In the popular 1960s spy comedy television show “Get Smart,” two special agents worked together to stop various threats to the world. In Greensboro, North Carolina, there’s a team of City leaders who are stepping up to ensure Greensboro finds innovative solutions to some of its daily challenges – and in- turn, save the day!
CIO, Jane Nickles, has been leading the charge to “get smart” essentially working with City leadership to transform Greensboro into a Smart City. The idea is to use technology and data in a purpose driven way to lead to better decision making and quality of life for its residents.
City Manager, David Parrish, leads by example with his desire for the City to be purpose driven, data informed, and people centered. He states, “Our purpose is to continue to serve our great community. Our planning effort will further define those specifics. The data we collect will be used to inform our recommendations. We will also use data to update City Council and our community on our progress. And our employees are at the center of it all. Without them and their dedication, none of this is possible.”
But much of this hinges on looking to the future and putting the advances in technology in place. This is where Jane comes in. As the director of the City’s information Technology Department and Chief Information Officer, she has worked to pave the way ensuring Greensboro is a Smart City.
Take for example, her work on Tri-Gig, a high speed broadband initiative, which is a joint effort between cities, local universities and North State communications to develop the next generation broadband infrastructure needed to meet the technological needs of current and future businesses, public institutions, educational institutions and local residents. It means high-speed internet for more access to data and an easier time applying for jobs, taking college classes, accessing tele-health services and working from home ensuring a better quality of life.
Some recent technology initiatives of note for Greensboro include the launch of an Open Data Portal, partnership with Waze to share traffic data, and an increase in mobile options for residents, including real-time transit tracking and pay-by-smartphone parking option. Not to mention smart water readers that will be incorporated soon delivering real time information on water usage to customers.
“The momentum continues to build here as we find new and exciting ways to use technology to create transparency and access information and data,” Jane noted.
As part of the ongoing commitment to the implementation of smart City initiatives, Greensboro is drawing closer to the first phase of installing interactive kiosks in the downtown area. Using a system of interactive kiosks installed in key locations, the City Posts provide a real-time mobile broadcast of customized content that will feature City and transit services, nearby attractions, parks and events. The kiosks will also be capable of providing free Wi-Fi access.
Starting this past month, residents can access free, weekly Greensboro Alexa Flash Briefings for a quick rundown of City news and community events. “Partnering with Amazon Alexa for the Flash Briefings is another avenue for us to leverage technology to reach and engage our residents,” said Jane.
Another big part of the smart city puzzle is the development of Gate City Boulevard as a smart corridor. Gate City Boulevard serves as a key entry point to the City of Greensboro for residents and visitors. This level of visibility to the community and region makes Gate City Boulevard an ideal pilot for the City’s emerging smart city efforts. Utilizing assets and partnerships within the corridor, smart city projects can be tested and refined before being replicated in other locations in Greensboro, the region and the state.
The agents from the TV show “Get Smart” had a popular catch phrase “Would you believe…” and as far as Greensboro is concerned, we believe they are on the brink of something great.