Innovation

Big data takes a big leap in Kansas City with smart sensor info on parking and traffic

If you want to see what traffic is like in Kansas City, or where there's an available parking spot, a new online site shows real time data from city streets.

Finding a parking spot and navigating through rush hour traffic is easier in downtown Kansas City now that the city is providing a real-time visualization of the data collected by various IoT sensors.

The Missouri city now has a site that allows anyone to go online to access a map that shows a range of data from available parking spots and traffic flow, as well as pedestrian hotspots and even where streetcars are located on a 2.2-mile stretch in downtown. This data, which is on a platform operated by Xaqt, will soon be migrated to the city's open data catalog and the city will use big data to drive decisions to save money through more efficient repairs and maintenance of streets, water lines and other infrastructure.

"We've been testing the quality of the data collected through our Smart City infrastructure," said Kansas City's Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett. "Now we will put it to work to benefit Kansas City residents."

It's no surprise that Kansas City is home to this new smart city tech. City officials have been innovators in the smart city realm, working with Cisco in a $15.7 million public-private partnership to create a miniature city-within-a-city hotbed of smart city tech. The first phase of the smart city project launched in May 2016 with a 2.2 mile smart district in the heart of downtown. The district includes a $1 million streetcar line, free public Wi-Fi, smart LED streetlights and 25 digital kiosks. It's serving as a living lab for IoT technology for smart cities. The tech will be expanded to other areas of the city as city officials figure out what works best for each area.

SEE: Inside Kansas City's goal to become 'the smartest city on planet earth' (TechRepublic)

The data on the website is collected from sensors within the 2.2 mile smart city district. "We're working with 6,000 data sets. Over the course of the last several months we've tried to integrate three unique data sets. The first are the 6,000 data sets, which contain elements that every city uses and every city collects albeit in different forms or different priorities," Bennett said.

From the 6,000 big data sets, Bennett worked with experts to drill down to the top 75-80 data points that need to be collected for a city to be truly smart and be able to make decisions faster. There are 20 data elements from the city's open data portal available in visual form on the new website.

"We have dynamic sensors that are tracking the pulse of the city and that are visible on the dashboard," Bennett explained. The data is displayed in a cylinder shape on the map, and users can click on a cylinder to see if there is available parking in that area. It also shows precisely where each streetcar is at in real time.

Chris Crosby, CEO of Xaqt, said, "We worked with Cisco and the city to develop the real time dashboard that you're seeing. We're also working internally with the city to provide deeper analytics and provide new ways to use that data."

Kansas City can use the data to help make downtown easier to navigate, such as if it discovers that people prefer to park at a certain location before 8 am, but it's not allowable at that hour. "It's the same with traffic. If you know there are certain times of day where people are more likely to be, then you can proactively deploy your resources to increase safety for that environment," Crosby said.

Xaqt is working on a similar deployment in St. Louis, MO, which is still in the early stages of design and development, and it's also working with other cities that cannot yet be announced, Crosby said.

Soon there will be a developmental space on the site for application developers who want to create new ways to use the data. "The only thing holding us back is getting that virtual space established," Bennett said.

And as the demand for smart city tech grows, with projections that it will become a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities around the globe expected to generate 60% of the world's GDP by 2025, it's inevitable that more cities will look for similar opportunities to improve their own municipalities.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. Kansas City is providing real-time data from sensors so that the public can see where traffic is a problem and also find available parking spots.
  2. Xaqt is providing the platform for the Kansas City data.
  3. The data will soon be available for application developers to work with on the site.

Also see

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Traffic and parking data is available visually in Kansas City.

Image: Teena Maddox/TechRepublic

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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