What Does Kansas City’s Smart City Initiative Mean for Innovators?


Kansas City's reputation as a center for technology and innovation is on the rise, and as of last month the city is poised to become a whole lot "smarter." The city recently launched a public-private Smart City partnership with Sprint and Cisco that will include public Wi-Fi, community kiosks, traffic sensors, and smart lighting. The Smart City will be based around the 2.2 mile streetcar starter line in downtown Kansas City, which will travel between the River Market and Union Station. The agreement also involves a joint proposal with Cisco and Think Big Partners for the Living Lab, "a development data portal that will connect entrepreneurs to smart city data for rapid innovation of new applications that can be developed, built, tested and validated using Kansas City data before being launched in a full-scale, industrial-user environment."

This is more great news for Kansas City entrepreneurs and innovators!

Smart City Details

The public Wi-Fi will provide basic internet services to visitors and residents in the downtown area, resulting in a more digitally inclusive city. There is already a prototype in place for the kiosks, which will be stationed along the streetcar line. The kiosks can be used to access information about nearby businesses and events, as well as for reverse alert systems in cases of emergency. The traffic sensors and smart lighting will help reduce carbon usage and light pollution and collect data that could be used in future smart city applications. These applications could vary from parking space availability notifications to air-quality and environmental sensing. 

Cliff Thomas, Cisco's managing director of smart and connected communities, writes in a GreenBiz article that,

"The overarching goal [is] to 'save money, make money and engage citizens.'"

Benefits for Innovators and Startups

One of the largest benefits Kansas City innovators will reap from the Smart City initiative comes from the Living Lab, which largely involves the innovation and commercialization of IoT (Internet of Things) technologies. This technology will increase the ability to attract new businesses and entrepreneurs to KC, allowing for partnerships to be made that contribute to the creation of high-growth companies. There will also be many opportunities that will allow for the development of new technologies for use in urban communities. 

Kansas City Mayor Sly James says,

"...the project is an open invitation to innovators from around the world to test various technologies on Kansas City's smart city framework... We're also kicking the door wide open for innovative entrepreneurs who want develop new ways of serving customers and the city as part of Kansas City's vibrant and growing tech community."

Phase one of the project, including WiFi services and the streetcar starter line, is set to launch in early 2016, giving startups and innovators plenty of time to make their moves. Not only will this smart city initiative help bring more tech-savvy workers, businesses, and technology innovations to Kansas City, it will also create more jobs in the process.

City Benefits

Kansas City is already recognized both nationally and internationally for its technology and startup community, and the Smart City initiative will only further our reputation as a center for innovation. When discussing the project, Major James says,

"This is another indication and example of how Kansas City stands out from the rest of the pack... This is one more feather in our cap that makes us special."

Along with the Living Lab, there is an additional bonus for Kansas City — Smart+Connected city, which is the network used by Cisco that will allow for real-time information that "builds on the concept of how cities can utilize the internet to help improve city livability and people’s lives." It aims to create more livable cities and includes several benefits such as better city planning, local economic development, and more revenue and lower cost from infrastructure management. Executive vice president of industry solutions group and chief globalization officer to Cisco, Wim Elfrink, says,

"It's exciting to see forward-looking cities like Kansas City driving innovations that enable cities to connect people, process, data... and bring the Internet of Everything to life. Kansas City is empowering its citizens, helping them become more efficient and more productive, and the city is poised to create significant new economic value."

We at SparkLabKC are excited to be a part of Kansas City's continuing economic growth and regional leadership in technology and innovation. We can't wait to see what this new phase in our city's development will bring!

What are your hopes for the future of innovation in Kansas City? Share by tweeting @SparkLabKC!

(Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zachwerner/7730952314)