The Blog

Technology at the heart of Edmonton’s Smart City status #smartercities

Originally Published @ www.transformingedmonton.ca

Edmonton has joined the ranks of the few Smart Cities in the world. That doesn’t mean we’ve arrived and all the hard work is over, but we’re making gains.

Throughout the world the label Smart City has become synonymous with innovation, collaboration, high quality of life, strong infrastructure and savvy urban planning. Cities like Stockholm, Sweden; Curtibia, Brazil; Seattle, Washington and Monterrey, Mexico are considered Smart Cities.

Earlier this year, Edmonton was one of only 24 cities worldwide to earn IBM’s Smarter Cities award grant. From my perspective, it really validated my strong belief that technology is and will continue to be at the heart of our transformation.

Last summer we published an Open Data Catalogue and offered Canada’s first  Apps4Edmonton competition for anyone in the region with an interest in developing municipal applications for smart phones, mobile devices and PC web browsers. I blogged about this last October in The Gift that Keeps Giving.

From the competition, 32 new applications were developed and work continues to bring on new data applications that benefit all of us in Edmonton. You can now download from your smart phone apps that give out listings of all restaurant inspections, the times of buses and any delays, bike paths throughout the City, Fringe Festival activities and the list goes on.

The City’s Transportation Branch relies on technology to encourage more people to use public transit and enhance the rider experience. In February 2011, City Council approved the Branch’s Smart Bus Pilot Project that will give users real-time schedule information, and offer transit officials immediate data on service problems and security issues.

In making the experience for people using public transit easy and friendly, ridership increases and we further establish our reputation as a green city. And Transportation’s efforts are paying off. From 2000 to 2009, the percentage of people using public transit increased by 60 per cent.

The IBM Smarter Cities team also recognized the Transportation Branch’s innovative use of technology in positioning Edmonton to be a global leader in smarter urban traffic safety.

Through Wireless Edmonton, our city has more than 20 areas where you can connect to the internet using your mobile device.

Last May, the City’s Great Neighbourhood initiative held a Connections 2011 event for all residents to find out more about what the City is doing. For the first time, residents could attend in person or connect online.

We have just begun to explore what information technology can do for Edmonton.

Plans are underway to bring on Cloud computing — obtaining and storing information through the internet – to increase collaboration among City employees and residents, improve access to services and over time avoid major costs in new technology applications. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go into Google mail and create a personal account. The benefits from this tool that resides in the Cloud are amazing.

As you can see, the City of Edmonton already has a strong foundation of technology to build a Smart City. I am totally confident we will continue to build on that foundation.

What do you think about the direction in which we are headed? Do you agree that technology should play a critical role in the transformation taking place at the City?

Let us know.