Now that the 2018 elections are over (well except Florida), leaders in both political parties are looking for legislation they can pass to show their constituents positive accomplishments. Setting aside rancor between Democrats and Republicans, the two topics where both sides agree something can and must be done are infrastructure and the opioid crisis. Improving our nation’s infrastructure is sorely needed. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2017 Report Card gives the United States an overall grade of D+. Repairing transportation, water systems, and schools should be at the top of the list, but upgrading our infrastructure is also an investment in the future. The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (AKA Interstate Highway System) is the most famous example of this type of infrastructure investment project.
What type of project can we invest our infrastructure dollars to improve connectivity in the United States, like the Interstate Highway System?
The program that immediately comes to mind is Connected Cities (AKA Smart Cities). The parallels between the Interstate Highway System and Connected Cities are obvious, which makes this an ideal infrastructure project. The Interstate Highway System brought together a disparate and inefficient road system and built an interconnected network. This is exactly the same goal as Connected Cities, bringing together disparate and inefficient networks to function together. The highway system also brought people together by facilitating travel across the country, which is the purpose of Connected Cities, to connect people.
How can Connected Cities infrastructure projects improve safety, commerce, and quality of life?
Another parallel between the two projects are public safety and security. The Interstate Highway System was also designed as a Strategic Highway Network to facilitate troop mobility to air and sea ports. Connected Cities contributes to public safety and security by providing early warning for disasters. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined at least 17 of the 21 recent major fire in Northern California were caused by power lines, poles and other equipment. (CAL FIRE) One of the features of Connected Cities is placing sensors on light fixtures to detect fires and seismic activity, which would immediately alert firefighters and enabled them to suppress forest fires much quicker and easier.
Connected Cities can also make everyday life easier by tying networks together. Before the Interstate Highway System, navigating roads in the United States was difficult, every state had a different numbering system. Today, navigating through the various municipal and state government networks is very difficult. You must have a different accounts and logins in for the DMV, voter registration, taxes, etc. The concept of Information City, which is part of Connected Cities, will develop technology and communications to bring together social, economic, and governments networks.
We are at a precipice for emerging transportation technology, which means municipalities will soon have to develop revolutionary solutions to control traffic. Autonomous automobiles are on the horizon and the proliferation of drones makes this a three-dimensional problem. Connected Cities will have a great advantage by integrating sensors to control traffic and communicate with autonomous vehicles.
The United States will have to address our infrastructure challenges. This is a great opportunity to not only repair our roads and bridges, but also make fundamental improvements on public safety, commerce, and quality of life for the future. Ascension Technology Group is a leader in technology solutions for municipalities to help their citizens navigate through a complex network of services. The fundamental concept of Connected Cities is knowledge-based urban development. Now is the time to integrate infrastructure investments with the development of Smart Cities.