system convergence. However, I did comprehend what the outcomes of this innovation could be. As Gupta proposed, a “smart” mobility future had promise of safety improvements, reduced congestion, more access to jobs and services, reduced emissions, reduced transportation costs, and an increase in accessibility and mobility.

Another session I went to about mobility was “Urban Mobility on Demand,” which explored the world of autonomous vehicles. This was where I first heard about the “first mile, last mile” issue and saw the need for these small, low-speed vehicles. The issue is that getting to and from the public transit stops may be too far from someone’s start or end point, so they are deterred from using public transit. To solve this, Polaris showed a demo of their GEM, an autonomous, golf-cart-looking vehicle taking picking up and dropping off people. I really didn’t even know the technology existed yet!

I also got to attend a session where my boss, Jennifer Sanders, was on the panel! She teamed up with Jori Mendel and Tim Fleming of AT&T, and Clint Madsen of Ericsson to speak about Dallas as a case study for our technology and alliance structure. It was so exciting to see how many people showed up to use Dallas Innovation Alliance’s story to set an example for Smart Cities everywhere. The Living Lab was the topic of discussion, including the projects like smart lighting and the kiosk which have already been installed, and the future projects like smart parking and smart irrigation. Although I already knew about the initiatives, everyone in the room was hearing first-hand how Dallas Innovation Alliance was at the forefront of ingenuity alongside AT&T and Ericsson.

On the other side of Smart Cities from the technology aspect is the cities themselves. I attended “City Spotlights: Citizen Life and Governance,” which included CTOs and CIOs from all around the country, including Austin, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Seattle, and Washington DC. These inspiring city executives made me realize I could see myself having a future in city government. They spoke about the challenges and solutions in technology and governance, including many things I hadn’t even thought about as an issue. For instance, my understanding was that the rapid adoption of technologies for city services had no barriers; I forgot that not everyone in every city has access to a smartphone or internet. The issue of digital inclusion and inequity was mentioned by many of the panelists, as well as the idea of coming together to promote digital literacy throughout cities. Another heavily-discussed topic was the use of data for hackathons, for city-as-a-service, and for partnership access to city data. Finally, these city employees talked about the importance of breaking the barriers to awareness of different projects, and not working in silos in order to get things done. For example, many of DC’s departments came together to make a “SmarterDC” vision, heavily reliant on collaboration between the city’s agencies.

Not only did I get to sit in on these panels and presentations, but I got to see technology demos presented by different universities. I was so impressed with the virtual reality field trip presented by University of Louisiana at Lafayette. And the see-through technology for autonomous vehicles from University of Tennessee Chattanooga was so interesting--it showed how in the future, autonomous vehicles could see what the vehicle ahead of it sees, increasing its intelligence on the road. Finally, Wayne State University’s robot that detected all objects around it, used for real-time safety mapping for the campus police.

Along with people from the educational sector, there were so many other types of attendees at the Smart Cities Connect conference. Technology people, from companies as large as AT&T and as small as a startup; city mayors, CIOs, and other city employees; from initiatives like Austin CityUP and Dallas Innovation Alliance; representatives from industries like automobiles, parking, and environmental sustainability.

However, I seemed to be the youngest person there. I definitely believe that educating the college-age community about Smart Cities could have a huge effect on the future generation of our communities. I don’t think enough people my age know about what Smart Cities are and  don’t know how to get involved. Hopefully, students getting informed about these initiatives will bring another category of people to conferences like these.

I am so grateful for my opportunity to go to the Smart Cities Connect Conference! I can tell that the ideas I heard, the demos I saw, and the people I met will be influential as I follow and get more involved in the world of Smart Cities for years to come.




Emily Routman

DIA Summer Associate

University of Richmond

Smart city initiatives are helping promote Dallas as an innovative city: Dallas Morning News


Smart city initiatives are helping promote Dallas as an innovative city: Dallas Morning News


Kerry Rupp, Dallas Morning News, April 3, 2017

With the launch of a living lab in the West End March 27, Dallas entered a new phase of its effort to create a smart city that will attract business innovation while improving the quality of life for its residents.

The living lab — where smart technologies involving mobility, infrastructure and connected living will be tested — is one of several public-private partnerships to transform Dallas into a smart city.

Smart city initiatives are still a relatively new concept, and not everyone defines a smart city in the same way. The Dallas Innovation Alliance, a coalition of stakeholders invested in the concept, defines a smart city as one where social and technological solutions promote sustainable economic growth, increase resource efficiency and improve qualify of life.

The West End's smart city living lab kicked off with the installation of an interactive kiosk outside the Dallas Entrepreneur Center at 311 N. Market St. in March that will provide way-finding to visitors of the West End. The living lab effort will continue in the coming months with the installation of smart lighting, sensors to measure air quality and other initiatives.

"It will begin to help us to tell the story of Dallas in a new way," said Trey Bowles, co-founder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance and CEO of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center. "The bottom line is big business is already here, and additional businesses — startup businesses — will begin to look at Dallas as a more realistic option when they perceive Dallas to be what it actually already is, which is innovative."

