San Antonio Shows How Data Impacts City Life

The Office of Innovation of San Antonio, TX recently released a smart cities road map showcasing how the city can use technology and data to improve public services and residents’ quality of life. The road map was designed after receiving input from residents, with over 20 community events and town hall meetings being held and using more than 3,300 comments from surveys. 

“Years of project development and achievement have significantly shaped our approach to innovation and inclusion. For the Smart Cities team, this means re-calibrating San Antonio’s innovation ecosystem towards a more proactive vision for our future as a connected, inclusive and resilient community,” said Brian Dillard, Chief Innovation Officer. “The Smart Cities team is charged with leveraging data, technology and innovation to improve the quality of life for our residents. Doing so in a post-pandemic world means ensuring our use of technology is responsive to the real-world needs of our residents, but also addresses key organization-wide challenges that impact our day-to-day operations.”

The feedback highlighted five priorities:

  • access to public information regarding city services – with  information available in multiple media and languages, along with a reduction in the digital divide and an improvement in residents’ digital literacy; 
  • public safety – including creating more walkable neighborhoods, reducing emergency response times, improving access to community services, and reducing crime; 
  • environmental quality – using technology to reduce emissions from transportation and buildings and to provide real-time information about air quality, potential floods, and extremely high temperatures;
  • access to public transportation – increasing multimodal transportation options and more information about transportation and transport-related disruptions; and  
  • Infrastructure including better street lighting, and road and sidewalk infrastructure, particularly for vulnerable residents.  

The road map has suggestions for potential testbed technology projects to be conducted during 2023- 2028 for each priority area. The document can be used to guide investment and public-partnerships “that leverage technology for community impact” and serves as “an open call to problem-solvers (entrepreneurs, civil society, research institutions, and vendors) in key challenge areas defined by our community,” it states. 

“One lesson we learned is how often technology is looking for a problem to solve,” Emily Royall, smart city administrator, said. “What we discovered is, our most successful projects are sourced from direct community need,” whether that’s a need to address the digital divide or something else. Second, we learned that a lot of cities do smart cities as a silo. In our most successful projects, we collaborated with city departments more directly. We learned from city staff what their barriers are, leveraging technology to help them.”