Attendees at last week’s Now Trending: Smart Cities lunch at the beautiful Salvador Dalí Museum were treated to a fascinating update on the future of St. Pete as a “Smart City” and how Charter Communications/Spectrum and partnering organizations are helping our community improve our connectivity.
We were fortunate to be joined by Regional Vice President of State Government Affairs for Charter Communications (parent company of Spectrum) Marva Johnson and St. Pete Innovation District’s Executive Director, Alison Barlow, for a panel discussion moderated by Jeff Baker, Government and Community Relations Manager at Duke Energy.
What is a Smart City?
As Barlow explained, Smart Cities utilize technology to improve the lives of its residents and visitors. These projects can include pedestrian and vehicle traffic management, air and water quality monitoring, WiFi enabled street lights, classroom connectivity, and digital utility metering. The first two projects being launched in St. Pete are smart street lights near USFSP and Guardians of the Gulf STEAM Education that includes marine sensors, artificial reefs, and underwater drones that connect directly to students at local Boys and Girls Clubs.
What is the City of St. Petersburg doing to advance “Smart City” infrastructure?
The city has been working with smart city capabilities for a several years with Park Mobile as a prime example. The ability for residents and visitors to pay for parking using technology instead of coins is a smart city technology. Additionally, the city is looking to expand the pilot project street lights on USFSP across the downtown and beyond. Also, the potential for city wide 5G internet could open up even more potential for connected devices.
What does success look like?
Smart City technologies are not inexpensive and both the city and partners like Duke Energy and Spectrum are measuring success on many levels. In terms of the first two projects, success can be measured in the data collected from the smart street lights and in the success of students learning from the Guardians of the Gulf program. Future technologies could include more accurate and less expensive utility meter reading which would save providers AND consumers money.
As St. Pete continues to bill itself as a healthy destination, there is a concern that cell phone and WiFi technologies could have a negative effect on physical health. While much of the technology utilizes WiFi and cellular technology, the highest powered connections are run via fiber optic and underground cabling. This infrastructure is shielded and insulated no only to protect the assets but also to keep any negative outputs from being spread.
Look out for the smart street lights on 6th Avenue South at the 2nd and 3rd Street intersections in early 2020 and stay tuned for more announcements from the City and the Innovation District on future projects!