Dallas's smart city initiatives have been ongoing for several years, said William Finch, chief technology officer at the city of Dallas. About 10 years ago, it installed security cameras throughout the Central Business District as part of a safety initiative. Then, about six years ago, it deployed WiFi in all its libraries and recreation centers, including seven outdoor parks. About five years ago, it developed an iPad app for its building inspectors, eliminating paper and inefficiencies. Its 311 mobile app has been around about three years and allows residents to report nonemergency problems such as graffiti, weeds and potholes via their smartphones.

"Smart cities right now is a cool elective thing, or there's a perception it's a novel thing. But in the future it's not a nice-to-have, it's a need-to-have."Jennifer Sanders, executive director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a public-private partnership that's creating a smart cities pilot in the West End of downtown Dallas 

One of the city's more recent initiatives is its open data portal, now about two years old, that makes a wide variety of public data available — a virtual goldmine of information that can be accessed by entrepreneurs looking for the next big idea. Next up, the city plans to use and deploy big data to make the city run more efficiently.

"A smart city ecosystem can improve emergency response, mobility, education, security, health and well-being," Finch said. "As cities grow ... we are facing substantial challenges in which business as usual is no longer an option. Cities must transition using new technologies to transform their core systems. Rising to the challenges and threats to being a resilient city requires smarter systems that are interconnecting people and objects."

Bringing cities together

The smart city movement could get another boost this April, when cities, academia, nonprofits and others from around the state gather for the first statewide smart city initiative — Smart Texas Revolution, an April 20-21 conference at Fair Park held in conjunction with Earth Day Texas.

Earth Day Texas, now in its sixth year, drew 130,000 people over a three-day period in 2016 and is the largest event of its kind, said Matt Myers, vice president of Earth Day Texas. The organization saw a good opportunity to collaborate with the Dallas Innovation Alliance for the event because it believes a smart city can be good for the earth, Myers said.

"I think it's really great to make that connection between smart cities and the environment," he said. "I think the term smart cities is about density, walkability, mobility. It's about utilizing technology to increase the efficiency of civic infrastructure."

The event will include "A Day in the Life" — hubs showcasing what a typical day in a smart city will feel like, with a focus on the home, restaurant/retail, office, city hall and the daily work commute, said Jennifer Sanders, executive director and co-founder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance.

"We want to create an experiential smart city experience," she said. "We are going to integrate technology into familiar spaces. We'll have a staged home set. You'll see the smart devices and how they'll impact your daily life."

Welcoming idea

The idea for Smart Texas Revolution event came about after speaking with dozens of cities looking for ways to advance a smart initiative in their communities, Sanders said.

"I wanted to create a forum that was accessible — a car trip, not a plane trip — so that cities can receive a comprehensive boot camp on smart city best practices."

They'll talk about ways they can finance smart initiatives and get a conversation going about statewide initiatives, she said. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend.

"Let's have a really good discussion about what a smart strategy would look like at the state level," she said. "There's a great opportunity for Texas to lead the nation around this."

Festival of Ideas Tackles Equity, Entrepreneurship in Dallas

Festival of Ideas Tackles Equity, Entrepreneurship in Dallas

The Dallas Festival of Ideas celebrates ideas that are designed to "ignite, unite, and energize the people of Dallas to help build the city of the future."


While the 2017 Dallas Festival of Ideas moved indoors Saturday because of dark, threatening skies, its speakers talked about a brighter future for the city of Dallas, one based on equity for all its citizens regardless of where they live in the city.

The threat of bad weather moved the event to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center from the City Hall Plaza, but the weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of organizers or attendees.

According to organizers, The Dallas Festival of Ideas celebrates ideas that are designed to “ignite, unite, and energize the people of Dallas to help build the city of the future.”

The event featured a series of panel discussions, performances, and art installations. This year’s event also was coupled with the Dallas Book Festival at the nearby J. Erik Jonsson Central Library.


To kick off the event, five keynote speakers established a framework of topics — or “city perspectives” — that would be addressed: the physical city, the healthy city, the cultural city, the educated city, and the entrepreneurial city.

Culled from community forums held this spring and last fall, each of the themes were debated in a series of breakout discussions that the festival’s organizers hope will lead to tangible, impactful strategies that bring ideas to life in Dallas.

During a discussion on the entrepreneurial city, moderator Jeff Whittington of KERA asked panelists whether Dallas is a good place to start a business.

“There are quite a few barriers for especially low-income folks to get into the big-dollar business park in Dallas,” said panelist Tisha Crear, citing personal experiences with bureaucratic hurdles and city politics. Crear runs Susu Cultural Business Incubator & Co-Op, and she highlighted the challenges and frustrations that entrepreneurs of color often face in Dallas.

“… we have to not just innovate businesses, not just innovate a good idea or a tech idea. We have to innovate the business model itself.”
Salah Boukadoum

Panelist Salah Boukadoum, of Impact City Initiative and Soap Hope, agreed, but posed a question about barriers that face disenfranchised groups and how to tackle them.

“Do you drive capital into those environments where they’re statistically going to produce lower returns because of existing barriers, or do you work on the barriers first?” Boukadoum said. “My answer to that is, we have to not just innovate businesses, not just innovate a good idea or a tech idea. We have to innovate the business model itself.”

