In 2016, cities invested approximately $52.4 billion in technology, according to a September 2017 Quartz article, “Smart Cities are great. Human-centric cities are (again) the future.” And a common thread seen throughout this issue of The Municipal is cities that are using technology to provide more and better services to citizens while also bolstering the lines of communication, whether through 311 services or getting constituents actively involved in the budgeting process.
Technology is shaping our cities and towns in ways our forefathers probably never imagined, but I for one am eager to see what cities will look like in the next decade or two, especially with such sweeping changes in cloud-based computing, the Internet of Things and even how people get from point A to point B. Ride-sharing and ride-hailing apps, for instance, promise less traffic, which will shape our road systems and parking spaces.
It’s not just local streets that will be transformed. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop will connect cities like never before, allowing people to travel from New York City to Washington, D.C. — with stops in Philadelphia, Pa., and Baltimore, Md. — in 29 minutes rather than taking hours. Musk is also proposing the theoretical use of rockets to facilitate travel between cities. According to Th e Verge, Musk said these ships would reach 18,000 miles per hour at their peak. Finding the people to ride these ships, however, might be a challenge; personally, I will be one of those putting rocket travel on my “nope” list.
Other technologies like drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are being embraced within the public safety arena. With drones, fire and police departments have found value in a variety of applications: hot spot detection, wildfire monitoring, search and rescue missions, checking for survivors, among others. Writer Elisa Walker details the experiences of Bargersville, Ind.’s, fire department and Staff ord County, Va.’s, sheriff ’s department with their drones in her article this month.
Another public safety technology readers will want to watch is the First Responder Network Authority. FirstNet, as it is known, delivered its official notice of state plans to U.S. governors at the end of September, allowing them until Dec. 28 to opt-in to the FirstNet/AT&T plan or not. FirstNet will build, deploy and operate a nationwide broadband network that equips first responders and other public safety personnel to save lives and protect U.S. communities. This network shows promise during crises like we’ve recently seen with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria by giving first responders modernized devices, apps and tools to boost communications.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott selected to opt-in, stating, “As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, our first responders are often the last and only hope for safety in rapidly changing and life-threatening situations, but this partnership with FirstNet and AT&T allows Texas’s fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel to be better equipped when responding in these emergencies.”
The fast communication that comes with technology will save lives. And sadly, as I finish writing this editorial, we have been shown this once again after an Oct. 1 shooting left at least 59 people dead and more than 500 wounded — as of press time, Oct. 3 — at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nev. The Las Vegas Metro Police Department and other first responders reacted quickly to aid victims — shielding them, making tourniquets and driving them to hospitals in squad cars — while other officers narrowed down the location of the shooter and breached his hotel room. Given the shooter’s arsenal, their quick response likely prevented an even greater loss of life.
Our hearts go out to the victims, their family members and friends and the first responders.