The City of St. Louis has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate and the Open Geospatial Consortium for a smart cities pilot program.
The program will take place in downtown St. Louis' technology innovation center "T-Rex," where the groups will research and test the Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture. The interoperable framework will integrate with commercial internet of things (IoT) sensors, including flood, video and route management sensors.
The pilot is intended to enhance public safety for the community, improve operations and collaboration across city departments, and help the city take advantage of technology that's available now, "not years away," DHS Science and Technology Directorate Program Manager Norman Speicher told Smart Cities Dive.
The pilot program will help St. Louis improve its smart city operations and responses to pressing issues like flooding. The city experienced historic floods this year, with the Mississippi River at St. Louis reaching the second highest recorded crest, according to St. Louis Public Radio. President Trump also approved a disaster declaration for the state in July due to tornadoes, storms and floods, providing federal funds for the area's recovery.
As a result, the city is taking a holistic approach to flood management. Flood response requires participation from multiple city departments, not just emergency response, Speicher said. With flood sensors, the city can measure the water inundation, alert officials when there's a rise in the water, and in some instances allow officials to view that particular area with a video feed. In the case of an emergency, the sensors can also provide information to first responders about the best routes to take, according to Speicher.
By using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning through image processing, videos can help the city identify where any vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness, might be located during a flood. The sensors can also be used in an active shooter situation by providing accurate, highly reliable information to emergency response teams, he said.
Although sensors might be useful for rescuing stranded individuals during a flood or identifying the location of an active shooter, some groups remain skeptical about relying on technology for such situations. Roughly 100 U.S. cities use ShotSpotter, a technology that uses sensors to detect gunshot audio, notifying place in under a minute. But experts argue that the technology wasn't designed for the level of violence being experienced in the US.
In San Francisco, the city deployed an app for individuals to report homeless encampments. The city has touted the service as a "lifeline" solution. But others argue it's a "snitch app," designed to displace people experiencing homelessness, not help them.
However, the benefits of advanced technology in areas like water management appear to be indisputable. The use of technologies like sensors, machine learning and even drones are being explored by cities across the country. Akron, OH and Washington, DC, for example, have turned to drones, robots and automated systems to improve their water management. The City of Akron, OH aims to have a system of smart meters in resident's homes by the end of 2021 that will collect readings for billing purposes, and help detect leaks or other issues.