Boukadoum continued: “We can’t expect our governments to do that, we can’t expect our banks to do that, we can’t expect our [venture capitalists] to do that. But the people in this room — they can do it through the choices that they make about where they shop, where they invest, what they talk about with their friends, who they encourage to go to what events, or support what businesses.”

He said that people “have a responsibility as a community to become more aware about how our own communal actions either empower or disempower women, minorities, and anybody else who’s been disadvantaged in the past.”

To encourage entrepreneurship that elevates and empowers communities in Dallas without compromising their existing culture, residents must vote in city elections and support initiatives that value homegrown ideas and local innovation, panelists said.

Panelists also debated the best ways to invest in the city and tackle barriers such as poverty, access to education and health care, and gentrification under the guise of growth that essentially forces neighborhoods to hit “reset” on their cultural roots.


One way to move forward, panelists said, is to take a page from developers such as Monte Anderson who live and build relationships in the communities in which they invest, establishing a personal stake in the neighborhood.

To achieve equity for all of Dallas’ entrepreneurs, the city would need to be united rather than a cluster of neighborhoods, panelists agreed.

“One of the key things that we need to do as people is to expand our sense of neighborhood.” 

Salah Boukadoum

“One of the key things that we need to do as people is to expand our sense of neighborhood,” Boukadoum said. “You have to expand your sense of who your neighbors are, and your personal commitment to them, and your personal relationships with them, and your emotional investment with them before you really have a chance of making a difference there.”  

Other panelists on entrepreneurship were Justin Nygren of The Grove, and Jennifer Sanders of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center.

The 2017 Dallas Festival of Ideas was presented by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and The Dallas Morning News. It was sponsored by Dallas-based AT&T Inc. and by Bank of America.


Smart Cities Summit: The World as We Will Come to Know it: Dallas Innovates


Smart Cities Summit: The World as We Will Come to Know it

Experts at the summit made their predictions for what is coming by 2025 at the Visionaries Roundtable.


BY NICHOLAS SAKELARIS • Dallas Innovates MAY 17, 2017

Flying cars, self-sustained electric grids, and autonomous cars aren’t just fantasies — they could all transform the world in the next eight years.

These bold predictions were the focus of the 2025 Visionaries Roundtable discussion Tuesday during the North Texas Smart Cities Summit at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The full-day event brought together industry experts, academicians, city leaders, and more to discuss the smart cities movement on a city and regional level. 

“You have to think and behave like you’re an entrepreneur inside the industry.” 

Kevin Saye

The key is to fail fast, continue experimenting, and embrace new transformative technologies.

“You have to forget about those things that brought you here today,” said Kevin Saye, an IoT technical expert at Microsoft. “You have to think and behave like you’re an entrepreneur inside the industry. How have you transformed the world? Those organizations who resisted change probably aren’t here today or are under huge scrutiny right now.”


The flying cars first envisioned in the 1960s cartoon, The Jetsons, are not that far off, said Mike McNair, engineer and team lead with Bell Helicopter, which is working on propulsion technology for electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

The Fort Worth-based aircraft manufacturer has partnered with Uber to develop on-demand VTOL aircraft, which the ride sharing company plans to test by 2020 in the Dallas area

McNair said the biggest challenge for flying vehicles isn’t the technology — it’s licensing, insuring, training, and infrastructure.

“What kind of training goes into that?” McNair asked. “What skills and competencies are needed? Looking at the range of possible people that could benefit from it, it can go anywhere from a VIP to emergency medical services, or someone who wants to escape commuter traffic.”

And there are even more questions to be answered.

Where will they land and take off? Who will enforce traffic laws in the sky? Will they be autonomous? Will they run on fossil fuels or electricity?

“We’re taking that kind of leap between mobile phones to what comes next in 2025. Everyone expects the rate of change to be just as strong.” 

Mike McNair

“By 2025 we’re going to have to understand that,” McNair said. “We’re taking that kind of leap between mobile phones to what comes next in 2025. Everyone expects the rate of change to be just as strong. So we need to acknowledge the fact that change is tough.”

With more autonomous vehicles, that means fewer personal vehicles and less space dedicated to parking.

That would free up large parking lots for totally different uses, McNair said.


The rise of solar power, battery storage, and other renewable energy could mean an end to most power outages and blackouts, said Michael Quinn, chief technology officer for Oncor.

Oncor calls them microgrids because they have the ability to be self-sufficient when the larger electric grid goes down. Severe weather such as tornadoes and strong winds cause anxiety for critical infrastructure such as data centers.

“They say, ‘The value of our product is so great that the two hours of outage that we’re going to have in a year is going to cost us substantially,’” Quinn said. “They can’t even take a minute of downtime.”

The rise of lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles could revolutionize on-site storage.

“It will be a big part of what we do,” Quinn said. “Think about short-term outages being a thing of the past.”


Downtown Dallas has about 10,000 people living in it now with more high-rise apartments and condominiums coming soon. To prepare for that influx of people, the Dallas Innovation Alliance needs to think outside the box.

The nonprofit is transforming the West End of downtown Dallas with a touchscreen kiosk, LED lighting, and other technology that taps into the internet of things.

“The demand and amenities that are necessary to support that population are very different than what’s in place in downtown,” said Jennifer Sanders, executive director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance.

“The benefit of what you’re doing is greater than the risk.” 

