Building Smarter Cities

Trends, Research and Lessons Learned

Meghan Cook, Program Director
Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany @CTGUAlbany
Who Am I?
• An applied researcher in public sector
innovation for 18 years
• My focus is on the intersection of technology,
management and policy
• I work county state, local, and municipal
governments throughout NYS, the US and the
world @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
CTG is a
center with
partners and
projects from
around the
world @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
What is a city?
“…cities are systems of systems, and that there
are emerging opportunities to introduce digital
nervous systems, intelligent responsiveness and
optimization at every level of system
Source: Smart Cities Group, MIT @CTGUAlbany
The Small Get Bigger
“While mega-cities have captured much public
attention, most of the new growth will occur in
smaller towns and cities, which have fewer
resource to respond to the magnitude of
Source: United Nations Population Fund @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
Why Getting SMART Matters @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
Why Getting SMART Matters
Physical problems arising from rapid urbanization
• Loss of basic functionalities to be a livable place
• For example, difficulty in waste management, scarcity of resource, air
pollution, human health concerns, traffic congestion, inadequate,
deteriorating and aging infrastructures and so on.

Social and organizational problems, rather than technical,
physical or material problems
• Concerns associated with multiple diverse stakeholders, high levels of
interdependence, competing values and social and political complexity
• Wicked and tangled problems @CTGUAlbany
Context is Everything…
An Emerging Issue

Small to medium sized cities are finding it more
challenging (than the mega cities) to deliver innovative
programs and services to their citizens and effectively
engage in the full range of economic and community
development initiatives that will result in them being a
“smart city” @CTGUAlbany
What is a Smart City?

No agreed-upon description of what
“smart” implies in the context of a city
Source: Chourabi et al, 2012 @CTGUAlbany
Conceptual Relatives of a Smart City @CTGUAlbany
“A city is smart when….

….investments in human and social capital and
traditional and modern communication infrastructure
fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality
of life, with a wise management of natural resources,
through participatory governance.”

Source: Caragliu, Del Bo, & Nijkamp, 2009 @CTGUAlbany
“A smart city…
….looks at all the exchanges of information that flow
between its many different subsystems. It then
analyzes this flow of information as well as of services
and acts upon it in order to make its wider ecosystem
more resource-efficient and sustainable.”

Source: Velosa III et al., 2010 @CTGUAlbany
“A smart city is….
….well performing in a forward-looking way in
economy, people, governance, mobility, environment
and living, built on the smart combination of
endowments and activities of self-decisive,
independent and aware citizens.”

Source: Giffinger, 2007 @CTGUAlbany
“A smart city uses….
….smart computing technology to make the critical
infrastructure components and services of a city –
which include city administration, education,
healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation
and utilities – more intelligent, interconnected and

Source: Washburn et. al. 2010 @CTGUAlbany
A Look at
Selected Industry Frameworks @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
CTG: An Analysis

Are there common components of a smarter

A review of:
• Academic Literature
• Private Sector Frameworks
• Non-profit Approaches @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
So what might “smart” look like?? @CTGUAlbany
Pittsburgh, PA
Population 304K

• Autonomous Shuttle Network
• Partnering with US DOT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Uber
• Connects the net-zero energy ALMONO site in Hazelwood with
the Oakland neighborhood and Downtown reducing flooding in
those neighborhoods and enabling accessible, energy-efficient

onomous-shuttle-network @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany @CTGUAlbany
New York City, New York
Population 8.4 Million
• Centralized Citizen
• Service Integration
• Data and Analytics
Spatial Temporal
Analysis of Analysis of
Service NYC 311
Requests Service
Requests @CTGUAlbany
Kansas City, Missouri
Population 467K
• The streetcar is the first
step in a longer-range plan
to create a regional,
integrated transit system

• Public WiFi network – 3
miles of downtown

• Smart Kiosks provide
residents and visitors with
access to many types of
information about
entertainment and
Melbourne, Australia
Population 4 Million
The knowledge sector cuts across all
segments of the economy through
several knowledge-intensive
activities such as design, consulting
and analytical work.

