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KC's smart city 'Goldilocks' project bounds ahead

Matt Hamblen | April 27, 2015
The city is expected to invest US$3.7 million and Cisco and partners another US$12 million over the next 10 years, according to the approved city ordinance and other documents.

The largest smart city project in North America is moving closer to reality in Kansas City, Mo., mainly along a 2.2-mile streetcar line under construction through the downtown.

The Kansas City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to direct its city manager to finalize a contract with Cisco and its partners to provide an array of video sensors, free public Wi-Fi, 25 interactive digital community information kiosks, smart lighting and other elements.

The city is expected to invest US$3.7 million and Cisco and partners another US$12 million over the next 10 years, according to the approved city ordinance and other documents.

Meanwhile, after weeks of rumors and speculation, Sprint said Friday that it is looking into working with the city on the project and is "excited about the possibility." Sprint's possible role could be as part of the planned Wi-Fi network, but it isn't yet publicly defined.

Some analysts have speculated that Sprint will use its connection with Google's Project Fi to enhance connections between Wi-Fi and cellular networks along the streetcar line.

Sprint, the nation's third-largest wireless carrier, is based nearby in Overland Park, Kans., and has a Sprint Accelerator building — to foster tech startups — in the Crossroads Arts District adjacent to the streetcar route. Google, meanwhile, has used the Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., area as its premier Google Fiber city in the nation.

A city spokesman said the smart city contract should be finalized in another week. Kansas City Mayor Sly James supported the ordinance authorizing the contract and planned to attend a Friday night opening of the first streetcar station on the new line. The US$102 million streetcar line (which does not include the US$15 million for the smart city project) is expected to be open to the public in early 2016, offering free rides to tourists, residents and workers.

Cisco said it is awaiting the final smart city contract before commenting, but first announced the concept nearly a year ago.

Late last year, Isaiah Blackburn, Cisco's chief strategist for the KC project, said Cisco's intent is to create a single technology platform or foundation to "enable multiple applications to talk to each other." Doing so will require centralized management software.

"Once we build the initial foundation, any app can leverage it," Blackburn said at the time.

He also said the KC project will be one of the first cities where video will be used as a sensor that can be connected to an automated system for multiple purposes, including judging the depth of snow accummulation to help plowing activities and watching that pedestrians aren't walking in front of streetcars.

 

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