Jennifer Sanders

Living in a world where everything is connected and talks to each other can also be scary because it gives away so much personal information.

“The benefit of what you’re doing is greater than the risk,” Sanders said. “Most people don’t know they’ve signed away and given away so much anyway.”

Connected cars don’t require 100-percent buy-in, just a small percentage of the driving public could provide a wealth of knowledge for traffic management and fleets of trucks, said James Garland, team leader for transportation and capacity planning for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

AT&T Smart Cities and the Dallas Innovation Alliance Bring New Solutions Focused on Citizen Engagement and the Environment

AT&T Smart Cities and the Dallas Innovation Alliance Bring New Solutions Focused on Citizen Engagement and the Environment

Historic Dallas West End Now Has Intelligent LED Lighting, Environmental Sensors and Interactive Digital Kiosk; additional solutions forthcoming 

Dallas, March 27, 2017 – AT&T* Smart Cities momentum continues with the launch of the DIA Smart Cities Living Lab powered by AT&T (Living Lab). The Living Lab is a multi-phased smart cities project in Dallas. The project is spearheaded by the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) in collaboration with AT&T and other technology leaders in the public and private sector.  AT&T, a Foundational Partner for the DIA, used its smart cities framework to help the City of Dallas develop and apply a holistic strategy to address some of its most significant challenges. Dallas is among the eight cities participating in the AT&T Smart Cities spotlight cities initiative. 

For the past year, AT&T has worked with the DIA and the City of Dallas to bring together some of the largest and most innovative IoT solution providers in the world. Dallas is now one of the first U.S. cities to have an active living laboratory to showcase smart cities technology.

“We applaud the Dallas Innovation Alliance for their commitment to advance transformative change in Dallas through the use of smart cities technology,” said Mike Zeto, general manager, AT&T Smart Cities. “Smart cities solutions have the potential to address many problems in a city, including infrastructure, safety and environmental. Having a holistic strategy is key. You must also assemble the right technology solutions and solution providers to address the current and future needs of the city. We’re lending our time, resources and support to help Dallas and the DIA bring their smart cities vision to life.”

Dallas is the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the U.S. It is also the fourth largest employment center in the nation. These factors helped create an environment challenged to maintain the lifestyle and opportunities that originally drew residents to the city. 

The City of Dallas and the DIA share a strategic vision to use the Living Lab pilot as a way to measure and evaluate the social and environmental impact of smart cities solutions. After months of planning, the first phase of the Living Lab project is now officially underway, setting Dallas on the path of becoming a more connected, sustainable city. 

“Today, technology impacts every aspect of our lives. Being a smart city is not just about offering the latest products. It is about solving peoples’ problems through innovation and strategic planning,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “The Dallas Innovation Alliance has provided a great platform to bring together entities across the city, partner with citizens and drive efforts to create a smart city environment for the benefit of Dallasites.”

“We could not be more thrilled to launch the first phase of the DIA Smart Cities Living Lab in Dallas’ historic West End,” commented Jennifer Sanders, Executive Director, Dallas Innovation Alliance. “This effort is the culmination of the hard work and dedication of our partners across the City of Dallas, civic, academic, corporate partners and the community. We are particularly grateful for the support and leadership of AT&T in making this vision a reality for Dallas. This is just the beginning, we look forward to deploying additional solutions in the DIA Smart Cities Living Lab this year, and rapidly expanding to other parts of the city.”

AT&T is providing secure, reliable connectivity for all the solutions featured in the Living Lab. The solutions include:

Intelligent LED Lighting: LED street lights are one way cities can reduce carbon emissions. Through a separate collaboration with Current powered by GE, the Living Lab footprint is brighter and more energy-efficient. Many of the street lights within the Living Lab have now been converted to LED. The new LED street lights are also on intelligent controls for remote adjustments and outage tracking. LED street lights are energy efficient and can help reduce carbon emissions. 

Interactive Digital WayPoint: To foster citizen engagement and access to city services, the Living Lab now houses an interactive digital WayPoint kiosk provided by CIVIQ Smartscapes. CIVIQ’s hardware—a beautiful, interactive public WayPoint is supported by integrated software and a highly secured virtual private network, designed to help residents and visitors find their way around the city—for events, shopping and points of interest. Citizens can also access up-to-date information on public transit options, schedules and routes, enabling them to explore the city more efficiently. The WayPoint kiosk also offers free USB charging ports and access to City of Dallas non-emergency services. CIVIQ’s collaboration with AT&T and the DIA shines a light on Dallas’ intelligent urban infrastructure plan.  CIVIQ’s people-centered technology is a great model for cities to increase citizen engagement and inclusion. From our work with other cities, CIVIQ sees the increased engagement improving the quality of life for all. 

Environmental Sensors: Ericsson has deployed an environmental sensor solution within the Living Lab footprint. The solution measures four different types of pollutants as well as temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and particulates (allergen levels). Additionally, Ericsson will provide the DIA the ability to monitor environmental data via a web application that is powered by the Ericsson AppIoT Platform. Environmental monitoring requires analyzing high volumes of time-coded data that is generated by numerous sources. It is important to have a highly secure platform that can ingest the data, apply common logic, and then make this data available to the City, the developer community, and all local stakeholders.

