Charles Brennan, chief information officer of Philadelphia, said the city was preparing a request for proposals for industry leaders to contribute to their smart city initiative when he found out they won the award.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

“The conference will probably happen at the end of the year. It molds nicely into our road map project,” Brennan said. “We knew we were in the top 10. I thought we’d make it. We were the largest of the 10 cities.”

Though this is the first time Philadelphia applied for the Smart Cities Council grant, the city’s smart city initiative is already a year underway. Philadelphia’s smart city goals include water and air-monitoring systems. One project is the deployment of an automatic water metering infrastructure. According to Brennan, this new system will save time, as the city’s water department has to drive around to check water meters. The smart meters can also detect leaks.

“Right now, water meters are visited by car,” Brennan said. “We want to be able to have the meters read by the network.”

In addition to the automatic water meter, Philadelphia’s smart city initiative includes an Internet of Things bike share, an air-monitoring system to study the correlation between asthma and pollution, and an infrared light system in recreation spaces. The infrared lights will indicate how many people are in a recreation space, letting city officials know if some parks or rec centers are overcrowded or underused.

“Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and has the fifth highest population density,” said Ellen Hwang, program manager for innovation management for the city. “There’s a lot that can be done.”

In a partnership with Comcast, which Philadelphia established last year, the city is trying to connect 220 buildings with high-speed Internet. Brennan said higher connectivity will be crucial as smart city projects come to fruition.

Brennan said linking the data created from the smart city projects is as important as the projects themselves. One of his goals, he said, is getting different city government officials who oversee data sets “on the same page.”

“The most important thing is the network,” Brennan said. “The real thing we’re missing is they’re not all tied together.”

– Eleanor Lamb

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