Creators, transferers and intensive users of knowledge and their activities
and outputs – whether technical (engineering based), symbolic (art and
culture based) or analytical (science based). @CTGUAlbany
Catalyst for This Project
Urban blight represents an
ongoing and costly problem
for many communities

So…code enforcement, police, fire,
development, executive officials in
capital region came together to talk
about how to share information across
gov’t boundaries and how to leverage
their collective effort to fight blight @CTGUAlbany
Data Driven Strategies
• In order to interrupt the cycle of
blight, there must be investment
in the systems and processes that
ensures critical information and
practices can be shared both
within cities and throughout the
region. @CTGUAlbany
Vision for Sharing Information
• Formalize information sharing among city and
town government about the following:
– Problem Property Owners (with info on violations,
properties owned, etc)
– Specifics on carrying out code enforcement and
building permit programs (process, fees and
fines, etc)
– Specific counts can be assembled – types of
structures, vacant structures, properties by
owner, zombie properties @CTGUAlbany
 Descriptions for Code enforcement,
NFO Building Permit, Landlord Registration,
ption (narrative, general process, forms, and listing of fees and fines) of the Rental Unit Certificate, Demolition
s a city has in place to address prevent and mitigate blight including vacant
program, landlord registration, rental unit certificate, managing demolitions,
e enforcement and building permit.
 Definitions of common terms vacant, EACH PARTICIPATING CITY
 Fine and Fee Schedules for Each Program  Name (individual and LLC)
ANTS TO USE IT  General Processes  Mailing address and phone number
Building and Code Enforcement Officials  Forms  Property Type and Address
Building and Code Enforcement Administrators  Code Violation history and date
’s Economic Development Director  Contact info for code official in city

ams to address housing are designed to develop better strategies when USE CASE:
ng vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties across all phases of blight and ACCESSING A LISTING OF PROBLEM PROPERTY OWNERS
A listing of PPO with details on each including: name (ind
REGIONAL mailing address, phone number, property address, dates,
USE CASE: INFORMATION of code violations. (future thinking is that Problem Landlo
GETTING ACCESS TO STATEWIDE COUNTS Contractors could also be identified)
de counts and statistics WHO WANTS TO USE IT
 City Building and Code Enforcement Officials
ANTS TO USE IT  City’s Corporation Counsel,
Building and Code Enforcement Officials  City’s Economic Development Director
’s Corporation Counsel,
’s Economic Development Director WHY
Entities such as AG Office, NYS DOS and Department of Finance  Make more informed decisions when selling city-own
 Number of Vacant Buildings  Proactively engage existing property owners that hav
 Number of Zombie Properties violations and a history of abandonment in other loc
re is currently no way of gaining statewide counts on specific items – like  Building a more robust case against a PPO in your cit
ant properties (not just Zombie). Some info is reported to NYS DOS but not  Number of Single Family
ch and not all participate throughout NYS  Number of Multiple Unit WHAT PROBLEM PROPERTY INFO GETS INTO SHARED RE
e entities want access to counts and statistics so that they can better Dwellings Cities have agreed that one unresponsive code violation i
elop strategies to combat vacancy, abandonment, foreclosure and property  Occupancy Certificates which an individual or LLC is considered a PPO, therefore
ligence from a policy level  Building Permit Types owners that meet this criteria will be structured in a com
er understand the magnitude of blight in their communities  Stop Work Orders to share specific data about each PPO
e accurately identify and prioritize resource allocation  Occupancy Rates (Residential, Commercial and Public) @CTGUAlbany
 Inspections This docume
Information Challenges
There are real challenges associated with obtaining the
data needed to inform policy and decision making at
the local, regional, and statewide levels.

• Non-standard data collection (i.e.
• Half paper / half electronic data
collection, management, and storage
• Lack relational and easily searchable
and visual data
• Limited information sharing within
• Little-to-no information sharing among
jurisdictions @CTGUAlbany
Project Goals
Build technical Develop the Encourage Establish a
and technical, data, increased culture and
organizational and policy uniformity community
code foundation of a in process of
enforcement shared code and knowledge
capabilities enforcement definition sharing
within each of information within the 4 among the
the 4 cities so resource, cities to 4 cities-
each can increase enabling enable and other
the efficiency and municipalities to regional cities in
effectiveness of potentially information the future.
their own code participate in a sharing.
enforcement future statewide
environment. network @CTGUAlbany
Enabling Investments for the Cities
• Understanding of how to implement the
programs that prevent, mitigate, and
remediate blight
• Technical infrastructure to run programs that
are typically managed in a City’s building and
codes departments

Required foundation before a shared regional
information resource can be developed @CTGUAlbany
Organizing By Programs of Work

Vacant Property Code Violation Landlord Registration Rental Unit Certificate
Program Program Program Program
To identify, track, & To identify violations and To identify, register, and To identify rental units in
monitor vacant prescribe reparations (fees & monitor landlords in the the city and certify
properties in the timeframe) city compliance with all city
city & state codes

Public Assembly Building Permit Foreclosure Demolition
Program Program Program Program
To identify areas of public To identify, approve, track, To identify and address all To identify, certify, fund
assembly, and certify and monitor tax-delinquent properties and carry out the
compliance with all city & changes/enhancements to demolition of properties
state codes all structures in the city within the city @CTGUAlbany

Urban Blight @CTGUAlbany
Thank you!
Meghan Cook
Program Director
Center for Technology in Government
University at Albany @CTGUAlbany

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