Phase 2 of the Living Lab is expected to launch later this year.  During the second phase, the DIA and AT&T expect to evaluate additional deployments of other smart cities solutions, as well as make enhancements to current services.

To learn more about the West End Living Lab project, visit 

To learn more about AT&T Smart Cities and how AT&T is building a better tomorrow, visit and

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, business, mobile and high speed internet services. We offer the nation’s best data network* and the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider.** We’re one of the world’s largest providers of pay TV. We have TV customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. Nearly 3.5 million companies, from small to large businesses around the globe, turn to AT&T for our highly secure smart solutions.

 Additional information about AT&T products and services is available at Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at and YouTube at

© 2017 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

*Claim based on the Nielsen Certified Data Network Score. Score includes data reported by wireless consumers in the Nielsen Mobile Insights survey, network measurements from Nielsen Mobile Performance and Nielsen Drive Test Benchmarks for Q3+Q4 2016 across 121 markets.

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About the Dallas Innovation Alliance

The Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) is a public-private partnership dedicated to the design and execution of a smart cities plan for the City of Dallas, leveraging social and technological infrastructures to accelerate sustainable economic growth, resource efficiency, and importantly, improve the quality of life for its citizens. DIA’s overarching goal is to elevate Dallas as a city that is not only prepared for, but a driving force in shaping, the future of cities, and providing opportunities for prosperity for its citizens. Its mission is to develop a scalable smart cities model for the City of Dallas that leverages the region’s distinctive strengths and leaves a legacy of innovation, sustainability and collaboration for future generations. DIA support is led by Foundational Partner AT&T, Pivotal Partner Cisco, Lead Partner Current, Powered by GE, and Gardere; Partners AECOM and Universal Mind, and Lead Community Partner United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Partners of the Dallas Innovation Alliance include: City of Dallas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC), Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas 2030 District, Downtown Dallas Inc., The Real Estate Council (TREC), Texas Research Alliance, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, CIVIQ Streetscapes, Deloitte, Ericsson, IBM, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Xerox, and World Wide Technology. For more information, please visit  

For more information, contact:                               

Name: Jessica Swain

AT&T Global Media Communications

Phone: (415) 613-4267


Name: Jennifer Sanders

Dallas Innovation Alliance

Phone: (214) 865-6358





Gardere will serve as the DIA’s Firm of Record, providing counsel to board of directors

DALLAS, TX, March 9, 2017 Today, the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA), a 501c(3) Public-Private Partnership dedicated to the design and execution of a multi-phased smart city strategy for Dallas, announced that Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP has joined the organization as legal counsel and firm of record. Gardere Partner Glenn Singleton will join the Dallas Innovation Alliance’s Board of Directors. The DIA will draw upon Gardere’s deep expertise in areas critical to smart cities, including technology, data, intellectual property, cybersecurity and the public sector to help support the DIA’s efforts and maximize the impact of ongoing and future projects.

“It’s an honor to support DIA’s bold mission to spur economic growth and improve quality of life by leveraging technology for the future of Dallas,” said Mr. Singleton “Gardere has a long history of investing in the city of Dallas and this partnership reflects our continued focus on championing the great innovators that reside in North Texas.”

The DIA seeks to address key challenges faced by Dallas, and cities around the world, around aging infrastructure, strained natural and fiscal resources, and increased density in the urban core, while providing the technology, data and connectivity needed to power the future for all Dallasites. The DIA operates from the definition that a smart city is one where technological and social infrastructures accelerate economic development, increase resource efficiency, and most importantly, improve quality of life. Through the support and collaboration of its members like Gardere, the DIA is committed to advancing transformative change in the city of Dallas while increasing the domestic and global profile of the great innovators and ideas that reside in Dallas.

“We are so grateful for the support of Gardere, and for its commitment to investing in the future of our city via forward-thinking organizations like the DIA,” stated Jennifer Sanders, Executive Director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance. “It is through the vision and commitment of organizations like Gardere that we can sustainably and thoughtfully address the complex issues facing cities around infrastructure, data and intellectual property. Through Gardere’s counsel and expertise, the DIA will continue to work towards these goals.”

 “Our business and technology attorneys are thought leaders in this constantly evolving space and we are very excited to help the DIA, as well as the many participating companies and stakeholders, bringing cutting-edge technology solutions to Dallas,” added Mr. Singleton.

On March 27th, the DIA will launch its first phase in the West End. The Living Lab in the Dallas Innovation District will bring multiple projects onto Market Street to allow for the testing of multiple solutions including intelligent street lighting, capturing environmental sensor data, interactive digital kiosk and public Wi-Fi. Later 2017 deployments in the Living Lab will include smart irrigation in a downtown park, smart parking solutions, advanced electric vehicle charging stations, smart water meter infrastructure, and an open source platform for citizens to interact with the Living Lab data. The West End living lab will help anchor the Dallas Innovation District, uniting civic, startup and corporate innovation to provide a critical mass of the resources, infrastructure and creative talent that accelerates entrepreneurship, economic development and research & development.

