The Comcast Smart Solutions team and the City of Philadelphia's SmartCityPHL team recently collaborated on a Smart Cities pilot project called SmartBlockPHL. US Ignite, a non-profit organization that connects cities with private enterprises to advance the development of Smart Cities, brought Comcast and SmartCityPHL together to understand specific problems that the city faced and how smart technology could deliver solutions in a highly secure way that protects the privacy of all Philadelphians.
Ultimately, the City of Philadelphia determined that finding a way to collect data more efficiently with real-time analytics would provide valuable insights and inform decisions. The result was a smart streetlight pilot in the city's Midtown Village neighborhood that features a mix of dining, retail, and heavy foot traffic.
Comcast paired its connectivity services with smart streetlights, provided by its partner Juganu. The 14 streetlights are equipped with optical sensors that allow the city to collect real-time data to count objects, check air quality, and monitor weather conditions. Previously, the only way for the city to obtain this information was to manually collect it. Now, the retrofitted streetlights collect metadata in real-time and process it "on the edge", saving time and resources. The data is then sent to the city's data processing center via Comcast's connectivity solution. From there, selected city officials can access analytics that help them make more efficient, informed decisions. For example, this data can help the city respond to emergencies faster and make more informed urban planning decisions. It also creates a foundation for the city to make more informed decisions about technology in the future.
The solution processes metadata "on the edge" which allows the City of Philadelphia to count specific objects but does not collect images with any defining features. For example, the data transmitted can only identify whether the object is a pedestrian, a vehicle, or a bicycle by its shape but cannot capture personally identifiable information. Both SmartCityPHL and Comcast have approached this project through the lens of equity and transparency, soliciting community feedback to ensure a diverse range of viewpoints were incorporated in the project development process, which has been evident in the city's clear communication policies around data collection, storage, and access.
Emily Yates, Philadelphia's Smart Cities Director, remarked on this collaborative experience with Comcast: "Comcast has been a brilliant thought partner. They came forward with some really great solution options and have worked with us hand in hand to make this process as painless as possible and successful."
Comcast recently announced at the Smart Cities Connect Spring Conference & Expo that they are expanding their smart solutions business. Comcast's approach to smart solutions is unique. While some companies sell integrated platform solutions, Comcast is leveraging their core connectivity services along with established partners to solve the specific problems cities are facing. During a discussion with Yates at the April conference, Steve Hackley, SVP of Community Connections, explained that successful smart cities need the right type of connectivity "whether it's broadband and fiber, Ethernet or CBRS or WiFi,". This is where Comcast applies expertise. For the solutions themselves, there is an emphasis on partnerships. "We're not trying to invent new technologies or go back into the lab and do it all ourselves…We think it's too new, too early. And, so, we favor bringing the right solution providers to bear and the right integrators and the right consultancies to solve problems."
Comcast Smart Solutions is eager to grow a long-lasting program, as cities are more ready than ever to establish smart initiatives. Beyond Philadelphia, the team has pilots in Arlington, VA, College Park, GA, Pleasanton, CA and Moraga, CA