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Smart City Pioneer Shares His Experience

Landmark Dividend recently interviewed Bob Bennett, Chief Innovation Officer for Kansas City, to learn about his vision and smart city plan that have made his city one of the most ambitious in North America in adopting cutting edge technology. Kansas City is on the forefront of using advanced technologies to manage infrastructure like traffic signals, communications, streetlights, and storm water systems.

Smart City Pioneer and Kansas City's Chief Innovation Officer, Bob Bob Bennett Shares His Experience

According to Bennet, the Kansas smart city plan has three major goals: 1) Improve the delivery of City services; 2) Enhance the citizen experience; and 3) Support entrepreneurship and economic development. Kansas City is currently rolling out Phase 1 of their Smart City plan, which is focused along a two-mile stretch of a new streetcar line and includes free public Wi-Fi deployment, 125 “smart” streetlights, and 25 interactive kiosks.

Phase 2 of the Roadmap focuses on integrating innovative technologies into the city’s transportation network in order to improve efficiency.

Landmark Dividend: We’re you concerned about the risk of the initiatives?

Bob Bennet of Kansas City, MO shares his Smart City PlanBob Bennett: “It is important that your city leaders be willing to accept some risk. In Kansas City, our mayor and city council are innovative and willing to accept some risk in order to achieve our smart city goals. Not every elected leader is ready to do that and those governments that are controlled by more risk adverse leaders will struggle with growth-focused regulations, public-private partnerships, and other new forms of funding.”

Landmark Dividend: How many people were involved in making the KC proposals happen?

Bob Bennett: “In order to submit our bid for the Department of Transportation grant, we brought together 123 people to help us create the vision and the detailed proposals for Phase 2 of our smart city plan. The team consisted of 15 members from the City of KC, 50 representatives from local businesses, 10-15 from local non-profits, and almost 50 expert advisors and consultants from technology companies, engineering firms, and service providers. This cross-functional team worked together to discuss the realm of possibilities and worked to create a plan that was bold but feasible.”

“We brought together 123 people to help us create the vision and the detailed proposals for Phase 2 of our smart city plan.”

Landmark Dividend: That’s a large and diverse group of people.

Bob Bennett: “It is, but a large mix of public and private people works for us. Kansas City embraces partners that support the growth and development of the Kansas City Digital Roadmap. We seek partners that are willing to put some skin in the game, and we also understand that partners need to make money from their efforts. The sharing of resources, financing, and risk helps us to evolve and bring more jobs, residents, and tourists to our city. As part of Phase 1 efforts, Sprint owns the data and runs the new Wi-Fi network. They have access to advertise to the majority of city residents as well as visitors. The city uses the data to make smart decisions such as where to increase trash removal or where to put extra police details.”

Landmark Dividend: How did you determine what you wanted to do for Kansas City with smart city technology?

Bob Bennett: “Coordinating the technology, service, and financial partners for a smart city initiative is painfully simple in its theoretical approach, but in reality, it is really hard. For Phase 1 of our initiatives, the city allocated $3.7M of the total $20M with the bulk of funding coming from Sprint, Cisco, Smart City Media, and others. The DOT Smart City Challenge provided the impetus for us to rapidly create the detailed proposal for Phase 2.

“We had 28 days to create the very detailed proposal for our grant application. Hoping to secure the $40M from the DOT, KC has pledges of an additional $70M from additional third party firms, $8M from city budget over 3 years, $2.6M from transit authority budget, $10M from Vulcan capital, as well as many commercial firms which have donated in-kind as part of their participation. There is still a lot of work to finalize these agreements, funding, relationships, and contracts.”

Though KC was not awarded the DOT grant in 2016, they continue to innovate and move forward with evolving “the world’s most connected smart city.”

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