About the Dallas Innovation Alliance

The Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) is a public-private partnership dedicated to the design and execution of a smart cities plan for the City of Dallas, leveraging social and technological infrastructures to accelerate sustainable economic growth, resource efficiency, and importantly, improve quality of life for citizens. Its mission is to develop a scalable smart cities model for the City of Dallas that leverages the region’s distinctive strengths and leaves a legacy of innovation, sustainability and collaboration for future generations. DIA support is led by Foundational Partner AT&T, Pivotal Partner Cisco, Lead Partner Current, Powered by GE, Partners AECOM and Universal Mind, and Lead Community Partner United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Members of the Dallas Innovation Alliance include: City of Dallas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Visit Dallas, Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC), Dallas Regional Chamber, Downtown Dallas Inc., The Real Estate Council (TREC), Texas Research Alliance, CIVIQ Streetscapes, Deloitte, Ericsson, IBM, Microsoft, Park Hub, Philips, Schneider Electric, Xerox, and World Wide Technology. For more information, please visit

About Gardere

Founded in 1909, Gardere is one of the Southwest’s largest full-service law firms – with more than 230 attorneys serving clients from three of the largest cities in Texas, as well as Colorado and Mexico.  Gardere is noted for a commitment to superior client service and an ability to assist clients with their most complex and demanding legal and business challenges worldwide.  By combining the comprehensive resources of a large firm with the specialized, boutique-like expertise of the lawyers in each of our practice areas, we have the unique capabilities and resources necessary to provide our clients with efficient, effective and quality legal counsel.  For more information, please visit



New report provides inspiration for digital economy skill building: Mashable


New report provides inspiration for digital economy skill building  

Mashable, March 3, 2017

How can communities lead in the race for technical innovation? What will the next decade hold for your region? Will there be new and different jobs requiring expanded digital skill sets, an influx of residents – perhaps investments that will pave the way for smart city services and urban innovation?   

Navigating change and preparing for the future doesn’t happen overnight – these things must evolve person by person, one community at a time. Across the country, the sheer pace of change makes such preparation urgent – to close gaps in education, skills and earnings to empower opportunity for all.   

Launched in 2015, Capital One’s national Future Edge initiative is focusing $150 million on community grants and support to prepare more Americans with the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed in the ever-changing digital economy. One of the communities leading the way is Dallas-Fort Worth, where the company commissioned a report by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) outlining the forces and trends shaping the region of tomorrow – from what the technological and financial innovations might be, to the expectations for the community and the evolving workforce.   

“You don’t have to know the future – you just need to know the direction in which it’s headed,” says Sanjiv Yajnik, president of financial services at Capital One. Yajnik and his team work hard to shape that direction in the communities they call home.   

Looking to the future in DFW   

The IFTF report found that North Texas will experience some of the fastest growth nationally in middle-skill jobs – roughly defined as work that requires more than a high school education but less than a bachelor’s degree – and that 80 percent of these careers will require digital skills. The region has several acknowledged neighborhood inequality challenges; as such the report highlights the importance of breaking down barriers and increasing access to quality education and employment opportunities.   

"You don’t have to know the future – you just need to know the direction in which it’s headed." Sanjiv Yajnik

The region already has become a national technology center, driven by entrepreneurs and a business-friendly climate that nurtures innovative startups and attracts companies. It is also home to a creative economy of artists, gamers, entertainers, journalists and innovators who will support the economic health and drive its overall well-being over the next decade.   

And in coming years, cities and suburbs in North Texas – as well as elsewhere – will leverage ubiquitous connectivity, real-time and big data, and algorithmic analytics to enable smart city services.   

In addition to this report, key learnings about the region also came out of a survey of local residents commissioned by Capital One. The groups discovered that an overwhelming majority of residents (87 percent) say they have a high quality of life, with over half (56 percent) citing access to quality education and skills training as some of the area’s greatest assets. Providing that access is precisely what Capital One is doing.   

There are a number of factors at play in shaping the future landscape of DFW, and the potential for a shift in the way people work, live, learn and build is certainly there. Some similar combination of factors may also be interacting in your community – so, what can you do to approach the future thoughtfully?   

Be a change agent in your community   

Once you’ve identified key areas your community needs to address, there’s plenty to do to help prepare residents for the future and groom the next generation of innovators.   

  • 1. Inspire the workforce of the future: Develop initiatives that help build and nurture tech and other skills. The Texas Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) Center at the University of North Texas runs a home visitation program to increase school readiness and parental involvement. By bringing instruction to the home, HIPPY reaches more underserved parents and empowers them to be the primary educators of their preschool children.    

  • 2. Form private and public partnerships: More and more of our devices will be equipped with digital sensing, computing and communication capabilities. Eighty-three percent of DFW residents believe connected devices will contribute to a significant improvement in quality of life five years from now. The innovative public-private Dallas Innovation Alliance has placed Dallas in the forefront of smart cities technology experimentation and received national attention for its leadership in promoting city-to-city collaboration.   

  • 3. Engage creative communities: Promote efforts that support visionaries, artists, influencers, thought leaders and social entrepreneurs who can contribute to a region's economic health and drive overall well-being. For example in North Texas, the Veggie Van mobile farmer’s market is driven by a local farmer and improves access to healthy food. It’s a modifiable response to community needs that exemplifies a collaborative and creative spirit that improves quality of life.   

When you create opportunities for people to learn and connect, that’s where community innovation happens. Inspiring the next generation and tapping into their energy is a big part of preparing your communities for tomorrow.    

Investing in the future starts today. Get inspired by reading the IFTF-authored report commissioned by Capital One.  

How Downtown Dallas Will Transform into a Smart City: Dallas Morning News and Government Technology News

How Downtown Dallas Will Transform into a Smart City

Jennifer Sanders, executive director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, is on a mission to outfit downtown Dallas with smart technology.


Jennifer Sanders is turning one of downtown Dallas' oldest areas, the West End, into one that's powered by smart technology, such as free public Wi-Fi, energy-efficient streetlights and sensors that measure air pollution and detect noise.

She's the executive director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a private-public partnership made up of the city of Dallas and more than two dozen large companies and local foundations. It's raised about $450,000 from those private partners, Sanders said.

Sanders previously worked with Dallas companies as a consultant for strategic communications and investor relations. She met Trey Bowles, the co-founder of the DIA, about six years ago at South by Southwest. She heard about his idea for the smart cities initiative and was intrigued by how technology and big data could boost safety and the quality of life in Dallas.

Jennifer Sanders recently bought a condo in the West End. She said she wants to get a better sense of what the neighborhood is like 24/7. Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

The first phase of the project will be unveiled in the West End in late February. It will include smart lighting, digital kiosks and environmental sensors that measure pollution and allergens. Sanders said the DIA will add other features later this year.

They may include an app that makes it easier to find a parking spot and vehicle charging stations and an irrigation system at a park that conserves water. Once they test the technology in the West End, Sanders would like to add similar technology to other parts of the city.

Sanders works in the West End and recently bought a condo there. She said she looks forward to getting a better feel for the area around the clock.

Her answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What are your top priorities for Dallas?

We're looking at energy efficiency and public safety and citizenship engagement. Mayor [Mike] Rawlings said last year that ultimately if this initiative doesn't benefit citizens directly, the function and the value isn't there. How could we help to facilitate better citizen experiences, whether it's a visitor or a resident or employees who are downtown? How can we ease their experience and interaction with the city and how they experience the city?

What do you see as some of the major challenges downtown? Do you think there are smart cities features that could address them?

The single biggest change that's driving a lot of the shifting needs and citizen demands downtown is the rapidly increasing population. Ten years ago, or even five years ago, the number of residents just wasn't there. The growth is phenomenal, but it's driving different needs for downtown. We hear a lot about grocery stores and about safety and about quality-of-life issues that weren't prevalent because people weren't there to experience them.

Smart cities can address a number of those things in different ways. ... One of the things that we know is improved lighting alone can decrease crime by 10 to 15 percent. That's just by improving lighting. That's without any of the other bells and whistles. Kansas City has already seen those results in their pilot project.

As you've gotten to know the West End, what insights have you gained?

My office has never been downtown prior to here. The sheer number of people who are walking around every day was one of the biggest surprises to me. I actually called a former roommate of mine and said, 'We have a real downtown.' I'm seeing strollers. I'm seeing dogs being walked. I'm seeing families. I just love seeing the activity. I love the number of events that are happening.

Why is it important that Dallas becomes a smart city?

It's imperative for all cities. Dallas is increasing in density in the urban core, but it also has continued sprawl. When you think about the transit system, whether that's roads or mass transit, making those efficient and accessible is such a core need. Increasing density puts a strain on infrastructure, and the sprawl impacts transit and mobility. All cities are facing a lot of the same challenges. The faster we can find solutions, the more Dallas can lead. Being ahead of the curve has a lot of benefits from an economic development standpoint, a real estate standpoint and a talent attraction standpoint, among others.

With smart cities, I think about sensors and smart parking meters. Can you give a few examples of cities using used smart technology to solve complex urban issues?

Louisville, Ky., has one of the highest instances of childhood asthma of any city in the country. They undertook a pilot where 8,000 kids had their inhalers enabled with sensors, so anytime they used their sensor, it was geolocated.

They could see hot spots and where the asthma was worse. They were able to identify the reasoning for that because in some cases, it wasn't an obvious corollary. It wasn't that there was an industrial facility right next to it. They were better able to target remediation efforts.

What was interesting is because of those insights, the kids were able to change their behaviors. They changed the route they walked to school or they were able to find new ways to get where they were going, so they knew their asthma was not going to be exacerbated.

There's also a lot of talk about the first mile and last mile, which is basically how people get to the train station and get from the last public transit stop to their end destination. Particularly in underserved communities, that's a big issue. There are a lot of pilots going on around the country about how you address first mile and last mile, such as partnerships with ride sharing or bike share programs.



Age: 34 

Hometown: Grew up in the suburbs of  Washington, D.C., and Chicago; lives in the Lakewood neighborhood of Dallas but plans to move part time or full time to her new West End condo 

Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology at University of Virginia with a minor in economics 

Family: Married and has a rescue dog, Jasper

Earth Day Texas Event Aims to Expand ‘Smart Cities’ to ‘Smart States’: Dallas Innovates

Earth Day Texas Event Aims to Expand ‘Smart Cities’ to ‘Smart States’

The event will feature speakers in an effort to create a statewide strategy for incorporating technology into myriad objects that make Texas cities go.


The “smart city” tag has become a status symbol of the 2010s, for places that announce their intentions to install sensors, to collect data, and to connect commonplace devices (from doorbells to light posts) to the internet. The purpose of all this is to improve the quality of life, using data and technology.

In the past 12 months, nearly a thousand newspaper articles have been dedicated to smart-city initiatives from Kansas City to Kuala Lumpur. The United States Conference of Mayors recently released results from a survey showing that nearly 800 smart city projects are either underway, or slated to be implemented through this year.

Yet experts say no grassroots efforts have occurred to scale the smart cities concept. Until now.

The Smart Texas Revolution at Earth Day Texas, set for April 20-21 at Fair Park, will feature speakers from cities across the Lone Star State — including Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio — and from across the country in an effort to create a statewide strategy for incorporating microchips and internet connectivity into myriad objects that make Texas cities go. (The Earth Day Texas event, to which the general public is invited, is scheduled for April 21-23.)

The closest thing to what Texas is attempting is happening in Illinois, where the state government is incorporating big data analytics, telemedicine, and secure, webcast judicial proceedings (called “TeleJustice”), and other initiatives into its operations. The idea is that the state’s adoption of smart city tech and methods will inspire Illinois cities to do the same.

“Having a group of cities coming together … that’s what’s unique,” said Michael Zeto, general manager and executive director of Dallas-based AT&T’s smart cities business unit. Zeto is on the advisory board helping guide the State of Illinois’ initiative. “The smart-state concept hasn’t been adopted yet in the U.S., but you’re starting to see that thought process more.”

Dallas Innovation Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Sanders said her organization conceived the smart state initiative to encourage cities to share best practices of deploying tech, and to leverage technical information and data-collection practices among communities to most effectively improve the quality of lives for people.

“The goal is to educate, enable, and activate cities of all sizes across Texas on how to structure and execute a smart cities plan,” Sanders said in a prepared statement.

Sanders added that public and private sector experts at the two-day meeting will discuss data security, and the best methods for integrating smart city technologies to improve public utilities such as water and energy, and public safety.

Key in the process will be engaging cities and individuals in the possibilities that smart-city technologies present, Sanders said. Along those lines, a public Smart Texas Revolution installation at Earth Day Texas will include a series of hubs that will demonstrate a “Day in the Life” of a smart city, from dawn to dusk.

At sunrise and as the day progresses, smart city tech can prevent traffic jams and car crashes, detect leaks in city water systems, monitor air pollution, and as day enters night, can help solve crimes, and detect and disperse unruly crowds.

Behind many of these innovations is the collection of data measures what’s important (vital signs of those receiving health care, moisture levels in soil, traffic counts on highways, particulate matter in the air, etc.), to improve how things are done.

Zeto said technological and collaborative breakthroughs will make expanding the reach of smart city tech more feasible.

One such collaboration that Zeto cited involves post-mounted high-efficiency lights, sensors and cameras that will be able to perform a variety of tasks, from gunshot detection, to monitoring air quality, to even identify open parking spots.

Zero said these light/sensor clusters — he referred to each node as an “Internet of Things platform”— could be deployed on a large scale to create a statewide smart grid, if cities engaged with utilities, regional metro planning authorities, and state officials to create a network.

(AT&T announced the launch of a similar technology, involving the cities of San Diego and Atlanta, on Feb. 27.)

Locally, AT&T is one of a group of companies helping to build a smart cities framework in Dallas’ Historic West End neighborhood. AT&T has named several spotlight universities and cities in the United States — including Dallas — for using node technology along those lines to improve transportation, lighting, internet access, and safety in several U.S. communities.

Zeto said the Texas Smart Revolution event at Fair Park is important because it will gather the state’s major population centers into a single place, where, among other topics, they can to discuss leveraging their buying power for smart city technology, and ways to generate the cash needed, through selling bonds, establishing public-private partnerships, and even state and vendor funding.

He added that support from local citizenry and involvement from state leaders will be crucial as well.

Speakers slated so far, for the Texas Smart Revolution event include:

• David Graham, COO, City of San Diego
• Bill Fulton, director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University
• Jad Daley, director, Climate Conservation Program, Trust for Public Land
• Amy Aussieker, executive director, Envision Charlotte and Envision America
• Richard Sear, partner and SVP – Visionary Innovation & Smart Cities, Frost & Sullivan
• Jose de la Cruz, chief innovation officer, City of San Antonio
• William Finch, chief information officer, City of Dallas
• Theresa O’Donnell, chief resiliency officer, City of Dallas
• Thomas Bamonte, program manager, Automated Vehicles, North Central Texas Council of Governments
• Gilbert Salazar, manager – streetlights, Oncor Electric Delivery
• Kathleen Baireuther, manager – mobility transformation, Rocky Mountain Institute
• Christof Spieler, board member, METRO; vice president and director of planning, Morris
• Bart Bohn, director of Water, IT & Wireless Portfolio, Austin Technology Incubator (ATI)
• Jay Boisseau, president and founder, Austin CityUP

Event organizers are inviting city representatives, information technology and data specialists, individuals from regional and state planning/infrastructure agencies, members of civic organizations, corporate representatives, and citizens interested in the smart cities movement.

To register, click here.